My Skin Story & Skincare Routine

I know I have alluded to this post a billion and one times (slight exaggeration) but it was a hard one to write and took me awhile to put my words together. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to share all of these details at first but I am glad I am.

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When I say I was not comfortable in my own skin, I literally was not comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable is too light of a term. The look of my skin and complexion has profound effects on my self esteem and confidence.

You guys might think I’m crazy because you’ve obviously seen pictures of me and I doubt you would think I have “problem” skin. Well I’m pretty good at covering it up and it’s not what it used to be.

Like most awkward 13 year olds with braces, I had acne. I knew this was “normal” but like most people: I hated it. It sucked. I hated breaking out before my period. I hated waking up to a newfound pimple in the middle of my forehead. I hated my greasy nose. To make matters worse I popped and picked. Yes I knew not to but I did.

I had acne on my face, back and chest. It affected me a lot. I never wore tank tops. I was attached to my concealer and cover-up.  I sometimes didn’t go to school when I was in the midst of a breakout. It made me feel that bad. By the time I got into high school I started trying every method under the sun.

Acne Treatments

[Image source]

First, I lived in the drug store. I tried every face wash, toner, moisturizer, mud mask, spot treatment, nose strip, acne this, oil free that. You name the product and I bet I have tried it. I got facials, spa treatments… everything and nothing worked or gave me the results I wanted.

Next, I went the Proactiv route. Yeah the infomercials sucked me in. And that was a failure as well. Then I started seeing a billion dermatologists. They gave me bunch of topical spot treatments and offered advice: use towels to wipe sweat during basketball, change my pillowcase, whatever. That didn’t work. So I went on a birth control pill (Diane 35) in the hopes of clearing up my skin a bit. That started helping but I wanted quicker results so started Accutane (a powerful acne pill). I only completed half of a cycle because it dehydrated my body so badly that I experienced severe muscle cramping while playing sports resulting in many injuries so I stopped without running its full course. Not fun.

By the end of high school, my “bacne” (aka back acne) had cleared but I still was affected on my chest and face. Great. Now it was time for college. I was still on birth control and continued trying lots of different products. I took to using an Aveda line and Cetaphil cleanser daily. I got facials every once and awhile but my skin still wasn’t ideal.

Then I discovered the power of tanning beds. The terrible yet skin-changing power. I tanned often. Too often. But it worked. My skin looked so much better and I felt so much better about myself. But I also realized that this was a temporary fix and recognized the harmful effects of tanning beds.

This was around the same time that I began to “clean up” my diet and start trying to live healthier. My skin began to follow suit. Even though I was still eating junk in the forms of 100-calorie-packs, I have to think the extra fruits and leafy greens did my body good.

By my final two years of college, I was happy with my skin.

Amy Skin

I thought I was in the clear (LOL) until I switched birth control pills this past summer. I got freaked out by a few studies surrounding some issues with my current pill (Diane 35) and switched to Allese. My skin hated that. It freaked out. And broke out: mostly on my jaw line, neck and chest – which many to believe to be hormonal breakouts. Hm, makes sense. The birth control pill “works” by injecting two hormones (estrogen and progestin) into your body, which stops the release of eggs and makes the lining of the uterus thinner [Source] Translation: messing with your hormones. I believe that changing pills and changing dosage contributed to these breakouts and causing my hormones to be all out of whack.

So I went back to the drawing board. In the fall, I worked with a naturopath and was tweaking a few things in my diet based on food sensitivity testing I had done. I was more strict about not eating dairy and gluten because it does not react well in my body and I believe that our outside (in this case my skin) can often be a reflection of our inside (in this case my digestion). I also started trying some mineral salts, weird drops and drinking nasty minerals.

herbs

[Image source]

My skin did not get better and I was frustrated. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for natural healing but whatever I was doing was not working. I decided I needed to start fresh and cleanse my system so after nearly 10 years on the pill (10 years!!!) I stopped taking it in October 2013. 10 years of putting hormones and other junk into my body was enough. I kept things as simple as possible: I washed my face twice a day with Cetaphil, got a facial every now and again and ate a mainly plant-based diet. Well I continued to breakout. If anything, it got worse – especially around my jaw line, mouth and neck. Coming off the pill messed with my hormones even more.

