Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Jun

Primal Advice for Acne Sufferers

Included among last week’s “Ask Me Anything” responses were several requests for a Primal commentary on acne. A lot of people have asked for this kind of post over the years. The fact is, it’s a great question. Acne is a common problem that gives too many people too much grief. Our medical establishment’s prescription for acne generally involves dehydrating the skin into oblivion, sandblasting it with chemicals, or pumping hormones, antibiotics and potentially toxic meds into the patient. (If any of these methods have worked for you, I mean no offense. I just think people deserve better options than these.) Is there a healthier, more Primal method to a clear complexion? In a nutshell, yes. I’m not talking rabbit-in-a-hat trick but a lifestyle approach with natural options that minimize the systemic and external conditions associated with acne. Let’s look at the full picture.

The Systemic Root

Acne doesn’t have a single definitive cause but can be set in motion by internal and external conditions, all of which have some root in systemic functioning: inflammation, “excessive” sebum (oil) production, pore blockage and “bad” bacterial presence/infection. In large part, the condition of the skin is part and parcel of the body’s overall health. Systemically speaking, hormonal balance (or lack thereof) and associated nutrient levels strongly influence the production of oil, the skin’s vulnerability to invasive bacteria (and presence of “good” defensive bacteria), the natural production and turnover of skin cells, and (of course) underlying inflammation. As hard as it is to believe, the medical community is only this decade beginning to recognize the systemic roots of acne. (Then again, should we really be surprised?)

Now, we all know those folks who eat junk food, exercise once in a blue moon and keep a ridiculous sleep schedule – and yet by some bizarre miracle always have perfect skin. It can seem like a slap in the face to the earnest person who has to work for his/her complexion and still comes up short. (All I can say to this irony is the chickens come home to roost eventually. It’s not metaphysical karma but biological fact. Live a hard and sloppy life, and it will catch up with you at some point, in some way.)

I always say that we’re all cut from the same physiological cloth, and basic biological patterns hold. Nonetheless, subtle differences seem to exist from person to person. Some folks appear to be more vulnerable to acne – hormonal “stages” are a big part of that susceptibility – the teenage years being the most infamous example and early pregnancy or post-pregnancy/nursing being another. Hormonal shifts brought on by stress, exhaustive exercise or medication side effects can also figure into our skin’s condition.

I don’t believe we’re 100% destined to have acne or not, but our susceptibility does appear to vary, and our modern Westernized environment seems to set the stage for that risk. As Loren Cordain’s (and others’) research have shown, acne is ubiquitous in the Western world but limited in other parts of the world and practically unseen in traditional societies. Yet, even Primal folks are subject to acne. What gives exactly? I’d suggest it’s a constellation of influences in modern living that come back to taunt us in the mirror. We live a modern existence full of systemic traps: pollution, personal care products, stress, lack of sleep, and climate controlled living to name a few. Nonetheless, we needn’t sit home on a Friday night.

Systemic Strategies

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What lifestyle factors actually make for healthy, clear skin? (We’ll get to other strategies later.) I’m sure you can guess what I’ll say first, and there’s good reason for this suggestion of course. Go Primal! First, the obvious and then some additional tips.


Ding, ding! Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. As research has shown, even conventional low glycemic diets make for better skin. Understand also that acne can be a manifestation of food related allergies or sensitivities (e.g. yeast, eggs, gluten, lectins). Dairy is a common culprit(I’ve always said that milk is meant for baby cows.) Women in one study who reported high dairy intake in teenage years were 44% more likely to have experienced severe acne. (Incidentally, full fat dairy isn’t as strongly implicated as lower fat dairy foods.)

Speaking of fat, I suggest that those vulnerable to acne eat plenty of clean fats, and do you can to avoid livestock hormones (the basic reason to avoid milk, which is full of them regardless of organic status). Enjoy clean animal fat and safe, non-oxidized plant-based fats like olive oil, coconut oil, etc. And be sure to load up on antioxidant-rich produce items as well, like garlic, onions, greens and broccoli that support cellular production and repair.


