picture of book Acne: A Memoir (by Laura Chinn)

Can Our Emotions Cause or Cure Acne?

The other day I was walking around in downtown Abilene, and outside of one of the stores was a table of books. As any librarian and/or book lover would do, I paused to glance over the titles. Only one book really caught my eye:

Acne: A Memoir

I loved the simple design of the cover, light pink with varying sizes of red dots sprinkled all over it. It seemed like a no-brainer for me – I love memoirs, I love reading… I don’t love acne, but unfortunately it has had quite an impact on me and my story.

I scanned the book for a price, and suddenly saw a sign that said “Free books: Limit 1 per customer.” Free book??? Even better.

I had no idea what this book was really going to be like, but when I came to this paragraph on the second page, I knew I was going to like it:

“After genocide, nuclear war, famine, slavery, and child abuse, acne is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. Okay, fine, maybe cancer is worse, and probably a bunch of other stuff, but acne is bad, really bad, and if you haven’t lived though it then… honestly, go f*** yourself.”

— Laura Chinn (p. 2)

I laughed out loud when I read that last part! It was so honest and real. If you’ve never had bad acne, you will think these sentiments are crazy exaggerations. If you have struggled with bad acne, you’ll know that during your lowest points of dealing with red spots all over your face, you literally do feel like this sometimes.

My experience with acne is something that deeply affected me, more than I ever knew until I really started doing some reflecting upon the experience in my 30’s. It affected my body image (I stopped thinking I was pretty, and in fact, was convinced that because of acne scarring I could never be beautiful again), my idea of my own self-worth (I questioned why anyone would want to be friends with someone as ugly as me), and my mental and physical health (I had a few years of extreme dieting when I was trying to find the perfect diet to “cure” my acne, and instead ended up losing so much weight that my period stopped).

Acne is no joke.

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DIM (Diindolylmethane) Supplement bottle

DIM: the Supplement You Should Try for Hormonal Acne

I know what you’re thinking – you’ve seen clickbait like this before. There are tons of products out there being touted as the cure for acne, and if you’re like me, you’ve tried about a million different ones, all with less than stellar results.

For those who have followed me on my blog for a while, you know that I have a long history with acne. I was on Accutane as a teenager, and even after that I still continued to battle acne into my early 20’s and beyond. I went on extreme diets to try to control my acne and make my skin perfect. I got to where my acne was manageable, but never achieved perfection.

About 6 months ago, now a 34-year-old woman, I started getting crazy breakouts again for what seemed like no reason. Like, 3-4 new pimples DAILY! (Not just regular ones either, the huge ones that take like 2 weeks to go away which then leave marks on your skin that take months to go away!) That’s when I started getting strict with my diet again to try to control them, and I wrote a post titled, “Would You Eat Salmon Every Day for Clear Skin?”

That post got a lot of likes, and even now still seems to be popular among my readers. (I think it might be my most-liked post.) I think this is a testament (NOT to how great a writer I am – I wish!) to how many people are dealing with the issue of acne and looking for a solution. When you’re desperate for a cure, you are constantly Googling things, and you get to the point where you’re willing to try anything.

Part of the problem with acne is that it’s so hard to nail down the reason WHY you have it – acne can be caused by food intolerances, hormones, sensitivity to skin or hair products, dirty pillowcases, excess oil… I knew that some of my issues were coming from food – sugar seemed to cause breakouts in me, as well as too many carbs, or overeating in general.

But it also dawned on me that I was primarily dealing with hormonal acne, which doesn’t always respond to dietary changes or topical treatments. I came to this conclusion for three reasons:

1. I consistently had large breakouts on my chin

2. I remembered when I was pregnant, that my acne virtually went away

3. Back on one of my extreme dieting phases, when I got so thin my period actually stopped, my acne also stopped (aka. no hormones, no acne)

Back in April, I was in one of my Googling phases, trying to see if anyone out there had solutions I hadn’t yet tried or thought of for hormonal acne. I came across a health and wellness blog, Living Minnaly, and read a post from 2019 where she talked about how she had successfully managed her hormonal acne (and she even included pictures of her before and after, which is always helpful for us skeptics.)

You can read her post to hear her full story, but in a nutshell, one of the supplements she describes as “magical” for acne was Diindolylmethane (DIM). I had never heard of it before. She recommended this brand, which also contained dong quai and chasteberry (Vitex), two herbs that I had heard of in the context of treating hormonal acne.

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When Healthy Eating Becomes Too “Healthy”

(TW for disordered eating)

I wanted to write a follow-up to my post about eating salmon every day for clear skin – I got a lot of “likes” on that post, so it seems like it’s a topic of interest, or at least intrigue, for many.

First of all, you may be wondering: how is my skin doing? Am I still eating salmon every day? 

The answers to those questions are that my skin is doing okay – it’s not perfect, mind you – and I am NOT eating salmon every day anymore. 

I was eating salmon daily for a while, and my skin really did improve (I was also limiting my sugar, gluten, and dairy, as those also seemed to be triggers for acne for me.) But even so, my skin still never fully achieved perfection. 

I have a friend who on Facebook is an advocate for fighting against disordered eating and fatphobia. Her posts have recently challenged me to think about my own relationship to food, and my own dieting habits. I realized that I was slowly getting stricter and stricter with my diet – I was eating salmon daily, but also cutting out multiple other foods. I was looking at food only in terms of “will this make me break out or not?” I began to be afraid to eat many foods, even small amounts of them. At the same time, sometimes I really craved eating some ice cream or a cookie! But I felt stuck in my rigid diet because I knew eating those things would make my skin break out. 

I had to be honest with myself and admit that this was unhealthy, and probably verging on disordered eating. And I’ve got a history of disordered eating (look up the term “orthorexia”), and I didn’t want to get to that place again. I wasn’t afraid of becoming fat or overweight, but I was terrified of having bad skin, of looking less than perfect. Acne-phobic? Imperfect-phobic?

I had also really wanted to clear my skin naturally – not using any sort of pills or topical medications or anything like that. I had hoped that eating the right foods (and not eating the wrong foods) would just balance my body out on its own. But instead, I think I set myself up to try to reach an impossible goal. I realized I was so preoccupied with what I was eating, and so scared of my skin breaking out, that it was affecting my life, and that I needed to make a change. 

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