I went back to the naturopath in January 2014 and started trying other stuff. It didn’t help. My skin wasn’t getting any better. I then went to a dermatologist, checked all my hormones (they were fine) and all she could suggest was to put me back on the pill. Of course. Well I wasn’t having that so I committed to fixing this on my own. I decided to make my own changes and do it my way. 

I started CrossFit-ing more regularly, which helped to change my idea of nutrition. I have focussed on nourishing my body better and adopted a more paleo-esque style of eating. (No, I will still not label my diet). I started eating meat again. And egg yolks. I ditched all my lotions and potions and splashed my face with warm water and moisturized with coconut oil – yes coconut oil! It terrified me at first. Oil = acne right? Just like calories = weight gain right? (Haha! I was testing you). I began to stalk Liz Wolfe and read all about natural skincare. I was fascinated by it all and have been determined to “fix” my skin.

Since, starting to focus on nourishing my body better, eating more real food and fully committing to the Whole 30, my skin has been amazing. I truly believe real food is the best kind of medicine out there. Sure we may need to supplement it but I want to do so naturally without any more chemical-filled lotions and potions. If I’m not putting it in my body, I don’t want to put it on my body. Sorry I’m going all hippie dippy on you… 

Natural skin products

Now, I splash warm water on my face in the morning and moisturize with this oil. I wash my face in the evening with a mixture of apple cider vinegar (about 2 tbsp.) and warm water using a washcloth followed by more oil. I eat real food and 90% grain, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol, beans/legume free (the 10% will be for peanut butter, beans and oatmeal post-Whole 30). I wear much less make-up and my skin has never felt or looked better. The best feeling is when someone compliments me that my skin looks incredible. That has never happened before.

Sure I get the occasional pimple or blemish (like after vodka) but I truly can sit here and say that I feel happy and confident in my own skin. Literally.

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Just like kicking Franken-food to the curb, I am slowly but surely trying to rid my whole bathroom of “conventional products” filled with chemicals and trying my hand at the DIY and more “natural” way. Baking soda for shampoo, Moroccan/coconut oil for conditioner. So far it is saving me tons of money, my hair is greasy and my parents think I am crazy – but I will keep you posted. I didn’t realize how much crap is in all the stuff I was using. Make-up remover, creams, hair spray, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, face wipes, make-up… I am still using some of this stuff and learning more about it all. I haven’t found an option for deodorant yet (I don’t want to smell) and I doubt I will ever ditch my mascara, but I am loving life. And I am loving my skin.

 

Questions of the day…

Do you have any problems with your skin?

What does your skincare routine look like? 

What are your thoughts on all the chemicals in beauty products, etc?

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59 thoughts on “My Skin Story & Skincare Routine

  1. I am so happy you feel happy in your own skin. You look beaut too! I am with you on the chemicals in everything. I have been using liz earle make up which is mostly all natural and the mascara is so good! I also use coconut oil for moisturiser – it is really funny as it makes me look super shiny before bed ha. With shampoo I have been trying different natural brands but haven’t found one that beats good old herbal essences chemical filled crap yet so keep me updated on what you find! Deoderant wise I have found a great one called dr organic in pomegranate. It doesn’t stop you sweating but you never smell :) one step at a time eh ;)

    1. Thank you so much for all of the helpful product ideas! I will definitely be checking them out. It took me awhile to get used to the shiny-ness of the oil – but now I like to think that I glow :)

    1. I’m trying to but I think I am doing something wrong. I wasn’t finishing with apple cider vinegar so I think I need to incorporate that.

  2. Amy I related to every single word you said. I have tried everything–went to the dermatologist for 10 years and then stopped two years ago. My skin isn’t any better but at least I’m not spending money on expensive prescriptions! I recently (like….3 days ago) started using coconut oil as a moisturizer and I love it! I’m still experimenting but I’m glad you found something that works for you. Once I find the right solution I will write about it too because this has been a loooong ass journey for me. Well, it still is a journey I suppose haha but hopefully it’ll be over soon.

  3. I was on the pill for cramps, but never realized that it was helping my acne until I went off of it a few months ago. My face has been terrible and hoping that by changing up some food that it will get better (have to watch due to my Colitis flaring up, that’s fun, haha)

    1. It’s crazy the effect it has! I’m sorry to hear about your skin at the moment but keep trying new things and something will work out.

