Hormonal Acne: My Journey (Part 1)

I remember I thought this outfit was so cute, that I wanted a photo with it on; and then I never posted it, after noticing how badly-broken out my face was.

I remember I thought this outfit was so cute, that I wanted a photo with it on; and then I never posted it, after noticing how badly-broken out my face was.

This blog post is something I’ve wanted to write for a while now; and actually something I wanted to start writing around this time, last year. Instead, I was graced with another (pretty terrible) bout of hormonal acne; and at the age of 28, I realized just how emotional of a topic this can be. From the ridiculous amount of money spent, to the glances in the mirror that bring you to tears, today, I’m sharing my personal experience, dealing with hormonal acne, that’s been constant, since I was young. This post will be broken down into parts: My Journey, Products & Services, Health From Within and Moving Forward. This is Part 1.

** Please note: I am not a medical professional, and am not recommending, or promoting any specific lifestyle, or diet. These opinions are my own. I follow the idea of bio-individuality, which means that everybody and every BODY is different. What works for me, might not work for you.

Growing Up

Nutrition:Anything and everything. Lots of processed foods. Not much water.

Skincare: Nothing, at first. Then Proactiv, and other over-the-counter acne products

Lifestyle: sedentary.

I was graced with my first period, a week before my 10th birthday. Ironically, a couple of months before, when I was at the doctor, he had mentioned to my mom that it might be happening soon. Nine years old (and let’s be honest, ten, too) is way too young to add “becoming a woman” to your kid-like agenda. But my body was ready, even if I wasn’t, so I spent the rest of my 4th Grade year, running to the nurse’s office, to change my pad, every month, during lunch.

Fifth Grade Photo.

Fifth Grade Photo.

Acne didn’t start up at first, but I remember an almost-permanent zit (above my lip) that seemed to appear in every school photo from Fifth Grade on. In Junior High, I remember it getting bad, but it was something most girls were starting to go through, as well, so it seemed more routine. I started going to the dermatologist, who upon looking at my acne, prescribed an antibiotic, and then for a nurse to perform “extractions”. Now, I know a lot of you reading this can relate; there’s absolutely nothing worse than being a teenager, getting your zits popped by a nurse saying, “Ooh, that was a big one”. It’s no wonder teenagers struggle!

Around that same time, I went on hormonal birth control (yeah, doctors prescribed it THAT early), to help my acne and menstrual cramps go away. When you’re a kid (or the parent of a kid, struggling with acne), you don’t usually ask questions, when a doctor prescribes something that’s supposed to bring your self-esteem back; you take it, and run to get it filled.

This was also during the age of “Proactiv” - an acne-system, marketed toward teenagers, struggling with facial acne. Out of kindness, I remember my dad buying me a starter kit, and when it came, I ran upstairs (to my bathroom), and spent 30 minutes cleansing my face, hoping the more I used the “magical” cleanser, the clearer my face would get.

But what teenagers don’t understand, is that all these products are meant to do is be a temporary band-aid for the actual issue - a cover-up. And instead of focusing on the issues, I continued to dry out my face with harsh products, and deplete my gut bacteria. Again, as a teenager, you don’t know and you don’t ask questions. Your self-esteem is most important.

I still remember a comment, one of my friend’s sisters made, many years ago: “What are all of those bumps on your face?” Kids being kids, but hurtful, nonetheless. Comments like these are ones you always remember…

Leveling Out

Nutrition:Anything and everything. Lots of processed foods. Not much water.

Skincare: Estee Lauder, and then sanitas skincare

Lifestyle: sedentary, for the most part

High school was good, for the most part. I continued to stay on birth control, and while my acne wasn’t an issue, my immunity was. I was sick SO much, during high school. Exhaustion, digestive issues, headaches, brain fog, depression, you name it. Now, I’d be able to scream it from the rooftops, but in high school, pigging out on pizzas, pop-tarts and puppy chow was essential to being a teenager; nutrition meant nothing to me.

College was stressful; I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, didn’t know what I was doing in my relationship and continued to deal with it over piping hot bowls of Annie’s Mac and Cheese (hey, it was organic), and now, super-sugary alcoholic beverages. While on birth control (I was now on the Nuva Ring), my acne was non-existent, for the most part, but period cramps were bad. I was taking opioids, each month, to deal with the pain, and began to become so constipated. Still, I filled my body with whatever tasted good (and comforted me, emotionally); paying no attention to the weight I was gaining, or the sluggishness I felt.

The Tide is turning

Nutrition:No gluten and dairy. Lots of processed, gluten free products

Skincare: Sanitas

Lifestyle: Sedentary, until joining a yoga studio. Then, yoga every. damn. day. Kind of.

After I graduated college, I moved home and began to research going “gluten free”. It was just starting to become a “trend”, and I really believed that, perhaps, what I was feeling had something to do with eating gluten. I started to cut it out, noticed a little bit of a change, but continued enjoying glutenous options, often.

