7 steps to clear your skin from acne

  1. Finding our trigger food(s)....

I place this as number one as it is really the most crucial yet the most difficult information to uncover. Most of the time, our chronic acne issues are due to either something we are not doing correctly, or ate a bunch of stuff day after day, year after year, which created imbalance to our body. I know that in medical sense it is more complex than this, but most often I find that this is what made the biggest improvements in people's condition. 

Whenever I have a new acne consult, Usually she will say something like, "i have acne prone sensitive skin, which Skin Dewi product would be most suitable for me?"

And if you're one of those who've had a chance to sit down or chat with me, I usually never even start recommending any products until I ask more questions (not necesarrily in the same order):

Question 1: how long have you had this condition?

Question 2: has there been any major life changes in the (however long period of time depending on their response to no 1 - especially if recent)? This could be anything from major life changes like new job, relocating, new diet, etc. 

Question 3: what kind of supplement(s) do you currently take if any?

Question 4: how much water do you drink daily? 

Question 5: do you have any, hormonal or digestional related issues? This is usually apparent in the way the acne appears on the skin.

The questions go on based on the client's reply.  

There has been numerous instances where their reply goes:

"Please help, my skin is usually pretty good, but suddenly, three months ago I started having pimples. And it's getting really bad. i don't know what to do about it. Which products should i use?"

After more digging, the client said,

oh I recently tried this new diet. 3 months ago.  

Oh, so then did the acne started after your new diet? 

Client paused and think back, and replied

- actually yes! Come to think of it, it did begin shortly after this new diet. 

There are many variations of this type of clients but there has been so many that i've met whose acnes are triggered from something "new" they ate. At the same time, it could also be a condition they've had for many years, but when asked regarding what they eat, normally you can start seeing patterns that they eat pretty much the same food almost everyday - which is probably what's causing an imbalance in their body thus acne is showing as a symptom. 

I'm not pinpointing any specific diet, but there has also been several cases where clients became acneic after turning vegan. So meat are not always to be blamed. There are also cases where client gets acne after trying out the keto diet. There are also instances where their acne actually clears up after trying a new diet.

Identify what new patterns of food from this new diet. It would be something they don't usually consume, but started consuming in large amounts now. 

For some it could be tofu - yes soy. For others, it could be a variety from meats, dairy, and many more. The trigger food differs from one person to another. It is harder if you are not aware of what you've been eating. 

Let me give a specific example:

I once started taking two new things, coconut oil in the morning and evening primrose oil daily. I did this mostly to improve my dry skin condition. Not only it worked, it worked so well that my skin actually became oily, and I started breaking out. I now have a new problem that I've never had before from simply these two new additions. 

Recently, I've had several consults who never suffered acnes in all their lives, but started having bad ones now. After probing, it was due to their new diet change to keto or vegan or whatever else. 

I would love to share Zihan's story. Zihan was introduced to me through a mutual friend. She said she's been to many doctors, tried many things, but her acne still persists. She's also tested for food allergies, tried many products and nothing showed positive result. 

I went on to my usual questions, judging from the type of acne that she has, it is those big, angry, red pustules on her cheeks - which usually in my experience relates to her body being "heaty" and related to digestion. 

She said she drinks 2L a day, i then ask for her body weight and height, and I realized that she's not drinking enough. I asked her to improve her water intake to 3L at least a day. I asked her to carry around a 1L water bottle which she has to finish one bottle before lunch. Before evening. And the remainder by night time.  

If you can set an alarm reminder to drink - this would even be better. Some clients I also advice lemon water especially if their diet is too acidic. 

As the interview went on, she told me that she is on keto diet but still consume vegetables. She also takes virgin coconut oil, cheese, butter, and egg for fats. 

I advised 

  1. A) eliminate dairy cheese eggs (the usual suspects)
  2. B) if she's sensitive to coconut oil - perhaps need to test and eliminate first too?
  3. C) drink 3-3.5L of water base on her body mass
  4. D) to add more alkaline in her diet. 
  5. E) stop sweets (sugary food) 

She said she loves broccoli and she will eat more of that. I told her try to have a variety of greens as broccoli is high in salicylates. I asked her to google food that is alkaline and food that is high in salicylates (to avoid until we rule out salicylates sensitivity). 

Zihan's condition actually improves with keto diet because during this diet she stops eating grains, glutens, and sweets (which are probably her trigger foods). However she also continues to eat vegetables with the diet.