Beyond the power of a clean, anti-inflammatory diet, I suggest adding a good comprehensive supplement as well as extra zinc, vitamin B complex (especially vitamin B3), vitamin A and vitamin D for added help in regulating oil production and further boosting the skin’s natural repair abilities. Research has especially supported the role of zinc deficiency in acne. Women who are pregnant, nursing or have recently weaned are particularly at risk because of higher need for zinc. Of course, make sure you get plenty of omega-3s for extra anti-inflammatory effect. Some folks report good experiences with adding evening primrose, an anti-inflammatory omega-6 as well. Finally, a good probiotic can help your body (and skin) balance its own “good” bacterial defenses.

Environmental Toxins

Chemicals like flame retardants, parabens, phthalates and other plastic-related chemicals are hormone disruptors, which can throw off even the best lifestyle efforts. Eliminate them as much as you practically can (including the paraben-loaded conventional acne creams!).

Stress and Sleep

Stress causes a cascade of hormonal actions that over time deplete essential nutrient stores, especially minerals like zinc. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing! Consider it an investment in your appearance as well as overall health. Additionally, take up stress management methods that support the relaxation response to further support hormonal balance.

Topical, Hygienic and Commonsensical Ideas

Beyond systemic strategies, there are plenty of topical options that are effective for many but tend to be more hit and miss overall. I think it’s important to view their role as supplementary to systemic efforts. From a personal perspective, I understand people being willing to try anything and everything they find – at the doctor’s office, at the drug store, on the infomercials. From a Primal perspective, however, I’d suggest otherwise. The idea shouldn’t be to beat your skin into submission. Most people who have acne actually have very sensitive skin. Rather than looking for products that strip and dry the skin, I’d recommend choices that enhance the integrity of the skin and its natural defenses. There are plenty of natural options that won’t clean out your wallet and that promise fewer side effects to boot. Here are a few of Primal note….

  • Manuka honey: All honey has antibacterial properties, but research shows this New Zealand variety appears to pack more of a punch for acne and other skin conditions.
  • Nicotinamide: A topical form of vitamin B3 can reduce inflammation and help acne and improve skin’s overall condition.
  • Willow bark: It packs an anti-inflammatory wallop.
  • Tea tree oil: Consider it a more natural astringent that has a powerful antibacterial impact.
  • Other botanicals like calendula and feverfew can be soaked and spread over the face with a cotton ball after washing in order to calm skin.
  • Steaming: Visit the steam room at the gym or lean over a pot of hot water with a towel draped around your face to open pores for a good cleansing, natural oil extraction or absorption of botanical agents.
  • Light exfoliants: Use baking soda or oatmeal to exfoliate and encourage skin turnover, but go gentle.
  • Pure water: Those with the worst skin conditions like severe acne or rosacea can benefit from rinsing with distilled rather than tap water.
  • Practical prevention: Minimize bacteria exposure to the face by keeping hands away from the face, cleaning phones, helmets, etc., and using fresh pillowcases (thanks, Shastagirl!)

The idea here is a holistic approach to supporting healthy skin. Although these suggestions might not serve as a magic bullet, they are the best way to get at the root causes of the physiological imbalances behind acne. Furthermore, the natural topical options can support your lifestyle efforts without depleting skin of its natural moisture or defenses and without creating product dependence. Finally, these suggestions can support the overall health and condition of your skin whether or not you have complexion issues. I hope the overview offers those with acne good food for thought and encouragement in their personal Primal regimens.

What say you, MDA community? How did going Primal change your skin? What other strategies and products (natural or otherwise) do you use that complement your Primal efforts? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts today.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Wow Mark! This one seems to be resonating through the community. Unfortunately, this is a topic I know far too much about. I’m 25 and have had pretty nasty acne my whole life. Haven’t noticed any fluctuations with my diet, but I find that stress is KEY. When I take a step back and just tell myself that I’m not going to stress about it and that I’m done with it, I usually see a reduction in my acne. I think this is notable for two reasons.

    1. If you have acne, try dealing with it in a healthy manner and “accepting” it so that you can stop beating yourself up over it.

    2. I think this highlights the importance of stress in one’s life. I’m quite confident that stress affects a whole lot more than my acne, but it serves as a great very express, visual way to see the effects of a low-stress lifestyle. Imagine all of the other benefits one cannot see, but still gets from low stress.

    Everyone out there: let the stress go, and be cool…

    Take care everybody!

    Alex wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I agree with you 100% and I also believe stress effects our lives way more then we think. As I suffered with acne my stress levels had a direct impact on what would pop up or not pop up.

