Like many others, I dealt with moderate acne in my teens. Fortunately the acne on my face was mostly clear by the time I reached my 20s. However, the body acne I had struggled with since the age of 13 persisted and even started to become worse.
I struggled with moderate to severe cystic acne on my back, shoulders, and chest. It posed a challenge whenever summer came around. Despite my love of swimming, I was resistant to wearing a swimsuit because I was so self-conscious about my skin. I also avoided shoulder-baring shirts, even on the warmest of days.
When the breakouts first started I tried a variety of remedies, both natural and unnatural. My mom took me to naturopathic physicians who prescribed herbal balms and homeopathic treatments. I went through a phase of slathering my back with benzoyl peroxide every night before bed. I tried a wide array of diets, including paleo, vegan, low-carb and pescatarian. None were effective.
What Finally Healed Her Body Acne
Success finally came after I began to delve into the study of Ayurveda. I was instantly enamored with the history and modern applicability. Something immediately clicked and I knew that Ayurveda would hold some secrets to optimal health and could offer ways to heal the acne I long struggled with.
I have since dedicated a great deal of time, energy, and enthusiasm to the study of Ayurveda. It has brought me immense healing, both inside and out, and I place considerable confidence in this form of medicine. Ultimately, Ayurveda was the thing that finally brought me clear skin. Here, I discuss the 5 steps I took to implement Ayurvedic principles and finally heal body acne.
1. Follow a Strict Pitta-Balancing Diet
As I cycled through various diets in an attempt to finally clear my skin, I did notice a few foods that tended to aggravate breakouts. It made so much sense to me when I discovered that these particular foods were not recommended to individuals with a Pitta dominant constitution. Skin disease in general, and acne in particular, is primarily the result of a Pitta imbalance.
Armed with the knowledge that I have a Pitta-dominant constitution, I started by eliminating Pitta-aggravating foods and introducing foods that balance Pitta. Combined with the knowledge I gained from previous dietary experiments, I learned that certain foods were especially problematic for me. These were fermented foods of all kinds, citrus fruits, and nuts. Removing these foods was one of the most powerful tools in healing my acne.
2. Optimize Digestion
The next step in healing my skin was to optimize digestion by healing my gut. Skin disturbance is often related to an imbalance in the digestive tract, so I worked to soothe digestion to help my body start to heal from the inside out.
One important aspect of this was to change the way I eat. I made an effort to slow down the pace at which I eat and to chew my food fully before swallowing. It is also important to not be distracted when eating. I now focus only on eating and don’t watch TV or use the computer during meals.
I also found it very important to work on proper food combining. I used to love to eat fruit for dessert, something that I now know can be harmful to digestion. Instead, I have shifted to eating fruit on its own and away from other food types. I have tried a few digestion supplements, but my primary focus is to engage in relaxed, mindful eating and proper food combining.
3. Support Detoxification
When the body struggles with toxin overload, it is not uncommon to see skin breakouts. The liver, in particular, can become overloaded with external and internal toxins. When the liver is overworked, the skin can become aggravated. For this reason, skin breakouts are often a sign that the body needs to detoxify.
Detoxification begins with balancing the constitution through food and movement. For me, this meant following a Pitta-balancing diet as addressed in step one. I focused on consuming plenty of organic fruits and vegetables (including sea vegetables), and placed an emphasis on foods high in vitamins B2 and B6.
I also worked with an Ayurvedic practitioner to identify herbal supplements that could support detoxification in my body. For me, this meant supplementing with neem, manjishtha, and gotu kola. Finally, I utilized regular massage to enhance detoxification through the skin. Daily self massage was valuable, as was a weekly visit to a professional masseuse.
4. Use Appropriate Topical Skin Care
Topical skin care can be either an incredible tool to support healing or a burden to the system. Nourishing Ayurvedic skin care products and substances must be edible if they are to assist the body in healing and detoxification. I ceased using benzoyl peroxide, which is toxic to the system and perpetuates the cycle of acne by drying out and irritating the skin.
One of the biggest changes I made to my skincare routine was to cease using soap on most of my body. I continue to use a very gentle soap made of goat milk on areas of my body prone to smell, such as the underarms. For the rest of my body, however, I simply rinse with filtered water. I found soap to be harsh and disruptive to the natural balance of my skin. Changing my routine in this way helped to reduce irritation and allowed my skin to begin healing.
On occasions where my skin becomes dry, I now use either coconut oil or jojoba oil for moisturizing. Both of these options are very gentle and nourishing to the skin. Coconut oil has natural antibacterial properties that can assist in reducing the recurrence of acne. For some, coconut oil can contribute to the clogging of pores. If that is the case for you, favor jojoba oil, which is the oil closest to the skin’s sebum.
5. Engage in Gentle and Healing Exercise
This was the most challenging step for me. I am drawn to intense exercise in an almost compulsive way, likely in large part due to my Pitta nature. However, Pitta can be aggravated by intense exercise, as was certainly the case for me. Exercise like crossfit and hot yoga created an imbalance in my body, often leaving me overly exhausted and completely drained. I also noticed that skin breakouts were worse when I exerted myself excessively, even if I showered immediately afterward to remove sweat.
A key component of healing and balance was to transition to gentler exercise such as yoga and walking. Hikes also work well for me, as spending time in the forest is calming. I still lift weights occasionally and I love to participate in winter sports such as skiing and snowshoeing. The cool weather balances the heat of exertion and suits me very well. Even when I sweat, I don’t experience skin breakouts or exhaustion like I do with other types of intense exercise.
The steps outlined above have been incredibly healing for my skin and for my body and mind as a whole. I still do experience minor breakouts on occasion, and I can always tie them to some dietary or lifestyle choice I have made. Now I know how to mitigate imbalance in my body and remedy any factors that are contributing to acne breakouts. I hope some of these strategies can be helpful to you as well!