Fluoride, Perioral Dermatitis & Acne: An Interview with Melissa Gallico
In this blog post, I’ve teamed up with Melissa Gallico – superwoman and fellow acne warrior – to talk all about her journey to clear skin and her revolutionary new book ‘The Hidden Cause of Acne‘. If you’ve not caught up on the theory as to why fluoride toxicity could be the reason you’re unable to clear your acne, then I recommend catching up on my previous blog posts here:
You may have realised that this whole fluoride thang is a topic I’m pretty pumped on so I can’t recommend Melissa’s book enough. I read it cover to cover in a matter of days and it totally changed the way I thought about food and drink. I’ve been fluoride-free with my dental care for almost a year now so I’d already bought into the fluoride-free concept but Melissa’s book exposes all the gross, horrible ways the food industry sneaks toxins into food we eat. It blew me away and I urge you to grab a copy of The Hidden Cause of Acne, do your research and begin healing yourself from this major acne trigger.
fluoride, perioral dermatitis & acne: an interview with melissa gallico
A: In your book, you talk about all the times you went abroad to non-fluoridated countries and your skin always improved, yet when you returned to the USA you quickly started breaking out again – how quickly did you start breaking out and how quickly did it clear when you moved to non-fluoridated areas?
M: When I returned to the United States, the reaction was very fast, within a day or two. It was a more gradual process for my acne to clear up when I left, approximately 3-4 weeks.
A: You also mentioned in your book that even when you were living in non-fluoridated Scotland, you still suffered cystic acne simply from using your fluoridated travel toothpaste when you went out of town for the night? It’s crazy that just a couple of uses of fluoridated toothpaste could trigger such bad breakouts. A lot of my readers overlook the fluoride/acne connection as they don’t live in an area where their water is fluoridated but toothpaste alone can be a huge trigger right?
M: I don’t recall if the outbreaks from toothpaste were cystic or not, I just remember thinking that my skin broke out while I was traveling because my diet was different than what I normally ate at home. I did not suspect my toothpaste until much later, after I figured out the fluoride connection.
Yes, dental products like fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash are enough to cause skin reactions in some people. The Fluoride Action Network has a collection of studies on their website that document skin sensitivity to topical fluorides, including perioral dermatitis. Perioral dermatitis looks like acne and appears primarily in women around the nasolabial folds (laugh lines). Dermatologists differentiate it from acne by defining acne as a result of blocked pores while perioral dermatitis is caused by contact with an irritant.
I also hear from people quite often who think they are at low risk of fluoride sensitivity because they drink well water or bottled water. Many people don’t realize that a lot of water sources contain high amounts of fluoride naturally, and it can change over time. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control recommends retesting well water for fluoride every three years. People also underestimate the amount of fluoride they are exposed to in their diet from sources other than drinking water. For example, tea is naturally high in fluoride and from what I remember from my time living in the United Kingdom, lots of people like to drink it there! 🙂
You also have to take into account all the foods made with fluoridated water, such as cereal or beer, in addition to foods grown with the use of fluoride-based pesticides, such as chicken or wine. It is difficult to have a low fluoride diet these days unless you know how to deliberately limit it. Hopefully the book makes that easy by explaining where the fluoride in our food supply comes from. For example, once you know that fluoride-based pesticides are predominately used on wine grapes from one region of California, you can still enjoy wine simply by choosing a bottle from any other region.
A: Yes! I love drinking Rose wine in the summer but they’re nearly ALWAYS from California – your book taught me to always avoid Californian wines so it’s something I always check before ordering at a bar – even my boyfriend knows to avoid US wines now!
One of the most interesting parts of your book that really caught my attention was the link you made between milk consumption and acne. This really struck home with me as I’ve been in a place where I feared every single type of dairy and avoided it for years due to my acne and I know that so many of my readers are literally terrified of dairy! Are you able to tell us more about why milk may not be the acne-devil it’s made out to be?
M: Dermatologists don’t yet have a clear picture of the relationship between dairy and acne, but many of them suspect it has something to do with the hormones milk contains. However, it is interesting that the research only indicates a correlation between acne and low-fat dairy products. Why would that be? Wouldn’t full-fat dairy products contain more hormones and thereby cause more acne?
I propose a different hypothesis in the book. It’s a bit of a rabbit hole, but when you start looking at the composition of low-fat dairy products, they are not simply milk with some of the fat removed. Most of them are heavily processed and can contain a slew of strange ingredients. I zeroed in on low-fat milk solids because of a study from researchers in Iran that showed low-fat milk solids can be high in fluoride if processed with fluoridated water. There is still much research to be done on this topic before we have a clear understanding of the correlation between dairy and acne, but in the meantime, I suggest that if you chose to consume dairy products, try to buy the highest quality possible, preferably organic products that are traditionally processed and come from animals who live on pasture.
