Sweet Acne: Update, August 2011

It’s the middle of the month and I’m just now writing my monthly skin/acne update for August.  That is never a good sign.  My skin took a big step back during August and I’ve been procrastinating at writing this post.  It was too depressing for several reasons.

THE GOOD:  I have remained successful at staying away from sweets, white flour, white rice and the other laundry list of foods I can’t have, but I have a confession. 

THE BAD:  I developed a massive addiction to the ‘sea salted cashew’ that started out slow this summer, but got really ridiculous in August.  I remember reading that nuts are on the ‘eat with caution’ list, along with cooking oil, in terms of acne production.  I didn’t worry about that because prior to this summer, nuts were never a big part of my diet due to the high caloric count.  Since I’ve lost a lot of weight due to my diet change, the caloric count in foods have taken a back seat (here enters the sea salted cashew).  Cashews became my after breakfast snack, my after lunch snack, my before dinner snack and any snack in between I deemed necessary. 

THE ACNE:  Early on, I couldn’t narrow down what was causing my acne flare-ups.  It was primarily appearing on the sides of my face, close to my ears.  I had made a slight adjustment to the products I was putting on my hair (a bit more shea butter) and I sleep on my sides a lot.  So, I figured too much Shea butter was coming in contact with my skin and I need to do a better job at cleaning my satin pillow cover and head scarves daily.  That didn’t work.  I’m nearing the end of my marathon training, so I figured I need to do a better job at replacing my fluids/water.  That didn’t work.  Earlier in the summer, I had added Sea buckthorn oil to my face moisturizer, so I went back to my usual.  That wasn’t it either. 

I held on tight to my supersized can of cashews and thought it couldn’t be…it couldn’t be.  Unfortunately, it was the cause.  My skin started to clear up within days of giving them up.  You have no idea how much it pains me to admit.  It’s sad to know how sensitive my skin is in this food and acne rollercoaster.  It’s like walking a tightrope.  It’s highly likely I can eat some nuts without a reaction.  I’ve read eating raw is better and I may give it a try at some point.  I need to wait until I’ve completely overcome my addiction.  I miss them terribly.

My Routine: Cleanser

There was a time, well before I figured out what truly caused my acne, when I hoped I could prevent new breakouts by topical means (silly, I know).  So I investigated and made many changes to my skincare routine.  I’ve used countless drugstore products; prescription products and skincare lines that contained so many chemicals, it bleached my towels.  I never did delve into high-end skincare lines because I don’t believe the more expensive products provide the better care.  What I’ve learned after many trials was my skin does better when I use more natural products or products with more pronounceable ingredients.

It is quite possible your acne can be attributable to what you’re putting on your skin, especially for makeup wearers.  It’s important to examine all aspects of your skin routine.  There may be an ingredient or a combination of ingredients that may be exacerbating outbreaks.  I thought I’d share my routine.  Let’s start with cleanser.

I’ve been using African Black Soap to cleanse my skin for two years and have no plans on trying something different.  It cleans my skin without drying it out.  It also contains healing properties.  More importantly, it’s relatively cheap.  I buy my Ghanaian African Black Soap online (‘ABS’) in bulk in either 1lb or 2lb blocks for less than $25, which lasts me about 5 months.  The soap is soft so I can easily break it up into smaller pieces and store it in a freezer back for future use.


Quick Facts:

  • ABS originates from West Africa and has been used for centuries in Ghana.   Each region and tribe has their own recipe that has been handed down through generations.
  • The color of this type of soap ranges from light brown to deep black, depending on indigenous ingredients and method of production.  Palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter and shea butter are commonly used as base oil, while the lye component, usually in the form of potash (potassium hydroxide), is derived from the ashes of plantain skins, cocoa pods, shea tree bark and the by-products of shea butter production.  ABS from coastal regions of Africa contains a higher percentage of coconut oil whereas soap from the interior regions contains more shea butter.
  • ABS contains Vitamin A, E and Iron and is suitable for all skin types.  ABS can be used to help heal acne scars; remove rashes; remove makeup and slow the aging process as it contains antioxidants.  Black soap is very beneficial for reducing the discomforts that are associated with skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema.
  • The soap lathers like your typical bar soap and is soft and pliable in your hands.  As it is soft, it dissolves easily in water and should be left to dry when not in use.  If purchased in bulk, ensure it is stored in a dry place or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Beware of fake black soap, which is typically American or European made and is hard like a regular bar soap.  It is dyed black, does not contain any traditional ingredients and is chemically processed.

When purchasing African Black Soap, try to purchase it from a fair trade organization.  Fair trade means that the women making the soap are paid at a fair rate and are provided with benefits and vacation/sick leave.  Learn more about fair trade – Fair Trade Federation.

Sweet Acne: Update, July 2011

So, I’ve stuck with my no sugar, dairy, white bread or white pasta diet, but I did slip up once and ate some Spanish rice.  (Oops.  It wasn’t a lot though, just a delicious side dish.)  Thank goodness I don’t have bad news to report for July.  I’ve been running a lot more outside this summer and my skin rejected the sunscreen I used earlier in the month.  I got some minor flare-ups in return, but it cleared and didn’t return when I switched sunscreens.  Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t wear sunscreen on a daily basis.  I know, for shame!