June 16 2010

Primal Advice for Acne Sufferers

By Mark Sisson
232 Comments

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.

Diet

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.

Supplementation

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.

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232 thoughts on “Primal Advice for Acne Sufferers”

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  1. For random out breaks or those mean zits that pop up before a date, try Lemon Essential Oil. It’s properties will help to calm the swelling, redness and it is also one of natures best antibacterial agents. Try to apply it to the spot directly with a swab (or Q-tip) and not get it everywhere as it can sting a bit for people with extra sensitive skin.

    Also if you absolutely have to pop it then it applying it after the popping will help calm it all down greatly.

    1. i know you are just trying to help, but please don’t use lemon essential oil on pimples. lemon is one of the most irritating ingredients you can put on your skin and irritation alone can cause/exacerbate acne. there is nothing in a highly acidic citrus fruit like lemon that will “calm” swelling or redness. In fact, it will most likely cause redness!http://www.cosmeticscop.com/dictionary_term.aspx?tid=1497&lid=518&term=lemon
      and
      http://www.cosmeticscop.com/dictionary_term.aspx?tid=1499&lid=518&term=lemon+oil

      Use tea tree oil. A 5% concentration is as effective as 2.5% benzoyl peroxide
      http://www.cosmeticscop.com/dictionary_term.aspx?tid=2052&lid=534&term=tea+tree+oil

      1. Exactly what Keegan said… but I’d also like to add that citrus EOs also make your skin photo sensitive for a few hours so you could wind up with a little splotch of sunburn on your face.

      2. I’m glad to see the reference links. I’ve had bad reactions to products containing citrus oils. Soothing, ha!

        1. Same here — hives that last for multiple days, etc. I can’t even peel an orange without drama (or latex gloves…)

      3. Our first layer of skin is acidic, as long as you’re using diluted lemon oil or lemon juice you really shouldn’t worry about it.

  2. Be careful of some products you put in your hair like oily gels, creams, and pomades. Especially during the warmer months, they tend to melt and trickle down your face and back causing acne.

    1. Oil doesn’t actually cause acne. I have acne prone skin and I slather olive oil/sweet almond oil/Vitamin E oil/grapeseed oil on as a moisturizer and it’s never broken me out. Plenty of people do it too.

      The only oils I would refrain from putting on the skin are animal fats and coconut oils because the saturated fat seems to clog pores.

  3. Acne, is something that going primal did fix for me. I would get a zit on my face every couple of weeks or so, and a continuous crop on my back. Dropping grains and legumes cleared it all up for me.

    1. Same here. I suffered with acne for more than 5 years. I decided to do a “primal experiment”. My acne was mild at the time but just one month end I was as cleared up as one can be. I still have a few scars but those are amazingly disappearing too. It really is a blessing.

      1. yeah same here! I was an acne queen and I am 34. SInce I went primal I havent had a problem 🙂
        So glad

  4. I’ve been struggling with acne for a long time now and going Primal didn’t seem to change it. It did make my skin a lot softer and less dry/flaky but the spots remain. Strangely enough, going off all dairy (I eat yogurt) tends to make it worse.

    Thanks for putting all these suggestions in one post. I’ve got a few things left to try.

    1. Kat, are you eating a lot of nuts or fruits? Remember, fruits still have sugar, regardless of whether or not it’s natural. Spikes in blood sugar contribute to acne greatly.

      1. Kat, I have the same issue! I use a castor/grapeseed oil to wash away make-up and dirt and it was working beautifully – then I ditched dairy and my face exploded!

        I wonder if it’s all the fruit I eat….

        1. Were you eating the same amount of fruit when you were eating dairy? How was your skin then?

  5. I used to have moderate acne on my face, but after going Primal, I realized the ProActiv solution I was using every night really went against “Grokking it” in every sense of the word.

    I’ve tried a few things, but have been “over-the-counter med” free for two weeks now, and I’ve noticed quite a difference in my skin. I still get oil, and I still will get the occasional flameup on my face (which occurs when I don’t get enough sleep!), but besides that, I’m really happy. I’m now using olive oil for about an hour before bed 3-4 times a week, which I rinse off right before lights out. I’m also using fresh-squeeze lemon juice as an astringent, and baking soda paste (just mix with water) as a gentle exfolliant. Not complaints here!

    Thanks for the article, Mark.

  6. In this post you say that milk is full of hormones regardless of their organic status. Anything to back this up? A lot of commercial milk products specifically say they do not use hormones. What are you basing that statement on?

    1. Milk by nature has hormones in it — no matter what the animal. Human breastmilk is full of hormones. Why would you think cows would be any different?

      1. Because the likes of growth factors required to grow a cow are quite different to those required to grow a human. And also the digestive tract of a calf is quite different to that of a human baby and will thus require different levels of regulation that will stem from the composition of the milk. All mammalian milk might be 98-99% the same, but it is the 1-2% difference that can count for a lot.

        Look up Prof Loren Cordain’s work on milk and paleo eating.

        1. I wasn’t suggesting at all that human milk and cow milk are the same. That’s why the PB doesn’t encourage a lot of dairy. My point was that cow milk — like all animal milk — naturally contains hormones intended for the growth of the animal baby.

  7. Awesome post, I would highlight two things that worked for me.

    1. Zinc is a real key. For some reason, I had a zinc deficiency for years, including white flecked fingernails, and only recently addressed the issue with supplements.

    (I also found that zinc deficiency can lead to loss of appetite, which might explain some issues with being a hardgainer.)

    2. The other key, IMHO, is probiotic supplementation. A glass of homemade, unsweetened kefir a day. These two things clear up my skin most of the way, and I am a very imperfect, 80/20 primal person.

  8. I started using the oil cleansing method a couple of years ago, and have had wonderful results. I no longer use any kind of soap or acne treatments on my face. I don’t even use the oil for cleansing much anymore, just water. My skin is softer and much more balanced. At night, I spread coconut oil on my face before bed. If there is something flaring up, it is usually gone by morning.

    1. I totally agree! I haven’t used soap on my face in months. Grok wouldn’t have had soap, and it just strips away the skin’s natural oils, which usually makes the skin over compensate by producing MORE oil. So even oily skinned people should try skipping the soap IMO.

    2. Hi Lorraine,

      I did it the opposite way: I’m currently washing my face with water only, and then I plan on using the OCM once or twice a week. I did try OCM before (once) but it seemed to have given me some kind of rash. Any thoughts?

      1. The rash you experienced could be all the impurities coming out. On one of Sean Croxton’s shows I heard there could be a period of that, but after it’s over your skin will be flawless.

    3. Right there with ya on the coconut oil, Lorraine. I still use some soap on my face every now and then, but for moisturizers I’ve been using coconut oil exclusively every evening and almost every morning and my once acne-prone skin as never been softer, clearer or in better shape. I’ve been doing this about three months but I saw improvement almost immediately – within days.

    4. I tried this. Coconut oil made me break out more, not less. 🙁

        1. I had the same problem. The OCM worked well for me until the temperatures hit the 90s here in Texas, and then I started breaking out worse than I have in years! But I’ve since switched to natural, oil-based soaps and that seems to have made the difference.

        2. The OCM completely stopped my acne! However, I think different people respond to different oils, for me almond, olive, and coconut work great. My friend finds grapeseed the best. I eventually stopped using oil every night, now I only do the OCM if I have worn makeup or sunscreen, and sometimes I use a little oil as lotion. My skin looks better than it has since I was 10, and I don’t seem to burn as easily either.

      1. The coconut oil has to be 100% virgin, cold pressed and organic.

    5. Be REALLY careful with the oil-cleansing method, it can actually cause acne. I started doing it about seven months ago and stopped a couple weeks later when I noticed pimples cropping up. I struggled with acne as a teenager for about a year and it went away after a course of tetracycline (I didn’t know any better at the time, and it permanently messed up my digestion). Well, the oil-cleansing method somehow caused a resurgence of my teenage acne, it’s the exact same as it was then, around my chin and mouth area. Even though I stopped oil-cleansing and went back to my old routine, the acne continues! It’s a HUGE problem in my life now, I cannot get rid of it. I even tried another course of antibiotics in desperation, but had to stop since I couldn’t resign myself to the terrible health ramifications. I am 37 now and can’t believe my flawless do-anything-to-it skin seems to be gone for good. I just started paleo and am really hoping this takes care of it.

      1. Honestly, that sounds like more of a hormonal issue….the fact that it’s mostly around your mouth and chin, and you’re no longer using the OCM. Simple oil on your face wouldn’t cause effects that last months.

  9. Cetaphil works wonders. Get a loofah on a stick, lather that puppy up well with cetaphil and scrub away.

  10. I dont know how much a primal diet affects acne but for certain the condition of our skin is an indicator of health. I can tell when my daughter is going to flare with crohns based on her skin-acne, rashes, dry skin etc. Its made me respect my “outsides” a lot more.

  11. Sugar is a huuuuuuge factor in acne for me. Whenever I cut it out or minimize it my skin is gorgeous!! I’ve also found that a being a bit heavy handed on the almond butter can also cause a breakout. It’s delicious, but be wary people!

    Great post Mark!

  12. I agree with Lorraine coconut oil on my face has worked wonders and nothing but water to cleanse in the am and this coming from a person who has been seeing a Derm since she was 15. Another thing that has helped those awesome monthly breakouts some of us women get is progestrone cream…what it’s done for my PMS acne and PMS in general is amazing. So to wrap this up, if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only have two things it would be coconut oil and Progest cream. 🙂

    1. Stacey, what brand and concentration do you use? I also breakout with pms regularly, pretty badly. Also, silly question but- is it applied directly to your face? I know those creams are generally applied…elsewhere, haha. Thanks, appreciate your reply! -Rachel

      1. I know you asked Stacey, but thought this info might help. If you have breakouts at that time, you need to support your ovaries. Look up Dr. Berg on youtube, he may offer some free info. From personal experience, following the reduced carb guideline and eating primal for only a month basically cleared my skin up everywhere (mild to moderate acne on face, neck, back). I reduced my consumption of dairy too, but didn’t totally eliminate it. I only washed my face once a day, with a wet microfiber washcloth in the shower. No soap, no toner, no moisturizers, no extras.

        I’ve had issues with menstrual cycles and breakouts since I was 15 (I’m 38 now). Iodine supplementation (I use Lugol’s, usually 4 drops once a day in a few swallows of veggie juice) has helped me be more regular, with lighter and shorter periods, less pimples. Very few people are actually allergic, some may get what appears to be a breakout but I’ve heard it’s the body clearing out toxic bromine. Dr. Brownstein also offers info on iodine. Do some research before deciding to try it 🙂

        Many days of topical application of iodine, with a piece of plastic wrap (to prevent evaporation) can help diminish scars once they’re not raw anymore.

        1. Dr. Jorge Flechas has said that cysts anywhere (skin, ovaries, breasts, uterus, prostate, thyroid) are a sign of iodine deficiency.

  13. I have had acne since I hit puberty. I’m 25 now and still struggling with it. Eliminating dairy definitely helped, but I still have a lot more than I’d like.

    My dad is 53 and still struggles with acne (although he does eat an unhealthy diet whether you’re primal or CW!)

    I’ve tried (and eliminated) everything. I may be doomed. 🙂

  14. I’ll second Lorraine on using the oil cleansing method! I’ve had amazing results, my skin is much more even overall, less dry cheeks and oily t-zone like before. It’s all just soft and smooth.

    I started making my own body scrubs as well with coarse sugar and sweet almond oil. I usually add a few drops of this or that essential oil, whatever I’m in the mood for in a given week. Massage that over your skin and rinse off, no need for moisturizer and so, so soft!

  15. If thinking about buying (and taking) a zinc + magnesium supplement, is there anything to look out for? For example, I know some supplements require others in order to work correctly (thats why the damage control formula is effective, an all-in-one) but if we were just looking for zinc and magnesium are there any other things they rely on to work effectively? I never take supplements so any advice is appreciated.

    1. i take ZMA from Now Supplements every night before bed. Its got both zinc and magnesium. It helps with getting a deep sleep, too.

      1. I read that as, “I take a Zima every night before be.”

        Couldn’t help but crack up:)

    2. My naturopath recommends zinc picolinate specifically for acne, so I’d look for one with that particular formulation.

  16. I have had acne since being a teen, and I am now 54 years old. I still get little zits and huge acne lesions.

    The only thing that has ever helped me was a very low daily dose of Spironolactone, because my acne is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Treating my skin topically and eating right and getting proper sleep is of no use.

    Spironolactone is typically used as a water pill, but it has properties that make it a very effective acne product. In regards to acne, spironolactone is an anti-androgen, meaning that it helps to block the effects of the androgen hormones that contribute to acne formation.

    Spironolactone is particularly helpful in treating hormonal acne as well as certain forms of adult acne.

    http://www.everythingacne.com/spironolactone.htm

    I want to be primal, and I am, probably about 95%. But, as much as I abhor taking unnecessary medications (I take no others), I abhor the nightmare that my skin is even more.

    If I have to take a tiny pill every morning for the rest of my life in order to avoid having to go out in public with boils all over my face, I will do it.

    If there was an alternative, I would do it. Don’t hate me because I am (now) beautiful…

    1. I had 11 glorious years on spiro — truly my “miracle drug.” I went off in back in January because I was worried about the carcinogenic effect in rats. I am breaking out again, but nothing I can’t handle — and I am still working on refining my diet, so I believe it will only continue to improve.

      One thing I want to note is that I feel it had a HUGE negative impact on my body composition. I quite simply could not put on muscle, no matter how hard I worked out. Now, muscle-building is a breeze and I finally am achieving the body I always wanted. I thought spiro may have been hindering my weight training, but I have been truly shocked by the difference. I was on 100mg/day.

      1. That’s the androgen-reducing effect. Women need androgens to build muscle, too!

    2. Hi,RSL. Have you ever been to absoluteacneinfo.com? The information about cleansing there is spot on, and if you’re eating primally, then you can jump straight into the cleanses. You should see a bunch of benefits very soon!

    3. I suggest researching iodine supplementation. Look up Dr. Jorge Flechas, Dr. Brownstein and maybe Dr. Berg (on youtube). I know Dr. Flechas has done interviews which were posted online about iodine helping with cysts including acne cysts. One of the benefits of iodine is that it regulates hormones. I hope this works for you then you can stop the prescription 🙂

  17. Cut out the caffeine. I have suffered from acne since I was 15. Even through my adult years, it was bad. Just constant big zits. Almost 40 years old now, I decided to cut out Diet Mountain Dew when starting Primal and my face cleared up immediately. As in 2 weeks. My face looks like a baby’s butt now. Diggin’ it.

    1. Are you sure it was the caffeine? It could have been all the other stuff they put in Mountain Dew.

    2. It’s not the caffeine really. It’s the raised cortisol from coffee/caffeinated teas.

    3. Mountain Dew is famous for having brominated vegetable oil. Bromine is toxic and displaces iodine, a necessary nutrient. So while the caffeine could have contributed to your acne, bromine very likely did. Anything that contains bromine (Gatorade, most breads, etc) will do the same.