A: It’s so interesting, the truth is we just don’t really know exactly how or IF dairy causes acne? Processed foods containing ‘dairy’ often use cheap produce or powdered milk which you say in your book can contain extremely high concentrations on fluoride. My friend Kezia from Supernaturally Healthy calls these kinds of milk ‘Franken-milks’ which I think is amazing and so true! They’re so heavily processed and so far removed from REAL milk, they shoudn’t even be classified as milk! There’s also the whole debate about whether A1 dairy from cows contributes to inflammation, where A2 dairy from goat/sheep etc doesn’t have the same inflammatory effect so is often well tolerated by acne sufferers (unless you also have underlying digestive issues that need addressing).
A lot of my clients and readers of this blog expect very quick and immediate results, which is often not the case. Once you discovered the secret to keeping your skin effortlessly clear and consciously started cutting out as much fluoride, how long before you were able to fully get clear and how long have you been free from acne for?
M: It took me years of painful trial and error to figure out how to limit the fluoride in my diet enough to clear my skin. The idea that my acne was caused by fluoride first came to me in 2008 and I’d say I had it pretty well figured out by 2010 or 2011. Fortunately for your readers, their experience with this is likely to be much shorter than mine was. I’ve heard from readers who were able to heal decades of acne in one month. The key is the cheat sheet for chapter 4 that lists all the common sources of dietary fluoride.
Without a cheat sheet to go off of, I spent a lot of time during those early years spinning my wheels. Everyone seemed to think it was a crazy idea that fluoride could be the cause of my acne and every time my skin relapsed, I doubted it myself. But then I would do some investigative work and figure out that while I thought I was avoiding fluoride, there was yet another source sneaking its way into my diet.
For example, since 97 percent of western Europe does not fluoridate its water supply, I made a policy that when I was out in a social situation, I would only order beer from Europe. I learned the hard way that Newcastle is one of the few cities in Europe that fluoridates its water. Likewise, the first time I ordered soup again in a restaurant (after ensuring the water was not fluoridated), my skin had a horrible reaction that lasted weeks. That is when I learned that bones used to make chicken stock are incredibly high in fluoride due to fluoride-based pesticides in their feed.
A: If you’re living in a fluoridated area, which SO many of my readers are, it must feel like a pretty daunting task having to totally re-think everything you eat or drink and investigate it’s original source and manufacturing process? Switching to a simple, healthier diet can be hard enough! Do you have any tips for my readers on switching over to a fluoride free lifestyle if they’re living in a high-risk area?
M: Great question! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with so much new information. Switching to non-fluoridated dental products is an easy place to start. Then take a look at what you drink throughout the day and try to ensure all your beverages are low in fluoride. You might need to call your local water authority, have your well tested, or contact the manufacturer. Even if you have to rely on bottled water for a bit, it will help you figure out the extent to which fluoride is affecting your skin.
As for other dietary sources of fluoride, try to reduce your consumption of items on the cheat sheet and keep it handy for when you do have a breakout. Since these reactions happen so quickly (often within hours), you might be able to track it back to something on the list.
Finally, focus on looking for improvements in your skin as opposed to expecting to heal all of your acne in the first two weeks. It’s difficult to root out every major source of fluoride all at once. But as long as you are seeing improvement, you will know you’re headed in the right direction.
A: I totally agree! I’m constantly telling my follows to celebrate the little improvements and not expect miracles within 2 weeks. Healing just doesn’t work like that!
I know a lot of my readers ask me the question “do I have to be strict with my diet for the rest of my life?” You’ve spent a long time “acne proofing” your skin via the protocols outlined in your book? Are you now able to tolerate fluoride in small doses or do you still have to be extremely careful with what you eat?
M: Thanks to my acne, I’ve become so accustomed to eating a low-fluoride diet that it feels virtually effortless. It helps that I now live in a non-fluoridated town. I don’t have to worry about things like rice or mashed potatoes when I go out to eat at a local restaurant.