With minor tweaks to her diet, you can see the amazing improvement to her skin within 2-3 weeks. Photos above. 

Another story is my husband whom at one point was addicted to eating nuts. Every night after work, he would start munching on this bag of nuts. Day after day. Week after week. One day, he found that he has many acnes on his face - a problem he rarely has. We started back tracking, I asked if he's eating something that he normally don’t consume much of. And we pin pointed and suspected his new nuts eating habit. He stopped the consumption, and true enough not long after his skin cleared up. Now I'm not saying that eating nuts will cause everyone to have acnes, but I’m saying that if you are sensitive to it, and if you suddenly consume a large amount of it - then yes, it is possible that your body will react to it and as a result your skin breaks out.  

  1. Find your trigger habit

I remember one of my very first client is a friend who has extremely oily acne prone skin. The client has oily skin since teens, and 30 years later, he is still experiencing extreme oily skin condition - which most people at his age group has dry skin.  

I probed further and asked lots of questions. It turns out, he has been having this bad habit of washing his face due to having oily skin as a teenager. Not feeling comfortable with his oily condition, he started this habit of washing his face with highly foaming cleansing products as he thought having that tight squeaky clean skin is "normal" and how it should be if he weren't so oily. And this habit went on many years later, even ten and twenty thirty years later. He washed approximately 6 times a day or maybe even more sometimes. 

I was shocked when I heard this. It is obvious that this bad habit has created a new problem. Over-cleansing and over-stripping of his skin has created an imbalance in his sebum production which in turn cause him to be even oilier than before.  

I've always had sensitive skin and have started using gentle cleansing milk product to wash my face. I started formulating a surfactant free emulsion-based cleansing milk for this client, and of course choosing ingredients which are astringent and good for oily skin. (P.s. Hazelnut Cleansing Milk was "born" from this client). This gentle surfactant balanced out his sebum production, and made a big difference to his skin.

Within 2-3 months, his oil dramatically reduced. Within 6 months if I'm not mistaken, his skin is "almost normal" and acne free.

As I've mentioned in my other blog post - 7 most common mistake people make when choosing a skin care product, cleansing is a truly critical step in which you establish a base line to having good skin. 

Few more habits that come to mind that I would like to mention is, not cleansing your face in the morning thinking that I only slept through the night and so it should be "clean". Or, even worse, failing to cleanse and remove your make up before you go to bed. 

Treat your skin as a canvas and you always want to start it with a shiny new one every morning before you start applying or accumulating more dirt and grimes throughout the day. 

And always remove your make up no matter how tired you are before you go to bed. Sleeping is a time for your body and skin to recharge and detox itself, it really can't do so when the pores are all clogged with make-up products, dust, sebum accumulated throughout the day. 

I remember that during my younger days, I started seeing more small bumps on my forehead. It got worse with time, then I realized that I was not  removing my make up correctly, and at times I skip my morning cleansing routine. The bumps dramatically improved when I implemented minor tweaks to my routine.  

  1. Find your trigger product

Have you ever had an experience where you breakout after using certain products? I had a very bad case of it a few years ago. It took me a while to figure out which product(s) it was, but elimination would be the way to go about with this. When your skin breaks out, always go back to the basic. Use that trustee cleanser and trustee one or two product that you know works for you. Products could also be a new make up, sunblock (mine were actually sunblocks), or it could really be any number of products. Sometimes it could even be the array of product combination. When used alone they are okay, but once you layer, it seems to be causing problems for your skin. Take note of it and do more trial errors to confirm.  

  1. Not drinking enough water

As silly as this sounds, I often see so many skin care issues that started from not drinking enough water. 

Our body is made up of 70-85% water, but how many of us actually drink enough? Water is used to sustain life. It is also used as a transport and as a way to remove toxins from our body. We need water to remove toxins from our body through perspiration and urination. How often do we get so busy that we forget to drink water, then realize hours later that we are so thirsty and take note of our urine color as well.

The lesser you drink, the more your body will try to retain water. You can see water retention from having bigger eye bags (if it appears on the face), or it could also appear anywhere else in your body, such has hands, feet, stomach....

If you feel bloated from drinking, it's most likely that you are not drinking enough, and so when you drink that bit of water, your body holds on to it as it needs the water to sustain life in your body. Keep going, and your body will release the water and you should feel normal after maybe around 5-7 days if you keep up the amount. In fact if you've tried, you will even at day 3-4 feel so thirsty like you've never felt in your life (while you are actually drinking more than before). 