  18. Thanks so much for this post! I had minimal acne in highschool and what seems ten years later it has come back and much worse. I have done tons of research and thought it could be a hormone imbalance. I have been primal since January and it has cleaned up the acne I get on my face but I still get the seriously painful huge red cyst like mountains along my jawline. I take the supplements suggested in the post and I have totally done away with dairy. I do have grains maybe 2-3 times a week in the form of a sandwich. My next step I guess which I have thought is the probiotics. Has anyone had positive results with probiotics?

    1. Nicole,
      I would recommend cutting out all grains as your immediate next step. All of them. Wheat, corn, rice, everything. See if that helps. My acne flareups seem to be connected to grain intake. The more I learn about grains the less I think anyone should be eating them.

    2. I can do dairy and have clear skin, but I get acne EVERYWHERE if I so much as look at grains the wrong way.

      My advice would be to wrap that sandwich in lettuce, cabbage, or other large leafy greens, skip the grains, and if that doesn’t help after a month or two, THEN try probiotics.

      Assuming you can figure out what works for you, I find that fermented cod liver oil and standard omega-3 fish oil in combination make things heal up a lot faster, especially when restricting omega-6.

  19. I’ll have to look into the zinc.

    My dermatologist wanted to put me on Accutane, but I’m just unwilling to do that to my body (especially since I’ve gone primal – there isn’t much in the world less primal than Accutane, in my opinion).

    I’ve gotten fed up with dermatologists trying to treat your symptoms instead of looking at the big picture. I went to an herbalist, and they got me set up on a liver cleanse, liquid vitamin D, probiotics, gave me jojoba oil, and told me to eliminate dairy & wheat. That’s done more for me than the dermatologist did.

    Mark, what do you think about herbs that are supposed to help your liver function better? Do you see that as being beneficial to acne?

    1. Accutane is just a huge dose of Vitamin A, I was on it and it was horrible, crazy dry skin. (This was before going primal) It did help some, only seem to get zits around my jawline no and no where near as severe. Do it natural!

      1. You should read up on the side effects of Accutane. My doctor is the same, seems a little bit of acne wants to write a perscription right away. But that stuff causes serious issues. I had a friend on it who aside from extream mood swings (to the point of screaming and yelling at people and losing a few friends as a result) it also gave him several nose bleeds that required trips to the hospital. The same way it dries out your skin it also dries out the tissue on the inside of your nose.

    2. Accutane has been connected with strong depression and even suicides. I would stay clear of it! Besides, the main reason why you have acne is because your body is trying to dispel toxins through your skin. The cause of it trying to dispel all these toxins with your skin is that A) your digestion is bad, B) your kidneys need cleansing, and C) your liver is in desperate need of a flush and cleanse. It’s most likely to be all three or just the kidney+liver stuff.

      Even if you’ve been eating healthily for quite a while, all those toxins that you’ve been receiving before you went primal are still causing problems and your kidney+liver really need to start fresh. I don’t like to be one of those people who go around spreading links, but the best website that I know of that goes into detail (for free) about these cleanses is absoluteacneinfo.com. The free program is all you need! Try it!

    3. I did what you so wisely choosed not to do – ate Accutane. But since I have realized it destroys my gut and immune system, I am skipping that crap.

      People, do not go the easy way, don’t eat Accutane! It will punish you in some way, sooner or later.

  20. Willow bark works because it contains salicylic acid. It’s probably easier and cheaper to just use a commercial salicylic acid-containing face wash. (Not all chemicals are evil.)

    1. I agree. I was using a combination of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide on my my mild young adult-onset acne (I’m 26, never had a zit as a teenager.) Since starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (similar to primal, but baby-food-ified for those of us with digestive diseases) I cut out grains and my face cleared up in a month. Now all I use is the salicylic acid as an exfolient.

    2. You can also use crushed up aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) either as a mask or as a spot treatment. I’ve used it in the past and it works very well to reduce redness and dry up active acne. Just make sure you get the pills that don’t have the enteric coating. The plain (usually cheaper) white ones are the ones you want.

      I’ve found that for me, cutting out all sugars, grains, and coffee (though I do drink tea) and taking a 5000 iu vitamin D3 pill a day with dinner has pretty much cleared up my adult acne.

      The sugar and grains increase inflammation and coffee causes your body to produce cortisol (studies show drinking black tea actually reduces cortisol levels), both of these seem to aggravate my acne prone-skin. If I’m feeling particularly inflamed (I can just feel it on/in my face), I’ll take a fish oil pill as well.

  21. Stress is the primary reason I get breakouts. I took Accutane as a teenager, and would still recommend it to someone with severe acne (as long as they understand the risks).

      1. Please try the natural stuff first. Cutting out grains, dairy, sugar are all beneficial. Research iodine (regulates hormones), Dr. Jorge Flechas, Dr. Brownstein, Dr. Berg on youtube, bentonite clay (oil and impurity adsorbing/absorbing), activated charcoal (absorbs/adsorbs toxins), Real Salt or Himalayan salt (healing).

  22. I stopped washing my face almost a year ago. I’ve been oil cleansing with a mixture of 80% extra virgin olive oil and 20% castor oil. My skin has never been so beautiful!!! I used to have mild breakouts and blackheads as well as dry patches around my chin. The website below is how I discovered oil cleansing.
    http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/

    I also don’t ‘wash’ my hair. I use a tsp of baking soda and rinse with a tsp of apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and water. If you have really hard water this may not be the best option for you.

  23. You forgot to add sun exposure to your list of things every teen should do (or anyone with acne)

    the UV rays sterilize the skin making infections less likely to occur

  24. Coconut oil works fantastic! Makes my skin look great and it has great antibacterial properties.

  25. I was just about to email you and ask about acne! For me, wheat and sugar are HUGE acne causes. I’m in my thirties and still trying to clear acne, but avoiding these is a big help. I agree with another girl that too much almond butter also causes a breakout.

    I also was on Proactiv. Read an article that dry powdered milk should be mixed with water and used as a cleanser, because of its lactic acid. Tried it for the first time last night and it even removed makeup! I was impressed. I’m a little afraid to try oil cleansing for fear of breakouts.

    Also read an article that raw milk from grass fed cows is healing to acne. The grass fed vs. grain fed is the difference because of the nutrients and high vitamin content it makes in the milk. Just started trying it. Also yogurt and butter from grass fed cows.

    Last, according to traditional Chinese Medicine, acne sufferers probably not only have hormonal imbalance but fatty liver, and I just read, I think here, that saturated fat intake is essential for de-fatting the liver.

    Cheers!

  26. I never had big problems with acne–aside from the occasional menstrual-cycle breakout– until I was in my 30’s. It was right around the time I moved in with my husband.

    I’ve experimented since then with eliminating grains & dairy, which definitely help, and then I eliminated parabens in all personal care products, which helped a LOT, both on my face and my back. Like many people here I just wash with water and moisturize with a little (olive) oil.

    But here’s the kicker–I’m firmly convinced that the water in our house is a factor. Whenever we go on vacation, my skin clears up. This week I am house-sitting for my teacher, and already (after 24 hours) I can see my skin healing, the redness and flakiness disappearing.

    Anybody else seen this pattern? I bought an Aquasana shower filter and it definitely helped.

    (It’s past-due for replacement, so I’m not seeing as good of results as I was…) I just wondered if there was any literature on this. Ph-balance, maybe?

    And YES–thanks for the post, Mark. I was hoping you’d cover this topic.

    1. Do you live in Southern Cal? We have awful water; mostly due to high salt content (that’s everything from sodium to calcium and a bunch of other stuff). My family owns a commercial greenhouse and the water is killing the plants, literally. Filters or reverse osmosis is the way to go just for your face distilled water is probably cheapest but carbon filters or whatever in your shower will take out the chlorine (so harsh on skin) plus some of the other salts

      1. Nope–Kansas. Lot of limestone formations around here. Alkaline water. I’m looking into the fluoride factor….

        1. I live in Kansas too, and my dermatologist said Kansas water was really horrible on skin! I wash my face only in distilled water, and drink only purified water.