      A healthy diet, fitness, sleep, sunlight all help a lot. But I just believe stress plays a much bigger role then we believe. Of course they are ALL related… its tough to NOT be stressed with no sleep!! and vice versa :)

      Primal Toad wrote on June 16th, 2010
      • Along with all the good things you mentioned, PT, people may want to look into supplementation with magnesium (specifically magnesium oil applied topically which results in much better absorption) that will support the adrenal glands (they definitely get overworked in our world today). This will help people handle stress better and get good quality sleep.

        Wenona wrote on December 4th, 2013
  2. My daughter has been suffering with cystic acne, probably made worse by the chemicals in the pool where she swims with the swim team daily.
    She has tried everything – including antibiotics, birth control, topical washes and creams. I finally asked her to cut back on caffein and sugar in her diet, because most everything else she eats is organic and healthy. Along with that I started giving her probiotics every day.
    Guess what? It has cleared her skin up practically overnight. When I told our doctor, she said she’s heard that some forms of acne are basically “diabetes of the skin.” The sugar in our system (carbs again… ) is sweated out in the pores, and is the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria. Another reason to go Primal. : )

    Betty wrote on June 16th, 2010
  3. If you have cleaned up your diet a lot but still have a real problem with acne (not just the once-a-month-PMS zit), it may be that your gut flora is still off balance. Really increase probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir, lacto-fermented veggies like sauerkraut and kimchi, and drinks like kombucha. It may take a couple of months to get our flora back in balance because you could be suffering from too much yeast in the gut from your past lifestyle choices. Pure, unrefined coconut oil works very well because it is a natural anti-biotic and it also naturally cleanses the skin. No need to wash and scrub like a fiend everyday. Just apply the coconut oil (make sure it is not refined or it won’t work!), and don’t forget to eat some, too. When using coconut oil, some people feel that their skin is dry and tight and this can last for a week or two. The good side is that while it may feel that way, your skin actually looks beautiful and really is not dry looking. The dry-tight feeling does go away: your skin is just responding to the antibiotic effect of the oil. Eating a tablespoon or two of the coconut oil can also speed up the recovery of your gut flora.

    Katie wrote on June 16th, 2010
  4. Great post topic Mark! The comments also contained a lot of good ideas.
    One of my suggestions to my acne clients to cleanse and exfoliate (using basic cleanser and natural exfoliant (even simply a wash cloth NO chemicals)the skin well at NIGHT using the steam from the shower to open the pores. Do NOT wash the face with anything but water and a soft wash cloth(be gentle) in the morning as the “acid mantle” is built up over night creating the protective ph for the environment during the day. So many “systems” strip the natural protection by cleansing in the morning thus opening the skin (which is very sensitive and already highly inflamed in acne) to a harsh polluted environment for the day. Let you body not a bottle create the protection your face needs.
    Another acne tip is to manually (gently) squeeze pinch and knead the skin (no facial massage on acne) (you may need to have someone show you this I could not find a video to share)to help relieve the stagnation and congestion and blockages in the oil glands.
    Final tip: remember the more you cleanse the more oil is produced! The more you strip off the oil on the skin the more the body makes to compensate and creates an over oily condition. Here less is more :)

    Gina wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I agree with you that cleansing produces more oil. I only wash my face once a day and I’m less oily than I was when I washed twice a day.

      Holly J. wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • What is basic cleanser?

      Linda wrote on June 18th, 2010
  5. I used to have very bad acne in high school (cystic acne). Once I changed my diet my skin looks wonderful now. I also use Burt’s Bee’s cleanser (Soap Bark and Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream) and then I use coconut oil as a moisturizer. I also use Dr. Ron’s moisturizer (Alpha Lipoic Revitalizing Moisturizer with Coenzyme Q10) in the winter or if my skin is really dry. When I get a zit I do pop it (I have a hard time leaving it alone) but I went to see an esthetician and she showed me how to pop them properly. (two q-tips instead of fingers) If it’s really bad I put marigold oil (Calendula officinalis) on the spot with coconut oil and it goes away overnight. I would say the biggest change was moving to a lower-carb more primal way of eating. My skin gives away what my diet looks like.

    Holly J. wrote on June 16th, 2010
  6. I’m surprised no ones mentioned sweating yet! Steaming is helpful, but sometimes just irritating and drying.