I went to the doctor, and was tested for Celiac Disease; it came back negative.

It was around this time I started to read about gluten “sensitivities”, which are very similar to gluten allergies; just because a test doesn’t come back positive, doesn’t mean your body isn’t sensitive to a particular ingredient. If you feel better cutting it out, chances are, you’re sensitive, and it’s causing an issue on your body. During this research, I also read that your chances for being dairy sensitive were higher, if you suffered from a gluten sensitivity. I made the decision to eliminate gluten and dairy, right then and there.

A couple of months after this decision, I accepted my first full-time job, as an event coordinator, in Minneapolis. I’ll spare you the long, drawn-out story; it was awful. I was sick, depressed and depleted. Between eliminating gluten and dairy, and being so stressed, I lost 30 pounds in two months.

My skin and period cramps, throughout all of this (since I was still on birth control), were okay; everything else was a mess. My life continued, in this pattern, for the next year.

Again, sparing you the long, drawn-out story, I finally realized that if I wanted to live the best life possible, I needed to make a lot of changes; and those changes needed to be both physical and mental. I needed to take control of my life, and needed to take a look from within.

Taking the leap

Nutrition:no gluten, dairy, or meat. Lots of water, veggies, adaptogens, vitamins. You name it!

Skincare: sanitas, rhonda allison

Lifestyle: Active, but giving my body sufficient rest

In an attempt to take control of my life, I enrolled in the health coaching program, with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. After lots of discussions with alumni, my parents and myself, I realized that taking control of my life meant doing what I was most passionate about - healing myself. If I could heal myself, through holistic remedies, I wanted to help others realize the same.

My life took a complete “180”, as I started to focus on my primary foods, as well as diet and exercise. I moved home, started my studies, worked part-time, stopped eating meat and ended my toxic-relationship. I felt AMAZING! My skin became clearer than it ever had been; literally, clearer than ever before. I felt on top of the world, and as if I could accomplish anything.

My skin at its best (and with no makeup). I remember feeling so confident, taking this photo.

My skin at its best (and with no makeup). I remember feeling so confident, taking this photo.

It was during this time, I realized just how harmful antibiotics and birth control are - depleting your body of essentials vitamins, as well as good-for-you gut bacteria. I wanted to get off of hormonal birth control ASAP.

*WHEN YOU ARE READY TO GO OFF OF BIRTH CONTROL, DON’T DO IT COLD TURKEY. I REPEAT: DO NOT DO IT COLD TURKEY.

January 2016, I made the decision to stop. One month, I just didn’t put in my new Nuvaring. At first, I felt fantastic. My skin became EVEN clearer, and my body suddenly felt so open to feelings I hadn’t experienced in so long. I felt sexy, and sexual and realized just how suppressed my sexuality had been while on birth control.

Gosh, this was easy… so I thought.

Falling Flat on your Face

Nutrition:no gluten, dairy, or meat. Lots of water, veggies, adaptogens, vitamins. You name it!

Skincare: sanitas, rhonda allison

Lifestyle: Active, but giving my body sufficient rest

I loved selfies, but edited them so much, when I had acne.

I loved selfies, but edited them so much, when I had acne.

In April, I began noticing allergy-like bumps on my chin. Thinking it was due to a new, all-natural makeup I had started, I discontinued use, and began to take more supplements to support skin health: MSM, Omegas, adaptogen powders, mushroom elixirs, and continued my basically-vegan lifestyle. Instead of improving, my acne started getting worse - very worse.

Around this time, I was talking with a guy who had offered to fly me out to LA, to visit him. Excited, I panicked. I had just started to feel like the sexy being I was supposed to be, but I now had quickly-erupting, red, cystic acne; the furthest thing from “sexy” you could get.

Worried, I made many appointments with my good friend, Debbie, at Cloud 9 Massage Therapy and Skincare. Debbie did all she could: peels, facials, light therapy, and while my skin was being treated with the very best products you could get, it didn’t improve. I went to LA, face caked in Youngblood makeup (powder and liquid foundation). *Products & Services will be in Part 2.

Unfortunately, my acne didn’t improve there. That way May, and by July, my face was more broken out than it had ever been, even as a teenager (I felt). I was devastated. Newly single, and in a situation where I should have felt on top of the world, I felt extremely self-conscious. It was almost impossible to go up and talk to men; I felt like my face was all they could stare at (and not in the way you should).

I remember, numerous instances, when someone said to me, “Oh Kate, what’s wrong with your face? Gosh, that’s really bad.” Again, comments like these are ones you always remember…

Where Now?

Nutrition:no gluten or dairy, beginning to incorporate meat, again. Lots of water, and less carbs and sugars. No caffeine.