        2. Following up on my own comment–I switched to a fluoride-free toothpaste 5 weeks ago, and started dosing myself with fish oil, D3 and a B-complex. Initial results are VERY promising. I’m pretty sure the fluoride was a culprit, and the vitamins are helping my skin heal. I just went through a menstrual cycle with virtually no new breakouts…

      2. I moved to LA from Ohio last August and noticed that my acne started to get bad again. 🙁

    2. if ur on vacation n getting lots of ocean water time – that’s why. sea salts r exfoliating gently and working at cleansing your face in preperation for the sun exposure that really help as well. i try to soak my face at home but it’s never the same.

      my question is really about the eggs – when i cut soy (crazy hormones!) n oatmeal my face improved. but then i started eating more eggs and just now thout maybe that’s the problem – or the nightshades which i cut a couple dats ago but still waiting to see results. anybody heard of the egg being a problem? it’s devastating – i literally used to have amazing skin all my life – turning 30 is the worst year =(

      1. I’ve eaten at least two eggs every day for the past two years. (And bacon on most of those days, too.)

        For me, sugar is the culprit for flare-ups, not eggs.

      2. I’m reading this post b/c eggs broke me out and I’M FRUSTRATED X(

        I was thinking and thinking.. what could possibly break me out so bad? I haven’t had a breakout in 6 months. It was the eggs.. I ate about 20 pastured eggs in the past 3 days. I actually thought it was exercise and I gave that up for a bit.

  27. I have had acne since puberty and between the 4 dermatologists I have seen in my life, not one ever told me to try modifying my diet. I am 36 now and still suffering from breakouts. I started doing CrossFit 7 months ago and have cleaned up my diet by essentially eliminated grains, dairy and crap sugar from my diet and have really good results with my skin. I am grateful for the all-round positive results in how I look and feel!

  28. Can anyone suggest an appropriate level of zinc if one were to take it for clearing up acne?

    1. Try 50mg per day of zinc picolinate, which is the form of zinc specifically indicated for acne.

    2. I needed closer to 90mg/day (of zinc citrate) to clear mine up. However the zinc has since stopped working for me :\

      1. that’s well over the upper limit (40mg) for zinc. I wouldn’t do that indefinetly or you might get zinc toxicity. zinc also interferes with copper absorption.

  29. I buy the most basic laundry detergent with basically nothing in it. Think about rolling around on your sheets and pillowcases and having your clothes on all day. If you use laundry detergent that has fragrances or other additives, this may be contributing. I second that a good Omega 3-6 balance and staying away from refined sugar seems to be most important, or in other words, eating primal. Fish oil has done more for me than Accutane ever did.

  30. really hate how you take slights at the medical community every chance you get, part of the reason i stopped reading this site on a daily basis. it’s juvenile at best.

    1. Respect that you feel that way, but it is one of the reasons I keep coming back.

  31. Casey – Well, I’m glad you still come back here to get great information!

  32. …also constipation I think plays a heavy role in acne. When you’re regular (which for me goes back to avoiding wheat and sugar) the complexion is much better!

  33. Anybody have thoughts on what form of zinc is preferable? I can only find zinc citrate on it’s own. I’m already taking magnesium seperately and get adequate calcium, so I’m not so hot on taking a CalMagZinc, which seems a lot more common.

    I don’t know about dosing for zinc citrate though, the links provided don’t refer to it. I’ve googled about zinc for skin before, but dosing recs vary like what.

    Also, let’s try not to hate on milk, people. Raw goat milk has helped me through some times when I couldn’t eat much else.

    1. I’ve posted this in other replies, but – zinc picolinate. 50mg a day. I use Douglas Labs’ version and it’s about $12 for 100 capsules. Sweet!

  34. Ive had acne since I was an early teen and I’m 28 now. I like the idea of the coconut oil I think I will try it. I know I have used it before on my dog when his ears got a really bad infection. The oil took the redness and the flaking away in less than two days. So we shall see.

  35. Some say eliminating dairy helps. I believe that (high quality) dairy products have helped my skin-it’s definitely more shiny. Possibly from butyric acid or K2? Then again, I never had a problem with acne.

  36. I used to get bad acne as a teen and into my early twenties. I cut out iodized salt and that seemed to do the trick. It may have been something else, but I have heard here and there since then that iodine can cause acne. Since I am sure I get enough iodine in foods I don’t prepare at home, this hasn’t been a problem at all.

    1. yes–I had a problem with too much iodine because of a multi-vitamin I was taking. I quit taking it and the hard, painful red bumps went away within days.

      It was a friend who tipped me off–he talked about iodine overdose from eating too much shellfish on a vacation, with the same skin symptoms.

  37. I have had problems with acne for many years and the main culprit seems to be diet and gult health.
    The main foods I find that cause my skin to flare up are:
    1. Sugar
    2. Vegetable Oil (This is in so many things and harder to avoid than you’d imagine esp when eating out)
    3. Table Salt (Pure sea salt seems to be okay!)
    4. Any food combination which has a high sugar and a high fat content.
    5. Butter (even a small amount)
    6. Dairy (can tolerate a little but two cups of milk and can feel skin flaring up)
    6. Too much omega 6 (love those nuts but too many causes problems)
    7. Harsh cleansers – may provide a little relief in the short term but my skin seems to adjust to it and then breaks out worse with continued use.
    7. Too much animal products – yes I know we are on a primal forum but when I first started primal my skin went a little bumpy because I went too mad on the meat/fish and my skin just looked dull (guess too much acid, so important to balance with veggies.

    I can’t emphasis how much Intermittent fasting helps, it rests the stomach. I think of my digestion like a wheel after eating and that wheel can’t keep going all of the time and needs breaks. Eating three solid meals a day and being strict on yourself about snacking really helps. Sometimes skip dinner and in the morning you might see a slight improvement. Chew slowly and eat when resting.
    Obviously been active and positive help massively too.
    I’m now clear and I really feel for others as it is incredibly depressing. Don’t let the cycle get you where you think I cut out x its not working so to hell with it! You need to persevere!
    Good luck!

  38. Great post. Related to Zinc/Vit E- I am always willing to get new supplements. But I start to wonder if my 10+ supplements every morning are ever a stress to my system? That may sound counter-intuitive, but I am curious if there are specific guidelines about what supps to take together, when to take them, etc ( beyond the “take twice daily with food”). And should I really “feel” a difference when taking supps?

  39. 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!

    1. 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 🙂

      1. 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.

  40. 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. : )

  41. 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.

  42. 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 🙂

    1. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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 🙂

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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:)

  47. 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!!

  48. 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.

    http://www.healthboards.com/boards/showthread.php?t=418704

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814986

  49. 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.

    1. 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

  50. 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.

  51. 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!

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

    1. 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!

  54. 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.

  55. 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!

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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!

    1. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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: http://www.zimbio.com/Acne+vulgaris/articles/1691/Pantothenic+Acid+Vitamin+B5+Acne+Dr+Jeffrey
    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)

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

    1. 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.

  63. 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

  64. 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.

  65. 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??

    1. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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?”

  68. 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 (http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=11007), and it may act as an endocrine disruptor according to The New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17267908), and also it can cause allergic reactions ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/feb/18/medicineandhealth.health)

    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

    1. 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.

  69. 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.

    1. 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.

  70. Takes some drilling down through links to interpret the detail on this, but worth it:

    “http://msds.chem.ox.ac.uk/AC/acrylamide.html”.

    1. 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!

  71. 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!