  4. Ahhh I literally saw the title in my Bloglovin feed and was like “oh yay the skin post!!!” It’s possible I’m overly emotionally involved in your life. Hashtag sorry I’m not sorry. I am sooooo happy for you and your skin transformation! I was happy before, but hearing the full back story, I want to throw you a Whole-30 friendly party and/or jump through the screen to hug and do a happy dance. I can see why it must have been so hard to write and relive the old emotions, and I’m sure the recent breakouts had the same effect emotionally of bringing back all those old demons. I’m so proud of you for sharing it and I’m sure it will help a LOT of people. So many people don’t realize that what you put in your body affects everything about your body. Also, side note, you may not know this about me but my background is all environmental and I originally went to law school for environmental law, so I’m loving all the hippie dippie, keep it coming!

    Since screens still aren’t portals, I’m doing a happy dance for you here in NY. xoxo

  5. Wow, Amy, you have no idea how much this resonates with me. My story is nearly the exact same as yours, except I’m still struggling with managing my skin. I was on Diane-35 for five years or so, and my skin was great on it, but in the fall, I too decided I needed to stop pumping hormones into my body. Since then, my skin’s been getting progressively worse. (Not to mention, I haven’t had my period in over two months.) So I’m back on that journey, the one I first went on in high school, to find a fix for my skin.

    Thank you for this post. I’m glad to hear these recent diet changes have had such a positive effect on your skin. I may have to try some of your tips!

    1. It takes a lot of work and commitment but I know you will figure out the right combination for you too. From my research (and I am not a doctor obviously!) but depending on how long you were on the pill for, it could take awhile for your body/hormones/period to regulate. Good luck with everything and feel free to keep me posted :)

  6. Girl, I’m with you on the awful breakouts. In high school my chest and back also broke out and I just remember how embarrassing it was and how I used tanning to help. While I was eating clean on my Advo 24DC, my skin was GLOWING, like I was worried I might be pregnant it looked so good (hah!). What we put into our bodies has a huge impact on what we see on the outside. I’m so happy you’ve figured out what works for you and in my opinion, natural is always better :)

  7. Happy to hear that you’ve found something that’s working for you! I usually don’t have a problem with acne (I did around puberty, but it was more or less ok by the time I was about 15) but I do have issues with dry skin. But since eating more and focusing more on fats, my skin is looking a lot healthier – almost glowing! Crazy how that works ;-)

  8. Amy- I know so many people can relate so thanks for sharing your story! I have had similar woes with eczema and still do, and am tied to my birth control to regulate my periods (hope that’s not TMI!). It’s great to hear you are feeling better than ever and I truly feel like you radiate confidence from the inside through this blog!! I love reading about your positive steps to a better you :)

  9. It’s a little scary how similar our experiences are with clearing skin- everything from 10 years on the pill to going off after being freaked out by the hormones injected into my body, to breaking out all of the time afterwards, to cleaning my diet (paleo-fied/ish-ing it), to ditching all of my chemical laden products for grapeseed oil, coconut oil, & ACV…. very similar paths. So glad you’re feeling more comfortable and are seeing results! It feels great, doesn’t it?

  10. Such an honest and brave post Amy!!
    So glad you found what works for you. I’ve been incredibly lucky with my skin all my life, but I did switch to natural comsetics as well. I still own some comercial stuff, but I slowly convert to all natural things. I hear so many terrible things about chemical stuff and I feel sorry for my skin!

  11. I cannot tell you how PROUD I am of you for posting this! And especially for posting that makeup free picture!! You are AMAZING! I’m so glad that this new lease on life that you have is transforming so many things…even your skin! I also use natural products for my hair, and I find that it makes a world of difference. I use an apple cider vinegar wash to clarify as opposed to using shampoo. It works great!

  12. Such a great post, Amy! I can totally relate to everything you wrote here! I’ve suffered with acne for years and years. Sometimes I didn’t even want to go to school because I was so embarrassed, and although, it has gotten a lot better than it used to be, it does still flair up once in a while. Honestly, I have yet to still find the right cleanser and such to help treat it. I’ve used all sorts of treatments, but nothing has been just right, so I’m still experimenting.

