Oh kindergarten, is there anything you didn’t try to teach us? Whether it was the value of true friends, the joy of going crazy at recess, or that reading is fundamental, you were always there to guide us.
I especially liked the singing. One of my favorite songs was I Can Sing a Rainbow. You may remember, it starts like this: “Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.” Cute, right? But here comes the trippy part. “Listen with your eyes, listen with your eyes, and sing everything you see…”
Listen with your eyes?! What silly nonsense, my five year old self thought. It turns out that song was trying to teach me something that took almost forty years to understand.
My skin is my Achilles heel. Ever since puberty I’ve been plagued with cystic acne that colonizes my chin, forehead and sometimes even cheeks. As a teen and young adult it was humiliating, but I always assumed I’d grow out of it. I’d imagine my sleek, grown-up, future self in a killer suit (hey it was the 80’s) with a flawless complexion.
But here I am, living healthy and a budding health coach to boot, with what looks like teenage acne all over my chin. How can I expect people to listen to me about health when it looks like I’ve been indulging in all-night pizza binges?
The beauty industry has trained us to think that, no matter what abuse we put our bodies through, a pill or a cream or a machine will wash away our sins and give us flawless skin. Growing up I was given antibiotics and Retinol for my acne, and when that failed, the evil Accutane. A drug so poisonous they won’t give it to pregnant women.
As I grew older and the acne persisted I found some relief in ProActive—hey just because something is sold in infomercials doesn’t mean it don’t work. Oh but the chemicals! They bleached my pillowcases and towels. I can only imagine what they were doing to my insides. What finally did the trick were expensive spa treatments – microdermabrasion and lasers. Yes, lasers. Technicians literally blasted the cysts off my face.
Since I left my corporate job I’ve had to reprioritize my expenses, and I just can’t justify those high-tech facials right now. And I am trying to use fewer toxic chemicals, which leaves out ProActive. I’ve tried a few different skin care lines in the last year, which confuses your skin more than you’d think. And I went off, and then back on, my birth control pill (sorry, Mom, that’s probably TMI), which messed around with my hormones.
So here I am, left to contemplate my sins in the mirror. Because my skin is trying to tell me something. Despite the way it feels, it’s not sprouting acne out of spite. It’s a cry for help. It’s not my skin’s fault. My body has taken my skin hostage.
All skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and even premature wrinkles and gray hair, are our bodies way of raising a red flag. As our largest organ, the skin is used for a lot more than protecting us from the elements and keeping our insides in. It’s also a big way our bodies detoxify. We’re all familiar with sweat, except maybe ballerinas. They “glow”. That’s a normal and healthy detox, and it’s one of the reasons exercise is so important to general good health. It’s not just about weight loss. Other organs play a role in detoxification too—kidneys, liver, gallbladder. But when your internal organs are overloaded or blocked, which can happen when too much fat (cholesterol) junks up their valves, your skin gets called up from the bench. “Time to pull your weight!” says the coach.
So what’s causing my acne, and what can I do about it? As so often in life, it’s mainly three things:
1) Hormones. Mine are still out of whack from the pill switcheroo, so to address that I’ve started taking Maca, a root that grows in the Andes mountains in Peru. European explorers found the people in the high mountains to be unusually happy and mellow, and traced it to the Maca root. (Well, no taxes, no internet and no corporate jobs probably helped too.) The locals made their bread from flour made from the Maca root, one of the few things that grow at that altitude. Most known in the U.S. as an aphrodisiac (ahem), it’s also very effective in smoothing out hormone imbalances in women.
2) Skin care. I was using some pretty harsh “natural” anti-aging treatments from Perricone M.D. that left my skin extra sensitive. I like a lot of their products, but the Blue C Plasma and the Acyl-Glutathione stuff was just too harsh. I developed a rash on my eyelids and I’m pretty sure they added wrinkles. Product fail. I am now using a mix of Juice Beauty, doTERRA and Perricone M.D. products that seem to be working. And I’ll stick with them for a few months to allow my skin to adjust. See below for my current beauty regimen.
3) Food choices. As healthy as I am, I am human and occasionally slip. While gluten is non-negotiable for me, I was letting a little dairy sneak in. And sugar. And chocolate. All of these cause inflammation in the body and are a feeding ground for breakouts. After a recent breakup I might have spent a weekend watching Netflix and eating gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies out of the pan… Now that the evidence is on my face you can bet I am back on track with my eating.
As I mentioned, acne isn’t the only red flag your skin can raise. Any rash, unusual dryness or bumps can be a sign of a myriad of internal imbalances—nutrient deficiencies, stress, toxin overload, the list goes on. Don’t ignore it, and don’t try to self-diagnose. Seek out a doctor who subscribes to Functional Medicine – the practice of finding the root cause of ailments, not just treating symptoms. You can search for doctors here.
For what it’s worth, here’s what I am using on my face these days:
Listen to your skin and be kind to yourself!