Not drinking enough also usually shows on the skin as dehydration, and to some people, it shows as clogged pores or comedones. I'm not saying that water is the only cause of this, but it most certainly makes it worse. 

Three months ago, a mom and two daughters came for a consult. Nina has quite a bit of blackheads and clogged pores all over her skin. When I asked my questions, it was obvious that she is not drinking enough water. That day, she promised to drink more, and went home with some products to try. Few weeks later, she checked in with me and told me that it's true. Her skin has dramatically improved and that her friends are commenting her about it! While i'm sure my products are awesome, but I am very sure that her results would have been less dramatic if she hadn't drunk the water. She also implemented alkali juice (from some recommendations of vegetables that I recommended during consult). 

Within three months her skin dramatically improved. You can judge it for yourselves. (photos above)

  1. Not being able to identify which other health issues might be causing the acne?

Hormones and other health factors do play a major part in acne. I remember meeting this lady once who had acne all over her chin. She was in her late 50s probably or early 60s. I know from the start that those were hormonal acnes, and true enough when we started chatting, she told me that she was going through menopause and had recently started having acne on her chin areas.  

Or at times certain hormonal conditions such as polycycstic ovarion syndrome could also cause acnes. 

I’ve met a client with GERD who also has severe acne and hair loss. It will be very hard to handle the acne if her GERD are not managed well. 

Sometimes it is more complex and it could also be other health related issues. Your skin is the largest organ that your body has. It will actually be the first indication of imbalance or issues in your body. When your skin is showing problems, pay close attention to which areas of your health you might be having problems in. 

Most often, it is also related to your diet and lifestyle.  

  1. Stop Picking on your skin

Sometimes we are our own worst “trigger to more acne” enemy. When you pick on your own skin, you create cross contaminations, which in turns usually creates more acne and causes inflammation to the skin as well. Sometimes people also picks on the scabs which in turns creates even more issues with scarring. I know it because i am also guilty of it. I love picking on acne and on scabs, but hated the consequences. Picking on acnes will only makes things worse. Just stop. 

  1. Stop stressing and start resting

Having enough rest and sleep does wonder for the skin. When we sleep, our body repairs itself and heals. That’s why they call it beauty sleep. Have you ever noticed your skin looking so fantastic after having enough sleep and rest? But how many of us actually get enough sleep daily? I know I don’t. 

Find ways to relax and manage your stress. Do meditation, practice gratitude, exercise - all of these helps to not only release toxins out of your body, they also help to reduce stress. When we’re stressed, our body is in this fight or flight mode, which in turns to keep up with this mode, it will shut off usually the immune system first. This is why we get sick more easily when we’re stressed. If our immune system is compromised, it is also not able to fight the bacteria that are causing acnes or healing your skin from the scars. I know it’s easier said than done, but learn to relax and release your stress. It will do your body and health a lot of good as well as help with your skin condition. 

I hope you’ve found some of the tips here helpful. I know that some of them are not rocket science. I do understand that simply drinking water will not heal your acne miraculously. If it were that simple, everyone would already be cured. But I do believe that it does plays a part in your skin overall condition and will also help to reduce acne. Maybe by doing only one of the steps you don’t see any results, but when you start combining the tips in this article, I have seen many people with acne clearing up and skins getting better. It is not magic - abracadabra acne is gone. It’s a lot of work, effort, fine tuning but I promise you will see progress and with time, you will be able to see results if you keep trying and being aware of your actions. It is easier when you have already built this awareness. I will end this blog post with one last story. I’ve been consulting with this lady who has been battling acne for many years. She was for the most part making progress, then one day she texted me with a face full of new acnes. I asked her to let me know what is she doing new or if anything changed in the last few days? She told me she’s doing a juice detox and she’s drinking almond milk daily - something she doesn’t normally do. I told her to eliminate both and then try them again one by one to see which is the cause. It turns out, almond milk was the culprit. But because she’s already been aware of what she’s doing and eating daily, it made it easier to identify the source. She immediately pinpointed these two new things that she’s added recently to her life. Once she stopped the almond milk, her skin improved very quickly.  

I would love to hear your feedbacks and stories. I am always up for an acne consult. Please do not hesitate to contact me via instagram i’m available personally at @dewikauw or @skindewi. Or you may also email me at dewi.kauw@skindewi.com

I wish you all the best in your acne journey!  

Until next time...

PS: At Skin Dewi, we have our Clear Up Kit for Oily Skin that has all skin care products that you need to help improve your oily skin.