  13. Thank you for this post!! I want to try some of the natural remedies you use. I suffer more from blackheads everywhere, especially my nose and my skin is super sensitive so I have always had to be careful about what products I use. But maybe going more natural will help and not using products with loads of chemicals in them….will have to update you if it helps or not!! :D

  14. I am so happy for you that you are feeling good in your own skin! I never really had acne in high school or most of undergrad. I started getting it my senior year and it has only gotten worse. It’s so, so frustrating and honestly kinda make you feel bad about yourself. I have started using coconut oils to moisturizer and aveeno to wash, I’m giving it awhile before changing things up again but I might have to give your method a try.

  15. LOVE this post! You are so beautiful and I have always been amazed at how beautiful your skin is.. When I went paleo/whole 30, my skin totally cleared up, but I had a week where I lapsed and omg holy acne, my face HATED me!! It was so bad but it is so crazy to think that food can affect our skin like that! It’s just another reason not to reach for the cookies or all that other processed junk that is advertised to us. Keep up the hard work girlie, you’re amazing and such a wonderful role model :) xo

    1. Thank you so much Allie! As fun as my two drinks were this weekend, my skin suffered. You are right – it is so crazy! (but kindaaaa awesome)

  16. I’ve heard amazing things about coconut oil for acne and skin issues in general. I have pretty sensitive skin and I’ll often use coconut oil on my face to calm things down. That’s awesome that you’ve finally found something that works for you and makes you feel better about your skin!

  17. Good for you for finding a way that works for you and for having the courage to write this post. I know I’ve seen how my skin reacts to a less-than-ideal diet, usually Monday morning after a weekend of too much indulgence. (Real) food is surely the most powerful medicine! I’ve started using coconut oil at night and I love it! My skin is highly-sensitive so I’m slowly using up the remaining products I have and trying to switch to natural products.

  18. I’ve never had bad skin issues, but ever since I started using coconut oil on my face I’ve had significantly less PMS breakouts. It’s kind nuts! I’m loving it. I’m so glad that you found that going the more natural route has helped with your skin issues – I’m all for crazy experimenting and have been wanting to try using natural shampoo, once my hair is back to blonde!

  19. This is a really inspiring post. I’ve also struggled with skin problems for a while, probably 8 years now (I’m 20). I also went on the pill about two years ago and have seen significant improvement, but like you, I want to get off of it because I’m not exactly thrilled about putting all of that stuff into my body, but I haven’t found the courage to stop taking it yet. Like you, I’ve found that cleaning up my diet has certainly helped with my skin, and now that I’ve stopped eating 90% of the junk I used to, I don’t crave it anymore! I would really like to try Whole 30 to see if it helps with my skin as well, but I’m a vegetarian and so definitely wouldn’t be able to make it with that diet. But thank you for this post, it was really nice to read about someone being frank and candid with their issues that we’re not supposed to talk about or let bother us, when in fact they can be incredibly stressful.

  20. Your story is SO similar to mine! My skin is still the thing that I struggle with most, but I can really see how much my food and lifestyle, as well as what I put on it, ALL make a difference. I was eating pretty ‘clean’ ie, free from the foods that I believe aggravate my skin, for the last couple of months and my skin has never, EVER looked better. It’s also been a while since I’ve been using the OCM, and that seems to be doing wonders. It never get’s that oil-slick look by noon anymore!

    But since relaxing a bit with my nutrition this last couple weeks, and some late nights and added stress has really brought me back to square one. Lesson learnt! I know I’ll get back on track, it’s just empowering to know I can do something about it at last :)

  21. I was so excited when I saw this post! My problem with acne started around high school. I would get those pimples that are so painful to even touch, so I didn’t really pick at them, but I would put on tons of cover up before going to school. A family friend gave me a sample of Proactive once to try, but my skin is sensitive and it felt like it was burning my skin when I used it. I pretty much just tried to ignore my acne but I look back at my pictures from the beginning of college and I honestly hate the way my face looks with all the pimples. I went on the pill a year later and over the years have tried multiple birth controls for the right one for me and my current one seems to do well to clear my acne, except around getting my period. In the last year though, I have learned that if I eat a bunch of chocolate one night, my face breaks out the next day, so I try to limit my chocolate consumption now. In December I ordered some new face wash from Paula’s Choice that is supposed to help with breakouts. I think it works pretty well for me as long as I use it consistently. I know that my eating habits have changed a lot over the last year too and I am sure that helps. Thank you for sharing your story.