Skincare: Arcona

Lifestyle: Active, but giving my body sufficient rest

When I moved to Minnesota, a few years ago, I was desperate. I had starting dating Ryan, and would go to bed with makeup on (when I stayed over at his place), or turned off the lights as soon as I walked into the bedroom; I was so, extremely self-conscious.

I had found a spa that offered professional skincare products, that weren’t filled with harmful chemicals (stay tuned to Part 2, where I discuss topical options), and an esthetician who was kind, and full of knowledge. I, also, started seeing a naturopath, and went through extensive testing of my urine, blood, saliva and stool - looking for allergies, overgrowth and inflammation. This all cost me a ton of money, and fortunately, I was still 25 (and used my parents’ HSA for a lot of the costs). For the rest, I would continue to put more and more on my credit card, but was positive I was going to find answers.

And I suppose I did find some answers, and got an idea of supplements I could try. I severely cut back on grains, sugars and caffeine, and began to limit my diet even more. Coming up in Part 3, I’ll share the importance of food and supplements.

It took a long, long time, but after focusing on nutrition, stress, sticking with a good skincare routine, and going to appointments for laser treatments, my skin was finally starting to look good again!

Here we go again

Nutrition:no gluten or dairy, no caffeine. Lots of water, and less carbs and white sugars. More fruits

Skincare: Arcona

Lifestyle: Active, but giving my body sufficient rest. pilates.

I had a couple years of really good skin. I was able to go without makeup often, which rocked (especially when you work so darn early in the AM). I was feeling great!

It’s funny when they say that your skin reflects what’s going on inside your body. It makes sense, when you binge on something really greasy, or drink alcohol often; but what about when you, legitimately, feel like you’re healthy?! That was my experience, this past go-around…

Toward the end of the summer of last year, I was feeling good! Exercising often, drinking kombucha, and getting enough rest; I was doing “everything right”… right?

So. Much. Editing. I constantly felt like all of my photos had to be severely-edited, in order to post them.

So. Much. Editing. I constantly felt like all of my photos had to be severely-edited, in order to post them.

I had created a favorite “banana nice cream” and would eat it for breakfast, often: cauliflower, bananas, yogurt, etc. Around this time, I was interviewing for a promotion at my job; nothing that should have been “too nerve-wrecking”, but the interview process was very drawn out - lasting a month. I remember getting very nervous before the interviews; there’s something about virtual interviewing that is way more intimidating than in person.

I had been going to an acupuncturist every week, for cupping. And had started a couple of different herbal medicines, to help with my period cramps (that were still bothersome, but not as bad). I had just recently changed herbs, and started taking one to help release heat.

Either way, it was during this time my face started to break out, again. AGAIN! After I thought I had done everything right, figured out a plan and would never, ever, ever, EVER have to deal with acne again. Aside from the acne, I started to grow peach fuzz on my face, for the first time ever. My periods remained the same, constant and coming on the day I was planning them to.

“WHAT THE HELL?!” - My actual thought, as I would bring myself to tears, each morning, washing my face.

The acne didn’t get as bad as it did, after going off of BC, but it wasn’t good either. I needed to start wearing more makeup, and began to become so self-conscious, once again.

This time was different. This time I wasn’t really sure how to take care of it. As a health coach, there’s nothing more troubling than being unable to help yourself; thinking you should have all of the answers. I didn’t want to spend more money on tests (since I continue to try to pay off the debt I had originally racked up, during the last bout). I didn’t want to go to an herbalist, or an acupuncturist, or anyone. Part of me felt betrayed by everyone (including myself). *I’ll mention this more in Part 4.

So, I tried to focus on what I could control: my reactions to stressors, my physical activity, my sleep and my nutrition. Having acne is like going on a scavenger hunt; but unlike other scavenger hunts, this one sucks (with every ounce of your being), and depletes you, in every way.

HEre and now

Today (at this very moment), I’m happy to write that my acne is, again, healing. I’ve got about four breakouts, currently, and a bunch of other red scars, that I’m working to lighten. *If you’re reading this, and sell a product that you “think might help me”, spare yourself the time; I’m not interested, and I’ll explain this more in Part 2.

For now, I’m going through the motions. Continuing to have to remind myself, multiple times per day, that lifestyle affects your body so much, in literally every way possible.


This post is an opportunity for me to tell you all that I’ve been through it; and continue to go through it. That’s the thing about living; nothing is ever “perfect”, or will stay the same, and I want you to remember that.

In the next parts of this story, I’ll be sharing more about what you all probably want to read: products, services, lifestyle, nutrition… the “good stuff”. But our stories are just as “good”, and if you read through this entire post, chances are, you have a story of your own. I know it sucks, and I know it can be incredibly devastating, but remember: this, too, shall pass… your story makes you stronger, and will give you the opportunity to share and help others.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

xoxo,

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