The last chapter in the book deals with my efforts to acne-proof my skin by displacing the fluoride stored in my bones and other tissue with iodine. The half-life of fluoride is estimated to be 20 years, which means half the fluoride you consume today will still be in your body 20 years later. But a team of doctors have been experimenting with shortening that timeframe through supplementation with iodine, an essential nutrient that is similar in chemical composition to fluoride. I’ve been on their iodine protocol for a while and it’s been interesting to observe the increasing levels of fluoride released in the 24-hour urine test they developed. I don’t know how long it will take to detoxify enough fluoride to truly be acne-proof, or even if it is possible. I had a glass of questionable California wine recently and did develop a small breakout on my chin, so it doesn’t look like I’m there yet. But I’m still working on it.
A: I think we both preach that skin care is a tiny part of the whole picture, but there are some simple techniques out there that can be great for calming a breakout! One of my favourite treatments is alternating warm and cold compresses on a breakout – what’s your favourite method of calming a breakout?
M: This was my favorite chapter in the book to write. Skincare products can be so much fun! But like you said, they don’t play a major role in healing the root cause of acne. Too often they only make things worse. But once you understand how fluoride causes acne, it’s easy to see why certain products and treatments are more effective than others. The one I saw the most immediate improvement from is sweating. I use a near infrared sauna now, but back when I had acne I relied on a small facial sauna to get rid of a breakout quickly. They are inexpensive and really speed up the healing process. Just 20 minutes of steam is all it takes.
A: I love steaming too! I think it’s also a great opportunity to give yourself some ‘me time’, give yourself a steam, apply a mask and finish off with some lymphatic massage – so good for your skin and your soul!
I’m sure you’re often faced with a lot of scepticism when it comes to this topic, the government and the dental industry have done a great job of making many people believe that fluoride is essential for dental health…with little thought to any other harmful effects that fluoride may have on the rest of the body…how do you respond to people who find it hard to see that fluoride could be behind your acne breakouts?
M: It’s completely understandable that people would be skeptical of the idea that fluoride causes acne. I drank fluoridated water and used fluoridated toothpaste for most of my life without a second thought. Why would all the experts be wrong?
The critical piece of information that prompted me to look at the issue more deeply is when I learned that the fluoride added to the water supply is a toxic byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry, a fact clearly displayed on the CDC’s website (and also by the skull and crossbones symbols that are required by law on the bags of fluoride added to the water supply—I included a picture of one on my petition to end fluoridation at Change.org). The EPA prohibits the release of this byproduct into the air where it is known to be a lethal pollutant, but they condone adding it to the water supply?
I’ve found that relaying this one simple fact is an effective shortcut for getting people to understand that the deeper story of fluoridation is, in effect, a pollution story. Unfortunately there are far too many historical examples of instances where the experts endorsed the safety of certain industrial poisons. It’s a sad story that is all too familiar to most people.
A: Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to all the women out there suffering from acne, what would it be?
M: I think the mental/emotional component of healing is more important than we realize. Before I figured out the fluoride connection, I tried to release all the negative emotions I was feeling towards my acne. As hard as it was, I did my best to be thankful for it and to listen to what it was trying to tell me. I believe this emotional release laid the groundwork for the physical healing that was soon to come. We spend so much time “fighting” acne, but it’s not an enemy. I didn’t understand it back then, but my acne was protecting me. You’re not at war with your body. You’re on the same team.
A: Yaaasss! You couldn’t have said it better! Healing acne isn’t just about eating the right diet, using the right skin care, avoiding toxins and taking the right supplements. Emotional healing plays a key role and more often than not, we forget (or ignore) this. We opt for changing our skin care routine, cutting things out our diet and adding in a few supplements because they make us feeling like we’re in control of the situation. Confronting our emotional traumas are much more scary and make us feel way out of our depth.
If your acne is making you scared to live your life to the full or if a new breakout turns you into an irritable, anxious hot mess, then your acne is controlling your emotions and until you learn how to process these emotions then you are going to really struggle to maintain clear skin. This is a topic that I need to cover more on this blog as it’s so so important, yet we’re all too busy search for the next diet/product/supplement that’s going to heal our skin that we miss the elephant in the room!
So that’s the end of my little love-in with the inspirational Melissa…how awesome is she?! I could chat to her for hours about the fluoride/acne connection! If you think there’s even the tiniest chance that your acne may be caused by overexposure to fluoride then Melissa’s book is a must-read. You can also check out her free resources on her website which provide lots of great info on the topic.
If you’re feeling pretty peed-off that you’re living in an artificially fluoridated area then you can also help make a change by signing Melissa’s petition!
You can also catch me chatting to Harmony from the ‘Discovering You’ Podcast about Melissa’s book and loads of other acne-related topics!
Are you starting out on your fluoride-free journey to clear your acne? What have been some of the hurdles you’ve faced and how have you overcome them? Let me know your stories in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin