Dealing with painful, cystic acne

How many of us (be honest) have had painful, cystic acne at some point in their life? How many of us still suffer from some kind of breakout? Even if it’s infrequently? After years of SO many medications, antibiotics, topical ointments, you name it. I finally have a handle on my acne.

I’m super super pumped to share six things that have helped clear up my acne to maybe a little blemish around my period if I was a bit lackadaisical with the sugar. How did I do it? Through diet, lifestyle, and a few choice beauty care products.

To start things off, here’s a few simple steps you can take if you’re already eating a paleo/whole foods diet yet still suffering from cystic and painful acne or other skin problems.

1. Heal Your Gut.

Increased gut permeability (commonly referred to leaky gut) is seriously at the root of just about every health concern you can think of. Healing and sealing the gut lining is about the best thing you can do to improve skin conditions. Some of my favorite gut-healing foods and supplements include: homemade broth (I’m drinking some as I write this), l-glutamine, collagen peptides, and proteolytic enzymes.*

2. Make sure you’re digesting your food.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? You chew, you swallow, done. If only it were that easy! If stomach acid or digestive juices are inadequate, things like bloating, digestive distress, and acid reflux can occur. The liver and kidneys can become overburdened by the increased toxic stress put on them and respond by eliminating toxins through the body’s largest organ: the skin. I really like drinking 1 tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar (such as Bragg’s) in 4 oz of water about 10 minutes prior to eating a substantial meal.*

3. Cod liver oil.

Cod liver oil contains so much action-packed nutrition that helps with skin health. It’s a perfect balance of Vitamins A and D in their CORRECT forms and ratios. Think of it as sunshine in a bottle. Cod liver oil is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA and EPA. Omega-3s are naturally anti-inflammatory. I like to take 1 tsp with breakfast and use the Carlson or Nordic Naturals brand, store in the fridge once opened.*

4. Quit the CrossFit-like workouts.

I know. I used to do CrossFit, too. And loved it. I also used to run long distances for both fun and competition. Truth is, if you’re someone who’s suffering from cystic acne and exerting that kind of effort with cycling, CrossFit, running, or any other form of high-impact exercise, that puts that kind of stress on your body, you’re just making things worse when it comes to your acne.

Intense exercise puts increased levels of stress on our body, which drives up cortisol production in the adrenals and increases insulin production. For the ladies reading this, this can really throw off the delicate balance of our hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, and drives up testosterone levels… which lead to increased oil, clogged pores… and (you guessed it) acne.

5. Zinc.

Most of us are zinc deficient. Or our ratios are severely off. When we’re zinc deficient, our skin can’t heal as well. Zinc helps lower chronic levels of inflammation. It can even help the bacteria on the skin from taking over, becoming painful and inflamed, reduces keratin production which leads to clogged pores, and helps to balance hormones by keeping levels of acne-causing testosterone in check. (Ladies, we need some testosterone… just not a whole lot.) Zinc Picolinate for 3 months is what I have found to help the most. I do not recommend long-term supplementing with zinc.* This has a wonderful effect with women who suffer from post-pill acne.
*I am not a or your doctor, please do your own research before supplementing.

6. Beauty Regimen.

If you’ve tried oil cleansing and found it lacking, you’re not alone. For many who are still healing, it’s too much. I do, however, really enjoy apricot kernel oil for a cleanser and rosewater mist (first) and argan oil (second) for a moisturizer.

Three other products that I have found helpful for myself and clients are:


The Charcoal Mask 
I love using this mask (and freaking my husband out…) and use it about once a week.


The Cleansing Charcoal Bar 
The charcoal helps pull toxins and impurities out of the skin. We use it morning and night and a bar lasts forever. Totally worth it. I love it even more than my apricot kernel oil.


Balancing Facial Oil
Yes. Oil on acne. While I use argan oil, the Balancing Facial Oil may be something that is of help to most people. This blend is specifically formulated for those with acne-prone skin. It helps moisturize and balance out levels of skin sebum and reduces excess oil production. Science, y’all.

Finally – proper skincare is important but only in combination with dietary and lifestyle changes.