The following is a guest post by Belinda Godinez of the website Crave the Benefits.
Have you tried almost everything to clear your acne?
Beautiful skin can seem unacheivable, especially with the shiny new products that promise you a flawless face but don’t deliver.
With combination skin, I had no clue how to approach my acne in my teens. I made all the mistakes. I picked my skin, used harsh cleansers, and bought pricey products that promised baby-soft skin but left me with no results.
Later I learned that, just like with almost everything in life, simplicity is key. I learned I didn’t have to look at products to have beautiful skin.
I only needed to look at my plate
I began a clean eating journey a little over two years ago, and in the process I effortlessly cleared my acne.
I say effortlessly only because I didn’t intend to clear my acne. I was resigned to the idea that my face would never be what I wanted, but that changed when I realized whole foods were healing my skin.
The severity of my acne
I had mild acne, mainly in my nose, forehead, chin, and chest. My skin was oily on my T-zone, and I had recurrent blind pimples on my nose (the worst!).
I had resigned myself to live with it until I saw my skin clearing out several weeks after I started eating cleaner.
As I began my clean eating regimen, not only did my acne fade away, but also:
- The natural oils in my face became more balanced.
- My blackheads diminished.
- Red spots and dry areas disappeared.
When I retraced my steps, I realized tiny eating habits were responsible for my clear skin.
The best part was that I didn’t use any creams, treatments, or go on any restrictive diets during this time, so it was cheap and truly natural.
What I stopped doing
Eating clean is not just about what you eat, but how you eat.
These three toxic habits were the first to go:
- Staying hungry. It was easy to ignore when I got hungry while I was distracted online. However, this would make me overeat later or grab the closest thing in the pantry. Instead, I began having healthy snacks more frequently to control my appetite when I couldn’t have a whole meal.
- Overeating at restaurants. It’s difficult to control portions when you eat out, so I often finished a whole meal even if I was full halfway through. This is harmful because overeating triggers an inflammation response. Instead, I stopped eating when I felt almost full and took the rest home.
- Eating out often. It’s easier to eat outside when you don’t want to cook, but then you can’t know everything that goes in your food. Instead, I started cooking at home more often.
What I stopped eating
Many people assume that clean eating has to be complicated or super restrictive. That wasn’t the case for me.
I removed just four things from my diet:
- Junk food: French fries, chips, processed cookies, white bread, breakfast cereals, candy, sodas, and soft drinks. In summary, almost anything that came in a box or a plastic bag.
- Red meat: I quit red meat and processed meats. I kept only fish, shrimp, and a little bit of chicken (only chicken breasts) in my diet.
- Added sugar: Besides the sugar from junk food, I removed sugar from my house. I started using only honey as a sweetener, sparingly.
- Some dairy: I minimized dairy consumption, but didn’t quit it completely. I quit cow’s milk, cream cheese, and sour cream, but I occasionally had cheese and plain yogurt. This was the proper balance for my skin.
What to drink
Liquids play a key role in flushing out toxins from your body, relieving inflammation, and hydrating your skin. Increasing up my liquid intake was the single most effective habit.
- Water: I had at least 1.5 liters of plain water and the rest from foods and beverages. I kept a glass water bottle at my desk that I filled 2-3 times per day.
- Green Tea: I drank at least one cup of green tea every morning and one cup of herbal tea in the evenings. Green tea has powerful flavonoids that the fight the damage free radicals cause in the skin cells. This protects your skin from imbalances and early damage.
- Hot chocolate: Yep, hot chocolate helped my skin… but not just any kind of hot chocolate. It was definitely not powdered hot cocoa in a box. It was homemade hot chocolate made with almond milk, raw cacao powder, honey, cinnamon powder, and a dash of vanilla essence.
Cacao is rich in flavanols and polyphenols (both antioxidants) that aid skin health by protecting it against UV damage, reducing inflammation, and fighting oxidative stress.
Almond milk (without sugar or preservatives) is a good dairy substitute with vitamin E, honey is a good sugar substitute with antimicrobial properties, and cinnamon is a spice with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
What to eat
I’m sure you’re tired of hearing how important it is to eat a lot of greens, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Put like that it seems complicated and impractical.