    I usually work up a sweat and then splash my face with water instead of washing it cold in the morning. My skin is definitely clearer when I sweat enough and get daily sun :)

    Lis wrote on June 16th, 2010
  7. I already had pretty good skin from following the advice in the book “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun” (check your library!). Ms. Begoun outlines very easy regimens that don’t make cosmetic fat-cats (or dermatologists & pharmacists) even wealthier. I’m contact sensitive to just about everything, including some of Mark’s advice about topical treatments, so if you’re a sensitive sort, you might want to read Paula’s advice first. Going towards Primal has made my skin excellent, and the rare blemish is healed within just a few days now without getting to be a Klingon “gorch” first.

    Amy wrote on June 16th, 2010
  8. I have a different kind of “acne”: acne rosacea, which is common in people of Celtic descent. It is a kind of inflammation around the nose and cheeks usually. There are little tiny red capillaries showing and sometimes tiny red bumps that are different from acne pimples.

    I have been “primal” now for about six months, and in the last month or so, it seemed to pay off: my rosacea is almost gone. I have to put sunscreen on the formerly inflamed places when I go outside, but that’s all I do to “make it go away” now. I just use water to wash.

    I started taking Jarrow’s MAX DHA, two capsules a day, and that seemed to accelerate the healing of my rosacea, which I’ve had for over twenty years.

    Also I make sure to get some sun in the middle of the day (with my face covered or a hat on–rosacea is triggered by too much sun exposure).

    FWIW, I’ve been eating a LOT of high-fat dairy–cream, whole milk, cheese–and this coincided with my rosacea clearing up. (It’s pasture-fed dairy.) I figure the ancient Celts ate a lot of dairy, and I’m a modern Celt (Ok, not the REALLY ancient ones). In our former habitat, we weren’t exposed to much sun, but we got kicked out of our homeland and moved to the sunny Southeastern US and Australia, and now we have a lot of rosacea.

    shannon wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • THANK YOU. My mom has rosacea and I was definitely showing a tendency towards it. We’re primarily Scots-Irish and German extraction, so your experience coincides with mine.

      Still can’t make up my mind about the milk thing, but I definitely seem to do better with high-fat dairy in my diet.

      Holly wrote on June 16th, 2010
      • I believe I have some form of rosacea. At 28 years old, this is something this has really bothered me for the past 2-3 years – I imagine this is a consequence of an abrupt lifestyle change (from pro athlete to office work), but either way, it’s something I deal with now on a day-to-day basis.

        From what I gather, there are many different types of rosacea – mine is strictly in the flushing/blushing department, although I hope to prevent any future permanent redness, etc. Basically, I will get abnormally flushed from stress/anxiety, alcohol, temperature extremes, exercise/sex. I realize that a lot of this is a normal bodily function, but there is no doubt this has turned into a problem. I don’t think it’s normal to get flushed just by thinking about it.

        It’s certainly taken its toll on me mentally – it’s cyclical, so sometimes I handle it better than other times. I’m on Lexapro and see a therapist to ease the mental part, but I really hoping a complete primal lifestyle change will have a positive impact.

        I’ve seen a knowledgable dermatologist -he said what I have is pretty typical and treatable, but we’ll have to try a few things. His basic diagnosis was rosacea with flushing. He said laser treatment does help with the redness and removal of broken capillaries, but did not think I should go for laser treatment yet.

        He wanted to start me on Metrogel topical once daily for what he said appeared to be minor bumps on my cheeks/prevent future bumps-breakouts, and to take an increased dosage of the antihistamine, cetirizine 10mg (1x daily/week 1, 2x daily/week 2, etc).

        Any thoughts are much appreciated:)

        David wrote on September 22nd, 2010
  9. Not saying this will work for everyone, but cutting out caffeine worked for me tremendously. I have had really bad acne off and on since I was a teen, and I had to have at least one coffee a day. Even when I drank it black, my acne wouldnt go away. Then I tried to stop drinking coffee and it went away sooo quickly. Now I still drink about a coffee a day, but my skin seems to be able to handle that. Something to try!!

    Angela wrote on June 16th, 2010
  10. I found “Craig’s” theory (based on his own personal experimentation — see link below) about the relationship between B5, biotin, and sebum production to be interesting.