  72. 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…

  73. 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: http://www.makeupalley.com/product/showreview.asp/page=1/pagesize=10/ItemID=83256/
    Remember you’re gorgeous and don’t give up! This stuff gets better…

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

    1. I’d be curious to know what fats you are eating, and what the rest of your diet consists of.

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. Dr. Berg supports what you’ve said, SassaFrass88. He offers a lot of great free info on his own site and youtube.

  76. 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. 🙂

    1. 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?

    2. 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.

  77. Well, lets put it this way. Good fats, is that better? I.e clean plants fat, and lean fat from animals and not the hormones fed animals that we have these days.

    1. Good fats=plant fat? Of what plant fat do you speak? Vegetable oil? Canola oil? Or do you mean seed oils–grapeseed oil, sunflower oil? I think not…

      Eat too many plant/seed fats, and you’ll be getting WAY too many omega-6’s and not enough Omega-3’s, putting your 3:6 balance out of whack. Not to mention, you should be wary of any seed oil. Sure, olive oil is great for salads, but should definitely not be used for cooking.

      No, the majority of your fats should be saturated–animal fat is a great source, and coconut oil and avocados are good as well. Saturated fat is most certainly not ‘bad’ fat. You don’t have to worry about hormones if you buy quality meat–that means free-range, grass-fed and from the farmer.

  78. If I’m not eating good food and taking regular craps, breakouts happen.

  79. Has heard of metabolic typing? Like some peoples’ systems do better on high protein and there are some (probably Ken who does best on a light diet) can handle a higher complex carbohydrate diet with less fat and meat. I myself do poorly with that kind of diet and better with high protein, high fat with a mix of complex carbs, and very low grains. Consequently my acne responds better to high fat.

    I say listen to your body. I’m wondering if we don’t just all do best eating what our ancestors ate. My family came from Europe, where traditional diets are high fat and protein, but certain other areas of the world are traditionally centered on seafood and complex carbs.

  80. FWIIW, I have an N=2 sample of teenagers (M, 13 and 15 years), who over the last three months have been moved from having severe face and back acne to it nearly disappearing.

    After looking for RCTs to support the various solutions of the type that Mark reccomends, it appeared that the following were supported, in the literature,with no identified adverse side effects, viz:

    1. Changing to a paleo diet as per Loren Cordain’s variation
    2. Topically applied coconut oil or tea tree oil (>5%)

    We tried each of these sequentially and on different children and/or patches of skin.

    All seemed to work in this v. small sample.

  81. How does whey protein (for shakes/smoothies) factor into the ‘no dairy’ part of the equation?

  82. Now in my mid-30s, I’d had acne issues since my teen years. I’ve been on antibiotics, Retin-A, and ProActiv. My skin’s much better now.

    1) I cut out grains, sugars, and other processed foods.

    2) I get more sunlight.

    3) I don’t wash my face regularly with soap anymore, nor do I use any cleansing products on my face. My wife has beautiful skin and has always just rinsed with water. That’s pretty much as far as I go.

    4) I do use soap on the rest of my body and my hair. It’s something called Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap. It’s available at GNC and natural food stores. When my wife had a little acne due to pregnancy, or we had very dry skin due to harsh winter weather, this made a huge difference. I don’t use any other soap now. It works well for dandruff, too.

    I find that even when I don’t get enough sleep, or if I consume a lot of caffeine, it doesn’t have much of an effect on my skin anymore.

    Good luck to all.

  83. I have read a few people say that OCM completely cleared their skin issues. What is OCM? I have never heard of that before.

  84. Google oil cleansing method. I love it, and I will probably never change.

    I use 30% castor oil
    70% sesame oil

    and a few drops of lavendar+a few drops of rosemary essential oils. Smells good, feels good, works good.

    I tried coconut oil, and I really wanted it to work, but I broke out everywhere it landed. Light applications didn’t help, so I bagged it. I use my CO/SO mix as a moisturizer now after my shower.

    1. Hey, I had the same thing happen…I heard so many great things about EVCO and broke out everywhere, it was awful, haven’t had bad acne like that since my teens. I am interested in trying the seasame/castor oil wash, however how long did it take before you noticed a difference? or decided that it wasn’t working?

      1. If you could stick with it for 2 weeks, your skin may have cleared up. Sometimes people have an initial cleansing period when applying coconut oil. After that, your skin would be perfect. David Getoff said this in one of his interviews with Sean Croxton.

        If after the 2 weeks your skin was still breaking out, it may be an allergy.

  85. I went grain-free, pasteurized milk free, somewhat Paleo and my acne cleared up. I still eat cheese from grain-fed cows, but what worked the best for me was getting rid of nightshades. And that was hard because coconut milk curry is one of my favorite foods to make. But I do believe nightshades caused acne for me.

  86. THIS IS TO BACK UP RSL’s COMMENTS:
    Had mild acne as a teenager. But once I hit the menopausal stage, acne came in with a vengeance. Was prescribed Spironolactone to combat acne around the jawline. Once a woman reaches menopausal stage, the male hormone begins to take over the dminishing female hormone. Because of that, the jawline, where for men, hair starts to grow as beard, women have tendency to also grow hair around the jawline. Hence you see women who have mustaches-like hair. That area gets irritated every so often, then. Spironolactone helps suppress the hair-growth tendency and helps in the process, the acne around that area.
    What actually helped me with acne-flairups that even Spironolactone somehow, at times, forget to suppress is cutting out MILK PRODUCTS completely. Once I did that….perfect skin!
    At the next doctor visit, I will be suggesting trying to stop taking the spirono. med as a trial to see if milk was my waterloo all along.
    Then I will revisit this post and add more comments.

    1. Someone had left a post I think or maybe I read it someplace else that if you consumed a lot of dairy when you were younger your acne could be because of that. I used to go through a gallon of milk within 4 days when I was younger just because I LOVE milk. Since January I have completely stopped this. The only dairy I get is if cheese I get on my salad when I said, “no cheese please” but still managed to get cheese and I had to carefully pick it out but how can you really get All the cheese out? Impossible. Or if I eat with my family and there’s cheese in some sauce or the dish which I have thought this miniscule amount of dairy wouldn’t harm me. I’m 27 and I know as you age your hormone and sensitivities fluctuate. Since reading this post my guess is I’m pretty sensitive to dairy and even a small amout will upset my skin. I have tried (this is only day 1) to really watch what I’m putting in my mouth and ask myself, does this have ANY dairy? Also this is day 2 of going on probiotics which one poster had mentioned giving to their daughter and that helping. I thought maybe I have some non-friendly flora from way back when still swimming around. I read that picking or messing with cystic acne is bad so I have put all my pimple picking tools away so I don’t scar or irritate/spread the acne around my jawline. Usually when I first wake up my face looks great then after I wash and apply moisterizer the bumps turn red because I guess I was upsetting the area. Thoughout the day the redness will decrease but not completely. I did notice today when I looked in the mirror after lunch my usually red bumps were kinda just pink. My guess is the pobiotics could be helping in getting rid of some bad flora and with the zero dairy tally my face is finally calming down. I googled OCM and I think I’m going to try that out as my double whammy approach, fighting from the inside and outside of the skin. I hope everyone that is trying out new stuff will update on here, I would love to read what the outcomes are. I can not say enough how greatful I am for Mark for posting this and for readers giving their 2 cents on this. I have quit going to doctors for my skin. All they do is give my doxy which makes me burn when I’m only outside for a little while. I had what I was told to be a few cysts on my décolletage (aka cleavage) area and my derm. at the time removed them leaving these awful keloids in their place. When they got the biopsy results turns out they just scar tissue from the cysts that WERE there. Had my doctor had not been so scapel happy I could have gotten laser treatments to break down the tissue to where it would be a flat practically invisible scar….As you can see it’s been 3 years since this happened and I’m still upset about it as any woman would understand this. Sorry for the long post.

