By Dr. Sofie Desforges-Bell, Naturopathic Doctor
Part 1 – Lifestyle Modifications
My Acne Story
A few years ago, in my second year of my naturopathic medical studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, my face started to erupt with severe cystic acne. It covered both of my cheeks, was very red and inflamed. Not only was this physically painful but it also took a toll on my mental health and confidence. I had stopped taking my birth control pill several months earlier. I was facing high stress levels while juggling school and part-time work.
Many factors contributed to this adult onset acne. These included hormonal imbalances, poor nutrition, stress, anxiety, insomnia and poor skincare routine. I leaned into naturopathic medicine to help me address this condition with some great support from my peers.
Just like there were many factors at play initiating this acne, I used a multitude of natural health strategies to help me heal my skin. I am proud to say that I was able to bring my skin back to a much better condition and I continue to actively take care of it on a daily basis. It certainly isn’t perfect and I still get flare-ups but usually I can trace it back to something in my diet, the phase of my menstrual cycle, or a period of higher stress.
Here are a few of the natural health strategies that helped me address my acne-prone skin and that have good evidence to support their use in skin healing.
Phototherapy (Light Therapy)
It took many months and many different natural strategies to heal my acne-prone skin. However I noticed how much clearer my skin got in the summer months, especially when I was spending more time outside, exposed to natural sunlight. Turns out there is some good research supporting light therapy, or phototherapy to heal acne. Research shows that about 10-15 minutes of twice daily light exposure for 2 months can reduce the number of skin lesions. This light exposure can be from laser therapy or other light therapies, as well as natural sunlight. So make sure to get out there and enjoy the sunshine on your skin and take advantage of its natural healing properties. You might get the added benefit of raising your vitamin D levels while you’re at it!
Addressing my stress and supporting my mental wellness became an important part of healing my acne-prone skin. To this day, it remains an important part of my self-care routine. When you are just trying to make it through a stressful day at work, or finishing that last set of exams in school, or simply just trying to live through a global pandemic, you are operating from a place of survival. In those moments, you aren’t making healthy choices for yourself whether it is staying up late to watch another episode of your favourite binge-worthy show or reaching for junk food or adopting a more sedentary lifestyle. I changed my health in many ways by starting to prioritize my self-care and it definitely reflected on my skin as well.
My favourite stress management activities include:
The goal is to just choose one or two that jives with you and practice it frequently and consistently. The more you practice, the more benefit and power you can yield from it. Add it to your morning and/or bedtime routine for the best way to start and end your day!
What’s part of your current skincare routine? When I was faced with a multitude of acne lesions, my instinct was to want to cover it all up. It took some time, but I finally came around to the idea that less is more. I now mostly use just water to wash my face daily, occasionally with a natural cleanser. I also started to opt for more natural makeup and skincare products like Reliv Organics.
I also started the habit of cleaning my make up brushes every week or two using the following:
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp natural dish soap
In a world where we have to wear masks more frequently, you may find that your skin is harder to manage. I certainly have noticed some more frequent and consistent flareups lately. So when I don’t have to wear a mask, I make sure to let my skin breathe. One benefit of working from home means wearing makeup less frequently. There is also something to say about accepting the skin you are in…that’s probably the hardest part of it all. But with acceptance, often comes growth and healing.
Find out how I modified my diet to support my healing in Part 2 of this blog series.
Find out why healing the gut and supporting health with specific nutrients is important in Part 3 of this blog series.
I was drawn to naturopathic medicine as it allows me to explore the root cause of disease in a holistic manner. I love incorporating evidence-based natural medicines with more traditional therapies. By individualizing treatment plans to address each patient’s unique health journey, I guide my patients to optimize their physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.