    In short he noticed that supplementing with biotin increased sebum production (oilier skin) and supplementing with B5 made his skin drier/clearer. According to at least one study, absorption of biotin is “competitively inhibited” by B5/pantothenic acid (see pubmed link below), so maybe there’s something to Craig’s theory.

    JD Moyer wrote on June 16th, 2010
  11. I have been strict paleo for 2 months now, no dairy, grains, legumes, nothing. I tried every cream possible when I was younger. (i’m 18 now) I have also been on accutane before and still have acne. I think it is all genetics for me. Mother and father both bad acne. Paleo has cleared it up a good bit but still no where near what I could be.

    Conrad wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • Try saw palmetto or a prostate formula to help detox DHT. This was the one thing that helped me…i posted below….get saw palmetto, nettles, selenium, zinc mix.

      nearly cleared up my acne completely in one month

      kevin wrote on June 16th, 2010
  12. I found the a cup of hot Roibos tea before I go to bed (it is not from the tea tree and hence has no caffein) does wonders. When I wake up the next day my skin usually looks much better and scarring / blemishes more healed.

    Mike Gilbert wrote on June 16th, 2010
  13. Since going 100% primal, my skin went from constant breakouts to a glowing luster. It’s probably my favorite ‘side effect’ of being healthy.

    Thank you for posting on this topic. And for everything else, Mark!

    Miss Alpha wrote on June 16th, 2010
  14. Coconut oil works fantastically well at eliminating redness and inflamation (in addition to making diet changes). I apply it to my face after I wash it. A sea salt and oil scrub also works well (once or twice a week- I have very sensitive skin and it doesn’t irritate it.

    Alycia wrote on June 16th, 2010
  15. Any comments on dandruff?

    Alain wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • Omega 3’s help a lot.

      Leanne wrote on June 17th, 2010
  16. Out of the blue my face broke out horribly and stayed that way for about three months. I finally went to a dermatologist and he put me on THREE prescriptions, including an oral antibiotic. After ten weeks of taking these medicines and seeing no improvement, my aunt recommended giving up dairy (I used to eat TONS of non- and low-fat dairy on a daily basis.)

    I quit my prescriptions and gave up my precious dairy, and my skim improved almost immediately. If you consume a fair amount of dairy and are having skin problems, try giving it up. If that’s the issue, you’ll see results within a week! I do miss dairy but my clear skin more than makes up for it.

    Jenna B wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • This sounds exactly like my story. I got sick of burning benzoyl peroxide BLEACHING my nice sheets and towels.

      My gen-prac recommended cutting out dairy and stopping the antibiotics my dermatologist put me on.

      All of Mark’s suggestions are great. My biggest culprits, in order, are:

      1) Medication that affects hormones (i.e. birth control – certain kinds are gentler on my skin that others)
      2) Dairy – especially cheese
      3) Creamy liquid makeups – I’m trying to pinpoint the specific ingredient that makes it worse but haven’t found it yet – even “oil free” and “natural” stuff can make me break out, so I’ll keep checking those ingredients and making notes… Let you know if I find anything!

      Meagan wrote on June 17th, 2010
  17. I think for you, Jenna, from what I’ve been reading, the problem with dairy was the non-fat and low-fat. High fat dairy is actually purported to be good for your skin, low-fat bad. There’s probably something on this site about it.

    Kristina wrote on June 16th, 2010
  18. I used to have acne and a bacterial infections (staph… aureaus). The best thing I ever did for my skin was change my diet. I dove into a similar diet like MDA’s called Bee’s Candida Diet. I recommend trying it for acne sufferer’s and also those wanting a better defense system aka immune system. Like MDA has many success stories, people on Bee’s Candida diet have sucess stories about overcoming many diseases/illnesses. I want to thank Mark and others out there taking a stand against CW (SAD). Grok on!

    Jeff wrote on June 16th, 2010
  19. He forgot about NIACIN.

    (Flush Free- trust me) niacin (a few grams a day) cured my level 2-3 acne in a matter of weeks, and so long as I don’t drink milk, it doesn’t come back. Nothing else, MD prescribed or otherwise, did much of anything to help. Niacin cleans out the toxins inside of cells, including the crap that causes acne. It’s cheap, easy, and effective beyond belief.

    ThatGuy wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • Nicomide is a form of niacin.