      1. You might try iodine applied topically to the keloids. Could help them become flatter.

  87. Megadosing on B5. Like 4-8000mg a day for week, completely cleared my skin up. I eat 95/5 primal, never touch soda’s or other nasty processed snacks, yet still was getting acne on my face and horrible ingrown hairs (shaving everyday stinks). The megadosing concerned me, but I gave it a shot and it worked. The only tweak I made was to also take a B complex in the afternoons to offset any potential energy differential.

  88. Since I’ve had acne for over ten years and successfully keep it at bay with diet, I thought I would leave some feedback. I only treat myself with diet and my skin stays 99% clear. For me, the worst offenders are, unfortunately, animal foods. Lean protein is great, but if I eat oily fish or fatty meat (both of which I love) I break out badly. Fish oil makes my skin terrible. I suspect it is toxins, chemical and otherwise, that collect in animal fat. It is not iodine, as I have tested this multiple times by eating seaweed. Large amounts of caffeine make my skin look a little worse texture-wise, but I don’t get breakouts from it.

    Regardless of what it is, my skin is not affected by high carb intake or by high plant fat intake (I’ve tried every diet out there to fix my skin). I stick to vegetables, olive oil, avocado, coconut milk, lean meats, and some fruit. I wish I could go back in time and give myself this diet and avoid the social frustration of acne. Hope that helps!

  89. I started breaking out at age 26 with horrible cystic acne all over my chin, neck line and cheeks. I struggeled with it for 3 years trying everything from not washing, to spiro, to Duac, to supplementation, Proactive…. Finally, after seeing an intergrative medical doctor, she suggested I take a gluten alllergy test. Sure enough, I tested positive. Within 1 week of giving up all gluten, I was 95% clear. Within 3 months, I was 100% clear. Now, when I accidentally ingest some gluten, I break out a little, but usually clears up pretty fast. During this time I also minimized sugar, and took supplements to heal my intestines.

    1. so great to hear your success! Sucks that there are so many toxins in the environment and even our “foods” which people aren’t educated about.

  90. Primal diet doesn’t seem to work for me much either. I feel sick eating just proteins, fruits and vegetables. It hasn’t done anything for me. Makes things worst actually. I think I need whole grains, whole wheat and legumes back in my diet along with fruits and vegies and less meat and fat. Like someone said above, it really depends where you come from because usually europians diet differ from Asians diet.

  91. The single thing that helped me most is a aspirin mask, just a few cruched aspirins in warm water, aply to face as a mask, I usually let it sit on my face over the night and by morning my face is so much smoother, all rednes gone and existing pimples is way smaller and less inflamed.

    Another thing that helped me very much is epsom salt bath. I dont know if its the magnesium my body takes up from the epsom salt or if it is that extreme sweating that epsom salt induces that helps me, either way I just feel so awesomely calm and clean after one of those baths.

    Another huge one is rooibos tea. Its a red tea that is naturally caffeine free and its packed with anti oxidants and also which probably is the biggest key with rooibos, contains lots of zink and other minerals 🙂 Ive read that its supposed to be good to use topically aswell, beacause of its alpha hydroxy acid and zinc content, gonna try it topically today.

    Other then that niacin, the kind that makes you flush helps so so much whenever I see a breakout on its way.

  92. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face wash…mix with water and leave on for three minutes…rinse off. (This takes off dead skin cells which trap dirt and oil). THEN..Glycolic Cleanser…leave on face three minutes and wash off.(This gently empties the pore of excess oil). THEN..Use one of the Benzoyl Peroxides…put on face, use covered ice compress…leave on for a few minutes…(this takes oxygen down into the bottom of the pore and kills the bacteria which grow in the oil and cause the acne)…do the BP only in the evening before bed…use old T-shirts to sleep in and cheap cotton-only pillowcases. This regimen works! Hair conditioners contribute to acne…wash face and body AFTER rinsing conditioner out in the shower. Hair products absolutely cause acne…change pillow cases frequently. No kidding! I had very SERIOUS cystic acne in my forties, called out sick at work as a flight attendant because I was so humiliated by it…found a book with this regimen in it, did the routine, and still do…and have no problems with acne as a result…no longer have to use the BP…thank goodness…it is a peroxide,and can wreck clothes and bedding. I have told many young people about this, they have tried it, and have lovely skin now. Good luck…and…stay away from grain!!!

  93. Alright, I know this is a primal website. I know this is an article on hollistic approaches to acne. However, after seeing the post, and reading the article; I couldn’t help but share a decidedly non-hollistic approach: Spironolactone/Aldactone.

    A little about me: I’ve been eating strictly primal for about a year and half now. I LOVE it, it works for me, and I recommend it to everyone I can. Why, then, am I recommending a prescription medication?

    Well, I suffered from acne breakouts from 13-22. I felt as if I tried everything non-traditional and hollistic to solve the problem because I didn’t want to put chemicals in my body. In fact, I first became interested in nutrition and alternative medicine as a pre-teen for this reason. I refused to take Acutane, and I had tried antibiotics and topical creams prescribed by dermatoligists–all to no avail.

    I avoided milk, I ate lots of vegetables, I supplemented with zinc, I drank liquid cod liver oil, I ate lots of garlic (until I could smell it sweating through my skin), I used colloidal silver to wash my face, I juiced leafy greens, I avoided sugar, I tried tea tree oil, Royal Jelly, and just about everything else you can think of. Despite all these efforts, by 22 I still had acne.

    By this time, I hadn’t been to a dermatologist in years. I had tried them in the beginning, and I felt that they were pathetic excuses for doctors–more like a pharmaceutical sales rep pushing different drugs–if one didn’t work, they’d prescribe another. And it always pissed me off that they never accepted that what one eats has an effect on their skin.

    Finally though, I went to a dermatologist who actually does research. Although he was still hesitant to agree with me that food has much impact on acne, he did prescribe me something I’d never heard used for acne treatment–Spironolactone/Aldactone, a rather old and cheap potassium sparing diuretic.

    Basically, it works as an anti-androgen to block some testosterone. For more information, see this article:

    http://acne.about.com/od/acnetreatments/a/spironolactone.htm

    BTW, this is only a treatment for women. Though I don’t like recommending prescription medications, this one was a life-saver to me. I felt as if I tried everything holistic and nothing worked. Although I don’t think it’s ideal to be manipulating hormones, I do think this drug is less harmful than many others (i.e. long-term antibiotic use, Acutane).

    Anyway, just thought I’d throw this out there in case it helps someone else as much as it helped me. =)

      1. Glad to hear that it helped someone else. It really was a miracle for me. I worked so hard, and tried so many different holistic approaches before I finally caved in and returned to the dermatologist–I was even finally willing to accept Accutane (as much as I hate to admit it). It really was a last ditch effort for me.

        The fact that a water-pill, a diuretic can have such a positive effect on my acne is really amazing. I went from breakouts on my face, chest, and back to totally clear skin. I can actually leave the house without makeup, and even get compliments on m skin!

        So, this brings me to my new dilemma. I’ve been on Aldactone fro 3 years now, and am wondering what my skin will do if I stop taking it. Even though it is just a diuretic, and even though I’m recommending it to other people, I really do hate taking a prescription medication.

        How long have you been taking it, and have you tried stopping to see if you’re skin is fine without it?

        1. Veronica,

          I have been taking it for at least 10 years – maybe more. For me, it was the magic bullet. When I take it, I am clear 99% of the time, and I only take half of what is prescribed for me each day.

          Every now and then, I wonder if I can live without it, and I stop taking it. I usually go 3-6 months without a breakout, but then I get a huge lesion on my face, and I go back on it.

