I know there are a ton of threads on acne and skin health, but I haven't found one focused on the "journey" of curing skin problems. I ask this because my own skin has been undergoing an interesting and unpredictable series of changes since I adopted a paleo diet about 2 months ago. For over a decade I've dealt with acne, never severe but always there, from minimal to moderate. It was (along with gluten intolerance) my main reason for going paleo, but paleo hasn't been a miracle cure for me yet. I've seen some people saying it takes 3 months or more, and others saying that it "gets worse before it gets better." I'm curious about what I should expect during the next 1 - 4 months.
Background: For the last couple of years I usually had one to three cysts on my face, as well as small break-outs on my forehead, chest, back, and upper arms. I would break out in the same place over and over again - sometimes the spots would take over a month to heal. Around January (before I got strict about my diet), I had the worst break out ever -- multiple cysts all over my lower face, as well as numerous cystic break-outs on my neck, which was a place I never got break-outs! I was despairing. I got strict about food in late February and stopped using products on my face.
The first month and a half that I followed a paleo diet (no nuts or dairy), my skin only seemed to get worse. Some of those days about 4 weeks in were the worst skin days I've ever had in my life. I was breaking out in clusters, which was unusual for me. However, in the last 2 weeks, I've noticed that my skin is softer and I haven't had any large or cystic break-outs. I've still been getting a few pimples but they are tiny and shallow and heal quickly. However, I'm now noticing more clogged pores then ever before... No big ones but just tiny white bumps on my cheeks and jaw. Is this a detox thing or what? Am I still getting acne without the inflammation? I must be doing something right because my neck, back, and chest have been completely clear for the last couple of weeks... If anyone who has improved their skin with a paleo diet can share their stories about specifically HOW their skin reacted to the change (in stages and over what timespans), I would be most grateful.
EDIT: I also noticed something weird during the last few weeks that I forgot to mention in my original post. A few times over the last month, I was disturbed to notice a reappearing acne scar on my face. These were pale, faint scars that had previously vanished, now returning like zombies from the dead! Of course I was annoyed and a bit disturbed, also confused as it didn't make sense to me. But each time, after a few days the scars would fade again. Does this mean a deeper healing is taking place? It really weirded me out.
asked byViolet9 (2063)
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on April 17, 2012
at 04:06 AM
Everyone will have a different experience. I was gluten free for years, but still had acne. At 30, I thought it was something I had to live with. Just before I went strictly Paleo I switched to all natural, edible skin care. I use Dr Alkaitis, which is expensive, but a little goes a long way. I also experimented with using coconut oil as a moisturizer, but found that my skin was too much of an oil slick.
Before these changes I had a family if 3 cysts under my jaw that just would not go away. They became smaller, less inflamed, and eventually stopped showing up. It took time.
Thinking back, it took about 2 months of strict Paleo eating for my skin to really clear. It started to look better within 2 weeks, but the more minor breakouts you describe is something I experienced. My best guess is that as your hormones normalize, your skin adapts, but it's not an overnight process. Give your skin time, and do your best not to touch your face.
on April 17, 2012
at 12:20 AM
Answer to my acne; 1) Go Paleo 2) Embrace fat 3) Toss stress to the wind. If I don't have time for something, it just ain't important enough. 3) Get a seasalt, coconut oil, avocodo scrub (exfoliant). Do it every morning. 4) After exfoliating rub coconut oil all over dry face with clean hands. Blot away the grease. 5) Glowing, healthy skin.
on April 19, 2012
at 04:34 PM
This is in response to the EDIT; also, HERESY ALERT!!!! for the bottom paragraphs. I started noticing something similar to what you mentioned, despite eating a very strict paleo diet for a year and a half. It turns out that all the meat/protein I was eating (yes, totally pastured, local, grass-fed, etc--I don't eat CAFO meat) was really antagonistic for my body. I also had some deep scars that had faded start to get "puffy" again, which caused me to question every assumption about my diet.
I've cut meat consumption down to 1-4 ounces a day, some days not eating meat at all. This forced me to really up my fiber intake through veggies (lots and lots of kale cooked in the little bit of oil from those fatty 1-4 ounces of meat, usually pork belly) and lots and lots of fruit. I don't eat bananas or avocados because they tend to cause skin issues, or super sweet oranges because they give me a weird buzz, but certainly fruit has become a staple of my diet, especially in these warmer months. I don't know what this means, only that my skin is back to being clear and healthy again.
Note, however, that I can't tell you if this is the long term solution, or if my body is just responding to a therapeutic extended protein fast or a mega dose of fiber. I also can't tell you if there's a confounder with sunlight. In fact, I really do believe now that adequate sun exposure is a key part of healing skin problems, so maybe all this diet hacking isn't really that important... Perhaps "pound of ground a day" is just as ok or not ok as "30 bananas a day"?
on April 19, 2012
at 02:37 AM
Hi Violet, I totally sympathize with your situation. I am grateful I only have mild acne but am struggling to get clear. Last year I was strict paleo (except for butter, if I remember correctly) for 2 months and, while my skin improved, I didn't get clear. Recently I was 6 weeks on a strict "paleo" plus rice and quinoa diet with the same results. I find paleo/the diet I described above clears my forehead, hairline, temples, and chin of all but a little comedonal acne. Unfortunately, I still break out on the lower part of my cheeks no matter how good or bad my diet is. This, for me, is just SO frustrating. Especially because I get hardcore red marks (even if I don't pick/pop) that take MONTHS AND MONTHS to fade away. So my skin looks bad even if I am not breaking out >:(
if you haven't discovered it yet, acne.org is a great resource (check out the message boards) but be careful not to get too obsessed with reading all the forums. If you want to PM me/look up my posts my username is RockingRedhead.
also, just because I don't want to start another question, has anyone taken green pastures cod liver oil/butter oil or gotten an ALCAT food sensitivity test? I am interested in both but they are both very expensive!!! hahah
on April 17, 2012
at 12:25 PM
I have hormonal outbreaks and I found that I got flares when I started eating better (probably from more sex hormones) that settled down eventually.
