How I Cleared My Adult Acne Without Prescription Drugs

June 2016 vs September 2017. I'm more tan on the right because I'd just returned from Burning Man. Neither photo has a filter or any photo editing applied.

June 2016 vs September 2017. I'm more tan on the right because I'd just returned from Burning Man. Neither photo has a filter or any photo editing applied.


Okay, the title of this article should really be “How WE Cleared My Adult Acne” because it was a huge team effort with skinSALVATION, my naturopath, and me.

I’m sharing my story with hopes that it will help others who have also suffered with adult acne for years. The latest stats I’ve read say that around 50% of adults suffer from at least mild acne, so if you think this article is helpful, please share it widely.


Why I Had Acne in the First Place

To understand how my acne got so bad in the first place, we need to go all the way back to my college years.

I started college in the year 2000. Back then, student clinics were handing out birth control pills like candy. Every girl I knew was on the pill. I got the pill because I heard it might clear up my skin and make my boobs bigger. What 18 year-old wouldn’t sign up for that?

The pill did, in fact, make my skin clearer. Boobs were unchanged. I was on and off the pill throughout most of my twenties, usually going off it when I was irresponsible and let my prescription lapse or was too lazy to bother getting a new prescription and wasn’t dating anyone at the time.

The biggest problem with the pill was that every time I went off it, my acne came back and seemed to get worse each time. So I felt like I needed to keep taking it.

At one point, my acne got so bad that I was put on the pill, spironolactone, AND antibiotics. This triple combo did clear me up.

Then one day when I was about 29 I was writing an email at work and all of a sudden couldn’t read the letters on the screen. I could tell there were letters there, but I couldn’t make them out. It was like I was staring through kaleidoscope glasses. I looked around and could kind of see things around me, but everything was super blurry and there were patches in my field of vision that were just black. I thought I was going blind. I was scared shitless.

I immediately left work and went to a doctor and found out that I was experiencing an ocular migraine. A neurologist told me that this migraine was caused by the pill and that I should never have been given the pill in the first place because people who get motion sick easily are at high risk of stroke when they take the pill. He told me that he’s seen women very young come in with stroke from the pill. Did any doctor in the history of my nearly decade of getting the pill ever ask me about my motion sickness? No. But this is an entirely different topic that deserves its own separate blog post.

Back to my acne. Without the pill that I could no longer take due to risk of stroke, I started breaking out again, despite being on spironolactone.

It was so bad at this point that even a few months on antibiotics couldn’t improve it. And I couldn’t stay on antibiotics for long because who knew what health problems it would cause by killing both the good and bad bacteria in my body.


How Holistic Treatment Finally Cured Me

At this point, I was over “conventional medicine.” Because it felt like these treatments were only making my acne and general health worse while making me more dependent on the drugs. And nothing was being done to figure out why I was getting acne in the first place.

And by now I had already been eating clean (cutting out gluten, sugar, soy, dairy, and processed food) consistently for years and couldn’t understand why I still had acne despite otherwise being really healthy.

This was when I decided to see a naturopath and go to skinSALVATION.

What followed was a roughly one-year journey to clear skin that required a ton of lifestyle changes.

These were the most important lifestyle changes that finally cured my acne:

1 – I replaced all my skincare products with acne-safe products

The team at skinSALVATION had me bring in all the products that come in contact with my face, including my cleanser, lotion, sunblock, makeup, shampoo, toothpaste, lipsticks, chapsticks, and conditioner. They looked up the ingredients for each and recommended I throw out any items that included at least one comedogenic (ie acne-causing) ingredient. Basically I had to throw everything away. And it was all super premium and mostly organic stuff. I won’t list the brands here because I don’t want to talk shit, but you’d be amazed how many comedogenic ingredients are used in even the most luxurious wellness brands.

I then replaced all of these products with acne-safe products, some from skinSALVATION’s own line and some from other brands that they offer in their store. The skinSALVATION estheticians that I met with monthly changed my regimen regularly based on what my skin needed at the time, sometimes rotating in more moisturizing creams when my skin was dryer or more brightening serums when I had hyper-pigmentation that I wanted to fade.

Key learning #1: just because something is okay for the general population doesn’t mean it’s okay for those who are acne-prone. Acne-prone people like me have to avoid comedogenic ingredients that cause acne. These ingredients are listed on the skinSALVATION website.

Key Learning #2: your skincare routine is like your diet -- it should constantly adjust in response to what your body needs at the time. Don’t just blindly follow what worked for someone else at one point in their life. Observe and listen to your own body and adjust as you go.


2 – I make sure my pillowcases are acne-safe

Think about how many hours a day your face touches your pillowcase. Now think about how often you clean your pillowcase. That naaaaasty, right?

As advised by skinSALVATION, I started replacing my pillowcase at least once a week and switched to an acne-safe laundry detergent. To make this easier on me since I’m too busy to do laundry each week, I bought 12 pillowcases from Amazon that I rotate through.

Key Learning #3: be aware of everything that touches your face and make sure it’s all acne-safe --  your pillowcases, your hands, your makeup, your skincare products, your eye mask, etc.