          I take testosterone, so I am now even more prone to acne than I was before. I don’t want to have to take a drug, but this is all that will work for me, and it’s such a small thing, I’m not going to beat myself up for it!

          I also get many compliments on my skin. People have NO IDEA how happy it makes me to have what most middle-aged women take for granted!

  94. Even being 80 – 100% Primal, I still am afflicted, so I wanted to add to this.

    Your gut may have issues if your chin seems to be afflicted, specifically.

    You may need to go see a specialist regarding your gut health.

  95. One part of the primal diet that Mark does not drill into our heads as much as he should is avoiding pesticides. I hypothesize that they would increase your acne. One type of pesticide can change the gender of frogs that normally don’t change. If it can mess up frogs’ hormones that much, imagine what it could be doing to your face at this moment!

  96. Mine cleared up a lot after i stoped washing my face.

    No soap anywhere for 6 months now – just wash with water every day. it works!

    I also dry my face by lightly rubbing each area once with the towel (not rubbing or scrubbing), which i find is necessary without soap to get the dirt/dead cells off.

  97. I am a 51 year-old woman, and 4 years post-menopause. I have been Primal for 8 months. For 1 year and 8 months, I have had a nearly continual breakout of whitehead pimples on the tip of my nose! I am so humiliated! It isn’t enough to have sudden hot flashes that drench me in sweat, hair falling out, and no sex drive, but I have to have big honking zits on the end of my nose that never go away! There are so many suggestions here that I’m not sure where to start. I suppose Zinc, B vitamins, and tea tree oil. I really hope this will make a difference.

    1. Dr. Berg talks about adrenal glands not working right as being the cause of hot flashes for women during menopause. The adrenals take over for the ovaries. So if your adrenals are worn out, they can’t do their job. Look him up on youtube and he also has his own website.

  98. Hi,
    We are in the midst of the Paleo 30 day elimination diet to address son’s acne, I’m most intrigued by Primal.

    Having some progress, son is also on extra zinc and fish oil tablets; but just wanted to add after reading your article I bought Manuka Honey and he has been applying it topically. We have completed day two and having noticeable improvements!! Thanks so much.

  99. Hi There – just discovered this site and this thread is where I put my first focus.

    I have suffered from on going skin problems for years (I am 36) and I can relate to the crowds search for reasons for flares and the infinite search for that one cream or vitamin that could cure.
    I have ignored it and listened to peoples well meant advice.

    I ended up not picking up the hard core prescription med. my doctor prescribed when I finally got the nerve to do something about it. Instead I went to a homeotherapist who analyses the body through the acupuncture zones.

    The outcome was – I had a severe overgrowth of Candida.
    Diet: She tried to keep it as simple as possible No carbs, sugar or alcohol… for 8 weeks

    No Carbs – In Denmark we eat a lot of rye bread – pumpernickel styled bread so bread was no big deal. I still had white rice, but no pasta at all.
    I even stayed away from potatoes.

    No Sugar – Not even fruit (There are a few neutral ones, Mango and bananas) Red pepper and beet-root ended up being my sugar treats. after a while the taste buds adjust and beet-root is like tasting chocolate!

    No Alcohol – psychologically this was far the hardest one – the social occasions yadayada This is also where I sinned the most. Beer and Wine are worst and as I could not have sugary drinks I had Vodka with mineral water and lemon.

    I had to eat every 2.5 hours – a handful of nuts or some leftovers from last night was good stuff.

    The first week I was so hungry

    She advised me to stay on the hormonal cream but gradually fade it out. And I got supplements for fighting the candida and probiotics.

    I stayed on it for 8 weeks – and the reaction from my body was so intense. The cleansing feels yucky but nice to see things a happening.
    My skin reacted instantly – after 4 weeks it cleared up totally and it has stayed that way!

    I lost 4 kg and now that I am not dieting as hard I still stay away from carbs and sugar.

    One of the big epiphanies in retrospect is that for years everybody have tried to say that my skin condition was due to some kind of emotional distress… You are stressed/sad/overly happy…. the focus just made me feel bad because it felt as if people were saying I was responsible for this condition myself.
    My emotional state had nothing to do with this – and it was tough to do the diet but felt very active and low practical to stay away from carbs, sugar and alcohol.

    I highly recommend it.

    /Nanna, Copenhagen Denmark

    http://www.thecandidadiet.com/whatiscandida.htm

  100. My rosacea got worse again this past spring, I think because I stopped using sunscreen/moisturizer during last winter. My skin got very dried out, but I didn’t really realize it. Recently I went back to using a lot of Cetaphil moisturizer with sunscreen during the day, and a Cetaphil moisturizer at night without sunscreen. This seems to be helping. I also eliminated dairy except for butter.

  101. All good ideas and worth trying, but when these fail and the only thing that works is oral antibiotics, I am left wondering what is the impact from their long term usage? Can regular antibiotic use be reconciled with a primal diet and lifestyle. In my case, the difference with and without the antibiotics is dramatic and nothing else has worked.

    1. Some people in the natural health community think there is a place for antiobiotics. I personally don’t, but I’m only educated from online info, so everyone can make up their own minds about it. I would suggest safely stopping the antiobiotics, ask your doctor if there’s a way you should do it. Look into healing your gut with specific foods such as GAPS diet, candida diet, etc. I understand we have many different things in our lives compared to our ancestors, but there really should be a natural solution to health problems instead of something that didn’t exist until recently.

  102. As a long-time acne sufferer and primal newbie, I’m fascinated by these suggestions. My question is, how do you clean off make-up if you’re only using water to wash your face?

    1. Use a microfibre cloth with lukewarm water. It wipes makeup off really easily without the need for soap. There are specifically marketed versions like the Jane Iredale magic mitt, but it’s basically a glorified microfibre cloth. I’ve used one now for a couple of months and it takes my makeup off perfectly.

  103. Ah, I have always had problem skin and after trying numerous acne fighting products (which probably were the culprit), I have found my safe haven… Dr. Bronners Tea Trea Castile liquid soap. On the website it says “Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that helps heal cuts and bruises as well as skin conditions like acne dermatitis and psoriasis”. It takes off all my makeup too! And here is what is listed under ingredients: Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Tea Tree Extract, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
    * CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE INGREDIENTS
    ** None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin
    I use it for my whole body and as a shampoo to really clean my hair a few times a week. The soap at first makes my face a little dry but that goes away after an hour or so. I also use Vitamin E oil sparingly afterwards and it feels yummy!

    1. I’ve read that Tea Tree can be estrogenic. So for anyone who has hormonal imbalance or develops it, just be careful.

  104. I cut out dairy, grains, and sugar and that seemed to do the trick. Whenever I reintroduced any of these in large amounts, my skin would break out within three days. It’s nice when your body tells you that you ate something bad for you. I’m so glad I didn’t waste my money seeing a dermatologist. They’ll never admit that diet is related to acne. Why would they? How do you make money off of telling someone to stop eating processed food? Refilling Accutane subscriptions is more lucrative. Businesses love repeat customers.

  105. A question for readers re acne scars. Has anyone used coconut oil with good success to get rid of scarring? My son (17) is currently using it and i think we are seeing a closing of the pits, could be hopeful thinking.

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  107. I am 37. I’ve always had some acne but 2 years ago my skin got really bad. I had painful cysts on my face and breakouts on my chest and back. I tried ziana, antibiotics, apple cider, tea tree oil, facials – nothing really worked. Recently, I had stopped coffee, sugar and alcohol. It was a little better but far from good. I was recently tested for gluten and I came up just a tiny bit gluten sensitive. I stopped gluten and my skin completely cleared up.

