When it comes to health conditions that can hold your attention hostage, acne is a diabolical expert. It practically has an MBA in making you feel bad and question yourself. Not only is it frustrating, painful, and persistent, but it’s a problem that literally stares you in the face, not to mention it's hard to hide, and it can be difficult to heal. Which is why I tell my clients this: Acne did not happen overnight, so, unfortunately, it'll take more than one night to clear it up.
Then, once you arrive at the conclusion that slathering on chemical-saturated treatments just isn't for you, it's time to confront your diet. And here's the thing: When you’re trying to heal your skin, it’s easy to become seriously obsessed with your diet, asking yourself, Should I cut out meat? What about gluten? Am I supposed to move to a remote island and become a raw foodist? Am I eating too much? Too little? Should I be taking this supplement? Or should I only be sucking down spirulina smoothies?
See what I mean? It can get overwhelming, fast. But hold your horses for a hot second, because obsessing over your diet like that will only lead to you becoming more unhappy and ineffective. There's a balance between letting yourself be and staying in action to get the results you want. And that balance does not include self-deprecation or self-sacrifice.
Instead, try integrating these six steps into your daily routine. It's about cutting out the confusion and figuring out what works for you, all while leaving ridiculous concepts like "perfect skin" to animated characters who don't actually exist in real life.
1. Chew your food, no matter what it is.
As a health coach, people often ask me what they should eat. Before we dive into delicious recipes and kitchen hacks, though, it's more important to know how you're eating. Do you scarf down breakfast while running out the door? Are you always eating over your laptop? Do you chew your food three times and then gulp the whole thing down? Lesson #1: No matter what it is you're munching on, you need to chew your food thoroughly and pay attention to what it is you're actually putting in your mouth. Even if it's an organic pear, if you gulp it down without chewing then you’re asking for digestive trouble—and that leads to acne, or makes already existing acne worse.
2. Try eliminating gluten for a while.
While the research is mixed, gluten can potentially be one of the largest aggravators of gut health, acne, and your hormones. But you won’t know if this is something that majorly affects you until your body has a chance to function without it and then you add it back in to see how it reacts. So try cutting it out for a minimum of three months. No, that doesn't mean your nightmares of Italian feasts flying out the window is coming true, nor do you have to say good-bye to pasta and French baguettes forever. Remember, there's no shortage of gluten-free products on the market today covering all your favorites: pasta, cookie dough, bread, muffins, and more. And before you say everyone's been eating gluten for years and been fine, remember that gluten was tampered with quite a while ago, and this isn't the same stuff our grandparents broke bread with over the dinner table. So if you're looking for a change, really cut it loose for three months, and be sure to observe how your digestion, skin, and energy levels react.
3. Cut out the processed foods whenever you can.
I’m not saying you need to move into a teepee in the woods and live on berries, but the more you can cut out processed foods with scary ingredients, the better. Again, I’m not into advising you to never eat another French fry for the rest of your days, but I do recommend you simply see that processed food = complicated food, and complicated food exacerbates skin problems. Your body loves organic, fresh, raw (when possible!) and—most importantly—well-chewed food. So let's keep it simple and give your bod what it really wants.
4. Stop checking your skin in the mirror.
You checking your skin in the mirror daily is just keeping your attention on the fact that your skin is in the process of change, and that can get frustrating because, these days, we want results, and we want them now. When that happens, you may even end up making matters worse—like that time you peeked in the mirror, saw a zit, and just couldn't help but pick at it...even though you're not supposed to. So step away from the reflective glass. You’ll be shocked at how your skin regains its suppleness and how much less the imperfections matter when you stop studying them every chance you get. And in your newfound freedom, you can focus on what's awesome about you (like how brilliant you are at your job or how great of a mom you are).
5. Stock up on sleep, water, and exercise.
If you remember one thing, let it be this: It does not matter if you are eating “perfectly" if you are not also consistently exercising, drinking enough water, and getting plenty of sleep each night. Seriously, it doesn't matter! Nothing replaces these three things. If you live in a dry climate, you're going to need more water, so pay attention to your body (your urine is a great indicator of whether or not you're dehydrated—the more clear it is, the more hydrated you are). Aim for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and try to get in three days of exercise each week, as the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity, plus two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities on a weekly basis. Regardless of diet tweaks, staying consistent on these three things will do wonders for your skin.
6. Detox once a year...and have someone do it with you.
As part of my work with clients, I really try to get them to totally understand that they live in a toxic world, and a yearly detox from that is vital for fresh, glowing skin. You’re just under the impact of toxins so much that you have to give yourself a chance to get rid of them. This doesn’t mean taking three months off of work and sleeping with your juicer and never seeing the sun. Rather, it means purifying your diet, ensuring you’re getting exercise, and maybe even stepping away from the people in your life who aren't doing you any favors (sounds a lot like a pretty awesome vacation...). Detoxing is best done with support; otherwise, just as you decide to eat a rich green smoothie, here comes your husband with a bag of greasy French fries and a burger with a milkshake—and who wants to resist that? Nobody. So just once a year, get him—or a close family member or friend—to join in. It's why I created The Clear Skin Cleanse. But however you decide to detox, don't do it alone, so you'll have the emotional support you need.