3 – I cut dairy out COMPLETELY

When I first started seeing Kim at skinSALVATION she asked me how often I ate gluten, soy, dairy, and refined sugar. I told her I almost never ate gluten, soy, or refined sugar but would eat dairy about twice a month when it was on pizza, which is my favorite food. She advised me to cut dairy out completely for at least 3 months to see what would happen with my acne because she said that dairy is one of the biggest acne triggers with her clients. Telling me not to eat pizza was like telling me not to breathe. But fortunately my vanity won out, so I listened to her.

Also, why did I have to cut dairy out for at least 3 months? Why not a few weeks? Because as I learned from Kim, acne seeds form beneath the skin after you eat something that creates them, and these acne seeds don’t create pimples visible to your eye until about a month later. This is why people have a hard time figuring out which foods give them acne. They think that if they see a pimple it was from something they ate the day before. This isn’t actually the case.

Key Learning #4: when a food gives you acne, eating even tiny amounts of it may still cause massive breakouts. You never know how sensitive your body truly is to something until you cut it out completely to give your body the chance to heal.

Key Learning #5: because acne seeds take so long to become pimples, you have to cut acne-triggering foods out for a few months to really see the benefit of the diet change.


4 – I started taking large doses of fish oil and flaxseed

As advised by my naturopath, I began taking large doses daily of flaxseed and fish oil. Large meaning like 4x what’s on the labels. Why flaxseed and fish oil? Because these supplements help reduce inflammation in the body, and inflammation can cause acne.

Key Learning #6: a lot of people write off supplements as “not working” for them when they’re really not taking the right dose. If your health is compromised, you may need to take a lot more than what’s on the label. Do so under the guidance of a doctor please.


5 – I started wearing less makeup

This was hard. When you have acne, all you want to do is cake on makeup and concealer to cover it up, but all this does is make your acne worse. Even if you use acne-safe makeup products, it’s nice to let your skin breathe.

Now that my skin is clear, I don’t currently use foundation or concealer, just La Bella Donna Powder Sunscreen because it doesn’t clog my pores, it evens out my skin tone just a touch, and it also serves as a sunblock.

Key learning #7: push yourself to think long-term. Trust the process and know that in a few months when you’re clear you won’t need any makeup at all.


6 – I started consuming bone broth daily

Bone broth is rich in collagen, which makes your skin look young and supple. I’m a huge fan of collagen, and it’s hard to get enough of it. This is why we add collagen to a bunch of our Methodology products.

And as I mentioned above, proper dosing with any healing food or supplement is important in getting the desired effect. When I started drinking at least 2 cups of bone broth daily (or having a soup with bone broth, such as pho) consistently for 3 weeks, I finally started noticing the health benefits of collagen: (1) my acne scars started fading a lot more quickly and (2) it gets rid of the eczema that I sometimes get on my elbows when I eat wheat, corn, or soy at restaurants (I eat Methodology 80% of the time and eat out 20% of the time ).

Pro tip: sometimes I get bored of drinking bone broth so I cook my rice in it. It makes my rice taste insanely delicious, and I kill two birds with one stone. This is also a great way to get kids to consume bone broth because what kid doesn’t love rice?!

Key Learning #8: clear skin isn’t just about what you shouldn’t eat but also about what you should be eating more of. Eating bone broth and collagen is a powerful way to give yourself youthful, glowing skin.


7 – I stopped picking my face

This was the hardest one for me to do out of everything on this list. Honestly it took me a year to break my habit of pimple popping. What finally got me to stop? I had to stop looking at my face in the mirror every time I went to the bathroom. So when I wash my hands, I force myself to ONLY look down at my hands and not look up in the mirror.

Another thing that makes it easier to resist popping pimples is setting up appointments for a doctor or esthetician to do it for you. This way you only have to hold out until your next appointment. An esthetician or doctor is more likely to do an extraction properly and make sure that your pimple doesn’t become inflamed and turn into a huge cyst the size of a marble that squats on your face for a month. And when acne is extracted properly, it’s also less likely to scar.

Key Learning #9: the less you touch your face at all, including popping pimples, the clearer your skin will be. And weirdly, the less you pay attention to and obsess over your face, the easier it is to not touch it.


8 – I was patient af

What I just described to you was a 1-year journey. That doesn’t mean it’ll take you a year to clear your acne. It could be a lot faster for you. Or a lot slower.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a year or more. Your body needs time to heal from all the shit you put it through that made it break out in the first place. You probably did years of damage that created your acne, so you can’t expect your body to recover overnight.

Plus, stress itself causes acne. So just trust the process and take constant progress photos to motivate yourself so you know that even though improvements may be slow, they’re still happening.

Key Learning #10: take progress photos of your skin every month. It can be hard to notice subtle improvements in your face, especially if you’re someone who scrutinizes it in the mirror every day. When you see how much your skin changes from month 1 to month 3 you’ll be motivated to keep going even if you aren’t totally clear yet.


Wishing you a lifetime of clear skin

I hope this story has inspired you to take your health into your own hands and do anything and everything you can to clear your acne.

Because I am living proof that acne is curable!!! Without antibiotics, the pill, spironolactone, or any other prescription drugs.

All it took was a holistic approach to healing, disciplined clean living, and tons of patience.

Curing acne is about so much more than which acne creams you put on your skin. You really have to heal your entire body from within by paying attention to your diet, environment, stress, and more. Because your skin is a reflection of what’s happening on the inside.

Sending you positive energy with hopes that very soon you’ll glow from the inside out.