  22. I can 100% relate to this post girl. I have gone through pretty much every single of the same steps as you! I am starting to find something that works for me, although I’m not100% there yet. I am hoping there is a day in the near future that I feel comfortable going out sans-make up!

  23. I love relying on natural remedies and using natural/vegan/cruelty-free products! Coconut oil is amazing for everything else from makeup remover to quick moisturizer – plus they are safe for babies who have more delicate skin! I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better – you are gorgeous as ever. Btw, I posted stuff about Lima ;) Did you go to any of these restaurants?

    1. My commenting has been so bad lately! Sorry! I loved reading your Lima recap and wish I travelled with you guys… we didn’t go to any of those restaurants but still ate pretty well :) I absolutely adored Miraflores. Can’t believe we missed each other – too funny!

  24. Oh my gosh! I totally feel like I’m on the same journey as you! I too gave up the pill in October 2013 after being on it for close to a decade. My skin has been breaking out like crazy ever since and a part of me really wanted to just give up and go back on the pill. Fortunately I have resisted so far and am going to start Whole-30 next week. Hopefully my skin will take to clean eating as well as yours has! I’m curious… do you use coconut oil as your moisturizer during the day too? Or only at night?

    1. I hope it does! I linked to the oil moisturizer I use and I use it twice a day – morning and evening. Sorry that wasn’t so clear :) I am excited to hear how your Whole 30 goes!

      1. Oh no, now I see it was totally clear! I must have gotten too excited about the fact we went off the pill at the exact same time haha. The product you linked to looks great and I am totally going to try this more natural cleansing method. Thanks so much!

  25. totally agree on the all above! I used to TAN ALOT too, ugh… but truly helped and having a little tan is deff a confidence booster. I notice when I eat clean my skin is ALOT clearer, esp during that time of the month I still get the hormonal stuff but not as bad a few years ago when I ate CRAP. I also can vouche for coco oil, Amazing!!!

  26. I can’t even explain how much I can relate to your story. a short version… Since I was about 16, my complexion has been terrible. It was probably its worst during my freshman year of college, so I also went on the bc pill to try and regulate my hormones. Around age 20 I became interested in living a much healthier life and started to eliminate the junk/processed foods and ate more REAL foods. That all helped, but breakouts were still a constant thing. I went off the pill last year – not because my husband & I were trying for a baby yet – because I learned about all of the dangerous risks of ingesting artificial hormones everyday and didn’t want to be on them any longer. My skin was still awful (even worse) when I went off the pill, and I didn’t get a period for 8 months after (though that’s another issue). Anyway, in the past few months I’ve started eating more (good quality) meats and animal products after being vegetarian for a couple years, along with adding in more healthy fats to my diet and taking a VERY good quality probiotic to help my gut – slowly but surely I’m seeing progress. Your post gives me hope because I’m sick and tired of not liking the way my face/skin looks!!

    1. Wow – our stories do sound very similar! It is definitely a process and it takes so much time, effort and experimentation. You will get there too! And know that I still get a blemish here and there but I am at a place where I feel confident about my skin. I know it is very frustrating but keep at it and you will see the results. Sending you glowing vibes :)

  27. My skin seems like it has always been awful, and I’ve also tried JUST about everything… Right now, I am on a prescription topical treatment (2 actually…) and they are definitely doing nothing for me. And I’m at a loss of what to do. I think if I became more conscious of my food choices (and channeling my inner Amy!), it could improve. Your eating lifestyle has inspired me, but I’m at a complete loss at how to change my eating. Plus, I live with my boyfriend, so most of our dinners are for the both of us & not just me. I definitely feel like I’m just rambling now! And your story matches pretty close to mine, except I haven’t tried Accutane, and don’t really want to since it puts “stuff” in my body. I’m definitely inspired to change things!

    1. I am sure it is not awful – we are our own harshest critic :) I used a bunch of topical prescriptions too (Clindoxyl Gel, Fucidin, I can’t remember the rest of the names) but they obviously didn’t do anything for me either. It is really hard to change/up-haul your diet but I think if you can somehow get your boyfriend on board a bit too it will make things a lot easier. Start small and focus on making breakfast composed of “real food”. Then work your way to packing a lunch and then work on dinner a few times per week. If you can convince the bf to go shopping with you that would be a great way to get him involved. I hope this helps a bit!

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