Breaking the Break Out Cycle
If you’ve stuck by and have been reading Muslimah Beauty for long enough, not only do I thank you, but I also apologise as I’m sure you’ve become fully adjusted to my incessant complaining about my breakout prone skin by now! Funnily enough I was blessed with the gift of acne shortly before deciding to start this blog, and it was hardly ever something I experienced in my teens so while my friends were experimenting and blasting their faces with Clearasil, Duac and any other acne clearing product my quest for a ‘cure’ has been a fairly recent phenomenon. But after years of trying just about anything from Harley Street dermatologists to blue light lasers I’ve found that it boils down to two very simple things – great skincare and an even greater diet.
Acne is often a symptom of an underlying problem such as an imbalance of the hormones, and if this problem isn’t nipped in the bud your skin will continue to breakout. It took years for me to accept that dairy and gluten are not my friend and that my skin was better off without. I’d recommend investigating out why exactly your skin is breaking out and treating the problem rather than seeing acne as an isolated issue requiring its own treatment. But in the meantime I guess it’d be worth sharing what has worked for me in treating my own acne, however there’s just one caveat to this post – take into account that most of what I note is subjective and is due to personal experience; what works for me may not necessarily work for you however it doesn’t hurt to consider it either.
Years ago I read an article debunking myths concerning acne, and one dermatologist claimed that chocolate and other junk foods did not cause acne. I took that for gospel and continued to eat those foods oblivious to the effect they were having on my skin. While I may not hold a PhD in dermatology or nutrition, junk food has a causal relationship with my acne and no dermatologist can tell me otherwise. In fact I recently posed a few questions about the relationship between diet and the skin to renowned naturopathic doctor Dr Nigma Talib and she confirms my suspicions. “I have seen over and over again in my patients that diets rich in sugar and certain carbohydrate type foods (which eventually convert into sugar during digestion) can be a major problem for skin health. Not all carbohydrates are created equally. Carbohydrates that are processed and contain gluten can cause imbalances in your gut bacteria, which can in turn cause inflammation in your body affecting your hormones, which are your body’s messengers. If you continuously consume high amounts of sugars and harmful types of carbohydrates, your body will not be able to sustain the large amounts of inflammation and it will show up on your skin as various levels of congestion such as redness, acne, large pores, black heads and dry and pigmentation patches, not just increased inches to your waistline”. Key food culprits waging war on our skin include sugar infested foods such as cakes, cookies and ice-cream and also refined carbs like pasta and bread as they convert into sugar and essentially have the same effect on your skin as a chocolate bar. “Your skin is a reflection of your diet” Dr Nigma states.
When my skin was at its worst in 2010-11 with severe cystic acne, my diet was just abysmal and at the time I was adjusting to university life so takeaway pizzas, burgers, crisps and copious amounts of cheesecake were all I consumed. I’ve since made a conscious effort to rid my diet of refined sugars for the past 6 months, and my skin has completely transformed. Apart from the occasional indulgence (I am human after all!) gone is the junk and in are green smoothies chock-full of kale, blueberries, spinach, celery and spirulina, salmon, cottage cheese, lentils and nuts. “Your body has an innate ability to heal itself given the right diet” says Dr Nigma. “The foods our bodies require for glowing skin requires a combination of anti inflammatory foods rich in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. Anti-inflammatory foods not only helps keep your skin looking flawless, but help support insulin and blood sugar levels in your body”. Apart from the previously mentioned foods, some foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins and omega fatty acids include turmeric, chia seeds, quinoa, mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts and cruciferous vegetables such as brocolli, cauliflower and bok choy.
Contrary to how many people approach treating acne, I personally find that nothing is more effective than a gentle approach. That means using nourishing products that’ll help to calm my skin such as Elemental Herbology’s Purify & Smooth Cleanser, the Gunjeoir Neroli Face Elixir*, Avène Thermal Water Spray*, Perricone MD Hypoallergenic Gentle Cleanser* and the Estèe Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum*. These are products I will generally use irrespective of my skin breaking out but when the spots appear there are products I add into my skincare routine specifically for treating the breakouts.
For fear of waffling on for hours I’ll merely list the acne treatments I use, but there’s something these products tend to have in common – their ingredients. Look for products loaded with zinc, aloe vera, glycolic and salicylic acid, witch hazel, sulfur, lavender, willow-bark, tea tree and benzoyl peroxide although I’d wouldn’t haphazardly slap on liberal amounts of BP as it tends to dry the skin out.
Mario Badescu Drying Cream and Buffering Lotion
Simple Rapid Action Spot Zapper*
Aknicare SR Skin Roller*
Other products that haven’t been pictured but deserve equal adulation are the SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Serum, Jan Marini Bioglycolic Cleanser, Bioderma Sébium AKN, La Roche-Posay Efflaclar Duo [+]* and Mario Badescu Drying Lotion.