However, I was surprised at how easy it was to add all of this to my diet with simple dishes and drinks.
These are the whole foods that made the biggest difference in my skin:
- Green smoothies: I have a smoothie for breakfast almost every day and that makes a big difference in my skin. The smoothies ensure that I get a huge portion of the nutrients I need from greens, fruits, and healthy fats before the day even begins. I kept it simple (and cheap!) with the ingredients I used. This was enough for my skin to heal: Greens: At least 2 cups of greens. I used frozen spinach, kale, cilantro, or arugula, along with pieces of broccoli or celery. Fruits: At least 2 cups of fruits. I used mainly blackberries, bananas, strawberries, apples, pineapple, and papaya. Healthy fats: To every smoothie I add one of the following: 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, 1 small avocado, or a handful of almonds. Liquid: Water, almond milk, or plain yogurt.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are essential for a healthy, hydrated, and balanced skin. They are full of vitamins, such as vitamin E and biotin, and omega 3’s that keep your cells healthy. The main nuts and seeds I consumed were pecans, almonds, peanuts, and chia seeds. You can have them as snacks or add them to granola and fruit.
- Beans: I’m currently living in Costa Rica, and beans are a huge thing here. I have several servings of black beans every single day (and love it!). Beans are high in folate, molybdenum, and fiber, which support detoxification and waste elimination. Folate also protects the skin from UV damage.
- Lentils: Lentils are another legume high in molybdenum, folate, and fiber, which also help to detoxify the body and eliminate waste. They are also a good source of zinc, a nutrient that plays a vital role in the process of skin renewal and healing. In fact, zinc has been shown to aid the reduction of acne vulgaris.
- Cacao: Besides making homemade hot chocolate, I also added cacao powder to smoothies, oatmeal, and granola.Cacao can help your skin by improving circulation, which optimizes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells, keeping them healthy. It also helps to lower inflammation and protects against external damage that causes premature aging of the skin, such as UV rays.
- Tomatoes: I had a portion of fresh tomatoes with my meals almost every day, and I also made tomato sauces from scratch often.Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and biotin, vitamins responsible for a healthy skin. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from UV damage, and biotin is fundamental to keep the skin cells functioning optimally. Biotin deficiency has been linked to skin imbalances such as dermatitis.
- Greens: Besides having a large portion of my greens in smoothies, I also added greens to meals, particularly cilantro, lettuce, and parsley. I increased my consumption of cilantro because of its high content of dietary nitrates, which dramatically enhance circulation.
What about superfoods or supplements?
The only “superfoods” I adopted in my diet when I cleared my skin were chia seeds, kale, and coconut oil. Later, I began consuming quinoa regularly. However, a combination of greens is truly the only superfood you need to look forward to!
I didn’t take any supplements or powders during this time because I tried my best to get all my nutrition from my diet.
How much could you indulge?
For full disclosure, I must admit I did indulge on not-so-healthy foods, although I still managed to keep a clear skin. My indulgences were never the junk food I quit, so that helped to keep my acne in check.
Occasionally, I had some pasta, ice cream, fried rice, homemade chocolate chip cookies, fried fish, and chicken sausage.
These treats didn’t make me break out because I controlled the portions I ate. It came easily because I didn’t like nor felt good eating these often or in large quantities. The lesson here was that I needed a more wholesome diet, and not necessarily a strict, inflexible one.
What I learned from this experience is that you don’t always need expensive products to heal yourself. Healing starts from the inside out.
Sometimes the solution is simple and obvious.But sometimes you can’t see it because you’re blinded by the promise of other products.
In skin care, nothing is set in stone. The only sure thing is that your mileage may vary, which means your skin has its own needs and it will have different reactions to several solutions.
This particular diet worked for me and I know it might not necessarily work for you. However, cleaning up your diet in your own way will definitely help you heal from the inside out.
If you’ve been struggling with acne for a while, consider starting with your plate. It’ll be worth it.
Brenda Godinez helps you build a nourishing lifestyle through the power of whole foods (without sacrificing your time…or chocolate!). Clear your skin with her free report, 10 Scientifically Backed Foods To Help Clear Your Acne by clicking here to sign up.