When I get a lot of clogged pores I like to do a little castor oil/ vit E mix and steam - it seems to really help me.
on April 17, 2012
at 01:16 AM
I'm 48. I had mild-moderate acne my whole adult life. I started doing paleo for other reasons, but then found a few months later that the acne was just...gone. I didn't do anything other than regular primal/paleo. It's been gone for two years--the only tiny flare ups coming when I have to travel and it's hard to eat clean. Other than that, no zits, no blackheads, and nothing icky oozing out if I squeeze at my skin (sorry for the image, but that's what it used to be like). Apparently just regular paleo doesn't do that for everyone with acne, but it worked great for me.
on April 17, 2012
at 12:16 AM
I've always dealt with acne growing up, and had phases where it got really bad, and then other phases when I had almost no acne. About a year ago, March 2011, I had a really bad phase, where it seemed like I was getting more acne everyday. I finally went to the dermatologist(this was before starting paleo) and found a skin care regime that worked for me, and most of my acne disappeared with consistent use.
Fast forward to now: I have just recently started paleo. I was getting a little bit of acne before starting, due to not washing my makeup off every night(I realize this is a big no no!) Within 4 days of starting paleo, my acne COMPLETELY cleared up. Regardless of whether I washed my face or not. At about day 5, I had 2 people in one day tell me how radiant my skin looked. I still use Rx from the dermatologist, so that IS one difference between our skin care regimen. But for me, going paleo immediately helped with any acne. I haven't had a single case of new acne for the last two weeks.
Sorry I can't be more help with your long term struggle with acne! I suppose I could tell you what Rx I use from the doc, but they're probably not very paleo..:)
on April 17, 2012
at 12:14 AM
I found that when I cut out the stress in my life (miserable relationship), ate Paleo, increased water intake and cut out Coke/Pepsi, my skin cleared right up! I still get red bumps on my shoulders and along my sports bra but I think that is due to the sweating/friction during workouts.
on October 05, 2013
at 07:07 AM
Thanks for the great thread topic, nice to hear other people stories on the subject. I just started paleo about a month strict, with several months transitioning (wasn't really aiming at paleo initially, just started eating cleaner then got interested in researching food and found out about it). For me I found a major factor contributing to my acne was dairy, and once I cut that out my skin cleared up in a matter of days (have had adult acne on chin/neck/cheeks/back that seemed to cycle with my periods for many years, could get quite bad, to the point it is too hard to count all the spots lol).
Not sure if the gluten has had an impact as haven't tried reintroducing any (and don't plan to at this stage) though I found out dairy definitely does after introducing butter back into my diet (overly optimistic, sadly) just last week, and after a few days had broken out in several places all over again. So have stopped using butter, and now my skin is slowly healing again... Also I found that upping fats in my diet generally from animal fats/ avocados/ coconut oil and oily fish has helped a lot with my skin feeling smoother all over, whereas it used to be dry and scaly in patches.
Quite enjoying the paleo lifestyle benefits overall actually, seems to impact a lot of areas beyond skin too (increased energy, better digestion, body comp etc) so definitely will continue, and hopefully my skin will continue to improve too. Hope your paleo journey goes well, and that is weird about the scars reappearing you mention in your edit- I notice sometimes my scars appear different at different temperatures (i.e. while still hot after exercise my whole face looks red, so some scarring looks less obvious) , maybe that might contribute?
on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM
Everyone in my family has done the ALCAT test. In particular it was very successful for my sister. She didn't do anything Paleo at all, but followed the results to a T. In particular she found she was very sensitive to dairy, soy, gluten, and high fructose corn syrup. By following her ALCAT results strictly (mind you she still ate "unhealthy" things like mexican coke- since it's made with sugar and not HFCS) she lost 50 pounds.
I'm sure a lot of it was inflammation, but you can sure see a difference for her. She used to literally feel sick after every meal and wanted to sleep all the time!
I also did the ALCAT test and have seen minor improvements (my symptoms were never severe and as such, I don't follow it as strictly) by going gluten free.
Anyways, I'm a huge proponent of ALCAT as I've seen what an amazing different it has made for my sister! If you can chalk up the cash it could be well worth it. It truly changed my sisters life.
on June 08, 2013
at 04:06 AM
Well I didnt even know about Paleo till some months back. I just tried controlling my diet according what my family physician said. It didnt work dramatically but the whole routine helped in many ways. But I still hate summers thats when it becomes worse..Have been trying a few creams. Cant say they are the perfect answer but they do help a bit...
on April 25, 2013
at 07:35 PM
I've always had great skin that people would compliment me on (thanks for the genes, parents). When I started paleo, I started breaking out with blemishes all over my face! They weren't like the regular pimples you get now and then though, more like raised red splotches in clusters all over my chin, hairline and cheekbones. It was a bit traumatizing but I chalked it up to the detox phase, exercised more to help the toxins leave my skin via sweat, and started taking milk thistle to support my liver in eliminating toxins. My skin cleared back up in a couple of weeks.
on April 25, 2013
at 07:18 PM
I just noticed after 2 years primal, and now 2 weeks strict paleo, my skin is so soft and smooth. I first noticed it on my fingertips, and today my face.