      Betterways wrote on June 16th, 2010
  20. Since I changed to a Paleo diet, my acne decrease (yes 40+ and was still getting acne). I switched to a double edge razor and it got even better. Perhaps some of the acne was actually ingrown hairs. Finally, I stopped using soap on my face and was careful to keep my shampoo out of my face as well. All I use is water and a washcloth. Since then, my face has been exceptionally clear, pores became smaller, blackheads less visible. Never going back to soap again.

    Griff wrote on June 16th, 2010
  21. Anyone have advice for OILY skin? I get breakouts every once in a while, but my skin is just super oily and has been my entire life. I’d love some help!

    Monica wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I suppose you are already eating primal. If not, start. If that doesn’t help:
      1. Try to skip ALL “skin treatment”-products. Theese just dry your skin out. Don’t clean your skin with something you can’t eat. Otherwise it has nothing on you face to do. Instead, use some kind of oil(do some research about it). Many at this forum have mentioned olive oil and coconut oil. But I think it’s individual what works the best.

      Tove wrote on March 15th, 2012
  22. The one thing that really helped my acne was Saw Palmetto with nettles and selenium….it was a prostate formula technically…because it helps in the same way…it is supposed to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT (bad testosterone?). This is the one thing that significantly cleared up my skin. Definitely worth a shot…wasnt that expensive. also juicing helped a lot.

    kevin wrote on June 16th, 2010
  23. A very timely article as I have been almost completely primal for some time now and have consumed very little Dairy (which is purported to be an antagonist of acne) Unfortunately, at 51 years of age I have very oily skin and still break out. I stumbled across this very informative article which may be of interest to your readers Mark:
    I have ordered 500 mg of bulk Pantothenic Acid and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works for me (The Pantethine is a bit pricey)

    Christopher wrote on June 16th, 2010
  24. A moderately low GL diet made my skin a lot less oily and cleared me in a little over a month after 30 years of acne. But I did also have a food intolerance that caused me to break out in cysts which I had figured out years earlier.

    Betterways wrote on June 16th, 2010
  25. I just wanted to add that the Paleo diet completely cleared my severe adult acne, regulated my cycles from 35 days to 29 and made my hair start to grow in curly (after being straight all my life) My hairdresser said it was because I had a hormonal shift, she usually sees it in pregnancy.

    So I know for a fact that the paleo diet will help with hormonal acne (PCOS acne, Pre Menstrual acne) I have tried everything else and was about to go on accutane when I thought – I’ll give the paleo diet a shot.

    I have to be quite strict, but after being strict for a month or two, I can cheat quite often for sushi my fav!

    There is nothing better in the world than clear skin after years of severe acne and I am still so grateful that the paleo diet exists and that I can be on it forever!

    Added bonuses are less sleep required and don’t feel like I need to nap all the time.

    steph wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I have this experience, as well. Except in my case, curly hair that goes straight (it also gets a bit lighter).

      It takes about four months for my skin to totally heal and the pores to get smaller – when it happens, it’s nice though, isn’t it?

      PCOS and is related hormone muckeduppedness is a pain, but it’s sure nice to know that there’s something we can actually do about it.

      I’m looking forward to a GIANT bowl of sashimi next month. Raw fish rocks.

      Ginger wrote on July 3rd, 2010
  26. Good comments about acne. Now what can you
    tell me about eczema or dermatitis. ????Is food
    the cause of this problem??? Would appreciate
    your view on this subject. Thanks

    Beverly Johnson wrote on June 16th, 2010
  27. I haven’t had any very serious breakouts since high school but my problem was always with clogged pores that were huge. I used sensitive skin stuff like hypoallergenic soap and moisturizer, which helped up to a point.

    I always thought that because I had skin that was oily in spots I should avoid oils, so I always went with the oil free stuff as well.

    I’ve finally found a solution that really keeps my skin in line…I haven’t had any real breakouts since and my pores look the best they’ve ever had.

    Step 1: I exfoliate every night with Nightingale droppings…I know this sounds weird but it’s a traditional Japanese exfoliation procedure, and it works great. The dropping powder is sterile, and you add water to a small amount to make a paste. I leave it on my face for about five minutes then use my fingers to rub my skin vigorously. The enzymes in the powder work really well at sucking the sebum out of my pores so I can rub it off.