  108. I never had acne until I went primal. Connection? Not sure, but I do know that I am having the worse acne of my life right now (I’m 27) and although I feel great from eating many months of primal foods, I think I am at my whits end with this sudden problem with acne. Any suggestions for some one who actually develops acne after going primal rather than it being cleared up as it supposedly should do? I have tried giving up dairy and nuts and even nightshades to no avail.

    1. I am with you, Mindy. I had some break outs before I went Primal, enough to go on Proactiv, and that worked very well. Since going Primal, I slowly cut it out, but my face exploded. I tried natural, organic options, but that made me worse.

      It’s been a few months and even restarting the Proactiv is not working (that scares me). I’m trying to cut out dairy (slowly because I still eat a lot of it) to see what happens. I wish expermintation did not have to be written all over my face.

      So, I add my voice to yours: Anyone out there have any thoughts for post-Primal acne?

    2. Hi Mindy- Any luck with the acne? I am having the same issue. I felt great for 2 months, clearest skin Ive ever had- but then I had a slow to complete eruption all over my jawline and neck. Its now creaping up my right cheek this week. I wasnt eating many grains to begin with so it wasnt a huge transistion- not sure if it was too much protein, not enough carbs or added one of the 20new things into my diet again I wasnt used to. My hormones have gone completely nuts Ive always gotten the occasional pimple, this is very hard to handle.

      1. This is just an idea – maybe when beginning to eat healthy, your body starts to clear out the old stored toxins from fat cells and this is the cause of acne after going Primal.

        If hormones are going crazy, do some research on iodine supplementation and look up Dr. Berg on youtube and his site. He may have some other info that will help.

  109. Hi Mark, do you think acne sufferers should avoid whey as well? Would plant proteins such as rice and pea be less offensive?

  110. For me I find dairy is the worst thing, I also wash with hot water the hotter the better. I guess it helps remove oil and drys out the acne temporarily. I’m scared to use creams in case it makes it even worse.

  111. Hey, just wanted to update you all! I finally found out what was causing my acne! It was soy lecithin! I already knew soy messed up my hormones, but figured that beause the lecithin was seperated out from the soy, it wouldn’t cause me problems. I often ate dark chocolate and other things containing it, but never made the connection. But then my husband bought me a huge belgian dark chocolate bar, which I munched daily for a couple of weeks until it was gone. I subsequently broke out in horrible deep acne cysts all over my face! I immediately suspected the soy lecithin in it, as nothing else in my diet had changed. Once I figured it out, I started reading labels and avoiding anything with soy lecithin. Now, 2 months later, for the first time in 40 years, my skin is acne free! YAY!!!!

    1. That’s wonderful! Congratulations! I am still fighting the acne battle and you must be so happy! Thank you for sharing. I am going to add that to my list of foods to avoid — maybe that will help!

  112. I also should add, at first I thought it was flouride, so I was avoiding it. But then my acne got worse! That was when I figured out it was soy.

  113. For whatever reason, my son developed acne on his back. Maybe it’s from from lack of sleep and stress from school? …

    Anyhow, I bought the Citrus Clear Acne Wash online and it was excellent at treating any acne and even helped to prevent most of it. My son washed with this Citrus Clear wash at night before bed – and it works great!! He has had no body acne since he started using this product.

  114. My daughter is already having problems with acne and our dermatologist recommended Citrus Clear – so I tried this and it worked immediately. She is washing her face and using it daily and is a much kinder and gentler than other acne products. She loves it !

  115. Excellent post and one of the best I have read recently. Acne is a treatable condition and before resorting to powerful medications folks would be wise to follow much of the advice given above.

    In particular diet, most of us are aware they is no scientific link between diet and acne, but there is one between diet and a healthy skin, without the vital nutrients and minerals it needs the skin will not be best able to repair itself, nor will the immune system be in a good position to fight infections.

    Cows milk and anything made from proteins of it is a big enemy of acne, especially for teenagers, it is usually full of hormones that can play havoc with the hormone balance in the body, for this reason it is best to use goats milk or perhaps soya milk as alternatives.

    1. Soy milk has an extremely high level of estrogen, comparable to birth control pills. Please don’t drink soy milk ever.

      1. This is a commonly held beleif by many…and perpetuated by the wild west internet…It is is true that soy is a “phyto-estrogen” food, which means it contains substances that have hormone-like components. However, their estrogen strength is 1/1000th that of the body’s own stronger estrogen’s. therefore, you want to load your digestive system with quality controlled raw soy powder, because these weaker estrogens will block the estrogen receptor sites from receiving your body’s own stronger estrogen s and therefore be very protective against estrogen fed cancer

  116. A combination of 3:1 water and apple cider vinegar has been a blessing for my acne.

  117. I suggest anyone who wants to clear up their acne to go to acneeinstein.com the person ”Seppo pussa” Has uploaded a lot of studies regarding acne treatments and what works and what not. And he is a fan of Primal diet.

    I’m not clear yet, I still have to manage my stress level and get tested for food allergi + fix my gut health. But I believe that I’ll be able to clear up very soon. 🙂

  118. What does OCM stand for? I thought it was “Over the Counter Meds” but I can’t tell by the way it’s been used in the comments.

  119. I would highly recommend Jojoba Oil (actually it is natural wax)! it is meant to be the most similar oil to the humans’ skin oil(sebum).

    Jojoba Oil is basically tricks the body into thinking that there’s enough oil on the skin (moisture) and there’s no need to produce more. With time it does a great job of balancing oil production and it helps clear acne. Some people were able to completely clear their skin with Jojoba Oil. It works great for all skin types (yes even the very oily type).
    It is a superb moisturizer and you don’t have to use much of it, so little goes a long way 😉 I’d say give it a go and see how it works for you after 2-3 weeks =)

  120. For me:

    1) HEAL GUT and reverse food sensitivities. Probiotics, bone broth, elimination/reintroduction diet. This took care of the cystic nightmare. Then…

    2) Supplement – Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil Blend from Green Pasture website.

    3) Topical: Use a simple wash with a similar pH to that of my skin. Stop changing/adding products. Turn down heat to cool/cold in sink/shower when washing face.

  121. After 40 years of fighting acne, I seem to have finally figured out a diet that keeps me acne free. I eat a high-fat, low-carb diet consisting of ONLY these things:
    Meat / fish
    Olive oil
    Coconut oil
    MCT
    Lemon juice
    Salad greens
    Coffee
    Heavy cream
    Butter
    Eggs
    Avocado
    Bone broth
    Dijon mustard
    Blueberries
    Macadamia nuts
    Lemon Juice
    Sauerkraut with live cultures

    Keep in mind, that because I do not eat more than about 80 to 100 grams of protein per day, so I am not eating high-protein. I don’t know if the high protein might give me acne, but I am sure I will find out in the future.

    I have been acne free for 2 weeks for the first time in my life. I will begin experimenting with things to see what my acne triggers are, but I believe that milk products other than heavy cream and butter (milk, cheese, yogurt), honey, peanut butter and grains are the major culprits. Veg. oils (such as those in almost every salad dressing) may be a problem, also. I make my own salad dressing with some of the items listed above.

    My diet looks like this:
    Breakfast: Eggs cooked in lots of butter, sausage or bacon, lemon water, coffee with heavy cream, 8 oz bone broth, probitiotics (soil-based)
    Lunch: salad with greens, avocado, sauerkraut, meat, blueberries (1/4 cup), home-made dressing (high-fat).
    afternoon: bulletproof coffee
    Dinner: repeat lunch

    I had many times gotten very close to this diet and had reduced my acne quite a bit, but I was still ingesting processed foods, peanut butter, cheese, sweeteners and other things outside of the list above, and was constantly frustrated that I couldn’t quite eliminate it.