    Step 2: I ditched my moisturizer lotion for jojoba oil that has some carrot seed oil blended in. The brand i get has it premixed so I don’t know what the ratio is but I sometime use plain jojoba oil and that works great as well. The carrot seed oil has a lot of vitamin A. The jojoba oil is a wax that closely mimics the oil on your face, and doesn’t clog the pores. It works really well for me, and even now, during the humid summer months and my not so stellar diet, my skin looks better than it did back in the day of petroleum based moisturizers and acne products.

    Agi wrote on June 16th, 2010
  28. I don’t have acne, but I do have the cold sore virus. I haven’t had ONE cold sore since going primal. …that might be a topic for a future post huh??

    fixed gear wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I get these suckers too. They’re the worst! I’ve had one inflammation since going Primal, but it occurred during a pretty stressful time, and it didn’t turn into the ugly blister that it normally had in the past.

      Andy wrote on June 17th, 2010
  29. As someone with two parents who suffered terribly with acne in their adolescence, I’ve had it worse than most, definitely.
    I was about 24 before I finally found something that really really worked. Water. As long as I drank at least a litre a day, I avoided breakouts. Really really wish someone had’ve told me about this when I was 16!! I suffered far longer than I should’ve.

    Ronstar wrote on June 16th, 2010
  30. Skip if somebody else has already said this, but…..I believe strongly in the chloracne from acrylamide theory of American acne. Acrylamide is a toxic chemical formed when a starch, like say in a potato, is fried at high heat, like say in a deep fryer. So, french fries, potato chips, corn chips, corn dogs, chicken strips…all have this stuff in it.

    The good news is that it is easy to avoid. The bad news is that if you stop today, it still takes a long time for your liver to get this nasty stuff to get out of your system. So, people quit for a week, it doesn’t get better and they think, “Eh, wasn’t that! Where’s my fries?”

    slacker wrote on June 16th, 2010
  31. Mark,

    Thanks for this post, I agree with 99% of your suggestions, except for Tea Tree Oil.

    Tea tree oil seems ubiquitous these days; from skin products to shampoos to ‘natural’ insect repellents.

    However, Tea tree oil has been suspected of increasing the risk of super infections according to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (, and it may act as an endocrine disruptor according to The New England Journal of Medicine (, and also it can cause allergic reactions (

    The Australian melaleuca tree has been shown to have some great medicinal properties, but as far as I know this was from the whole leaves, not from an extracted essential oil?


    Eric wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I think the endocrine disrupter thing has been debunked, but I’ve heard many first-person accounts (& seen photos) of the bad reactions people can have to tea tree oil.

      I, too, will have irritation, dryness, redness if I use it too frequently, but in small does I’ve used it with good results for about 2 years now. I can’t use benzoil or salicylic acid, so tea tree oil, diluted in other preparations of course, is a good option for me.

      Holly wrote on August 4th, 2010
  32. There is a blog called the cellulite investigation where the author writes about how flouride causes her cystic acne.
    Dandruff is seborrhic dermatitis, a form of eczema. It took me over 10 years (!!!!!!) to realize the flakiness on my face was this type of eczema, and not just dryness. And I have dealt with eczema my whole life! Eczema can be caused by allergies, environmental or food. The big ones are dairy gluten and soy, though it could
    be anything. It’s dairy for me, and the occasional new skin product.

    Sara wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • Fluoride (along with chlorine and bromine, the other elements in the same family) displaces iodine. Iodine deficiency is a cause of cysts wherever they occur (skin as boils/acne, ovaries, uterus, breasts, prostate, thyroid), according to Dr. Jorge Flechas.

      Iodine supplementation even helped reduce my swollen tonsils.

      Wenona wrote on December 4th, 2013
  33. Takes some drilling down through links to interpret the detail on this, but worth it:


    slacker wrote on June 16th, 2010
    • I actually found this very interesting. The photos looked a lot like my own skin eruptions. Based on this info, I switched to a fluoride-free toothpaste, and five weeks later my skin is almost clear…. I am REALLY glad you provided that link!

      Holly wrote on August 25th, 2010
  34. I tried the oil cleansing method but got nothing but breakouts from it. :( I switched back to my very gentle cream cleanser.

    However, I use rosehip oil as moisturiser and have done for years now, as it makes my skin soft and glowy like nothing else. It’s full of vitamins and antioxidants and there’s a lot of research backing up its effectiveness as an anti-ageing treatment. I also exfoliate with lemon or baking soda.

    The other thing that improved my skin no end was switching to totally non-toxic personal products – in particular, mineral make-up. Check out the Skin Deep database to find the best brands. It does make a huge difference to not put endocrine-disruptors on your skin!

    vjb wrote on June 17th, 2010
  35. Fortunately, I have never suffered badlyfrom any skin issues. Maybe its genetics, diet…whoe knows.
    I did go in the steam room a lot growing up which may have helped and now I always have a litre bottle of water on my desk…

    Luke M-Davies wrote on June 17th, 2010
  36. As a looong time acne sufferer my heart goes out to anyone who suffers from this stuff. No, it’s not gonna kill you, but it’s a real beating mentally.
    SO, my latest most duh finding has been: yogurt. ON YOUR FACE! I’ve been using Trader Joe’s Full Fat European Style Yogurt (though I’m sure any non-sugary yogurt would do just fine) as a mask and I’m not kidding when I say it’s been nothing short of freaking amazing.
    I still think you have to take generally good care of yourself and not be a complete idiot (partial idiocy is forgiven), but there’s something about the yogurt that draws out the yuck and soothes/calms/lightens the skin. If you don’t believe me, check this link:
    Remember you’re gorgeous and don’t give up! This stuff gets better…

    jibber wrote on June 17th, 2010
  37. For All those above who had acne and changed their diets, I would like to ask that how long does it take to start seeing good improvements. Could it take as long as one month? Thank you all.

    Ana wrote on June 17th, 2010
  38. Acne is one of the reasons I’ll never go Primal. Every time I eat a high fat meal I breakout into whiteheads. Sustain that for a few days and I get the hard pore cloggers that you can squeeze out. Keep going and I get boils.

    I’m over 30, in great shape, but this has been happening since puberty so I’m positive of the correlation. If I keep my fat intake very low, no acne. So, pretty much the exact opposite of what people are posting.

    Ken wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • I’d be curious to know what fats you are eating, and what the rest of your diet consists of.

      Holly wrote on June 17th, 2010
      • Extra virgin olive oil, fat in meats, eggs, cheese, butter, heavy dairy … doesn’t matter if it’s mixed or not. If I eat enough I can expect consequences in the next day or two. It’s not just with dairy as a lot of people have posted.

        Past diets are all over: ‘American’, macrobiotic, college cafeteria, vegetarian, junk food, heavy workout, etc. Same issue regardless of diet or activity levels.

        My current diet is sane (but not primal). Plenty of seasonal vegetables, seasonal fruits or 100% real berry juices. Complex carbs. The occasional sweet or baked good. Virtually no processed foods and I cook almost all my meals. Vitamin supplements, fish oil, etc. to cover the bases. Plenty of natural fibers, no issues there.

        I deal with it as fat is not something I plan on giving up.

        Also, one of the problems with a generic acne post like this is that there are several different types of acne which have differing causes. It’s why there are a dozen different things-that-worked-for-me mentioned in this thread.

        Ken wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • You could have liver/ gallbladder issues. If your bile flow is affected and you are not releasing enough bile to process your fats, then you have problems with fat in this regard.

      SassaFrass88 wrote on June 22nd, 2010
      • Dr. Berg supports what you’ve said, SassaFrass88. He offers a lot of great free info on his own site and youtube.

        Wenona wrote on December 4th, 2013
  39. Primal doesn’t really mean loading up on meets and high fats food. it basically means loading up on fruits and vegies. And eating fish, and lean meats with lots of vegies. So primal is basically a low fat, low sugar diet. :)

    Ana wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • Yeah going primal does mean high fat from animals and other sources coconut oil, olive oil, etc… Primal in every part of the word means high fat-low carb. Ana I am not sure where you are getting your information?

      Jeff wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • So primal is low sugar, low fat AND low carb??? What exactly are you eating then? And if it’s low sugar, why are you eating lots of fruit? If it’s low fat, it’s certainly wouldn’t be beneficial to your skin.

      In actuality, unless I’ve missed Mark’s points, Primal is mostly fat, some protein, few carbs. That means LOTS of veggies, some meat and fish, little nuts and fruit.

      V wrote on June 23rd, 2010

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