Today we’re looking at some miracle acne treatments and why some of the most famous miracle cures for acne totally failed me. Plus, I’m sharing some insights and tips for clearer, healthier skin.
I, for one, completely understand how easy it can be to spend hours and hours researching acne treatments online (I’ve been there), and finally decide to spend a small fortune (I’ve been here hundreds of times) on a supplement or product that has bloggers and forum contributors shouting from the roof tops about how this treatment cleared their skin in a matter of weeks. I also 100% know how devastating it feels to have these treatments completely fail you and in some cases, make your acne worse! I’ve been there…SO MANY TIMES. More times than I can even count! It started right back to when I was a teen and was desperately seeking that miracle acne treatment that would banish my acne for good. My doctor would prescribe me some new antibiotic or topical cream and I’d have so much hope that THIS time, THIS will be the acne treatment for me. 6 weeks later I have to come to terms with the fact that this particular so-called miracle acne treatment was just another one for the bin… Leaving me totally devastated and my self esteem at an all new low.
Fast forward 12 years later, having had zero results from conventional medicine, I turned my attention to more safer, natural treatments to banish my acne. Over the course of the following 3 years I spent every moment of my spare time searching for that miracle acne treatment that was going to be the key to healing my skin and rebuilding my crushed self esteem. It’s safe to say I tried pretty much everything I could possible get my hands on. I tried diets and supplements in combination, on their own, at different times of the day, different brands…but I always tried everything for a minimum of 3 months as this is generally the time your skin needs to start making a difference. So many people try a supplement for a month and when they haven’t seen miracle results, they chuck it on the ‘failed’ pile. You must, must, MUST give 3 months before you decided if an acne treatment is a yes or a no for you.
With so many different ‘miracle’ acne treatments recommended and available on the web, I thought I would compile just some of the ones that didn’t work for me and also look into WHY they didn’t work for me, when they worked for so many others!
6 miracle cures for acne that didn’t work for me
I’ll start from the beginning and look at the conventional medicines that’s didn’t work for me and later on, the natural miracle acne cures that didn’t work for me either.
There are a number of different antibiotics that are prescribed for acne including Doxycycline, Erythromycin and Clindamycin. While these antibiotics may provide some temporary relief to acne, when the treatment is stopped, the acne often comes back a lot worse.
Even though I was on long term antibiotics for over 3 months, I never really saw improvement in my skin and when I came off, my acne got soo much worse, so I tried a different antibiotic and that didn’t work either and it ended up being this vicious cycle! Eventually, after numerous failed attempts at controlling my acne with antibiotics, my doctor put me on the contraceptive pill, which helped a little bit – but never fully cleared my skin. Then, when I came off the pill 8 years later – my skin exploded!
why did antibiotics not work for me?
The problem with antibiotics is they are just a sticky plaster. Like most conventional medicine, they do not treat the root cause of your acne. Whether it’s an underlying digestive, blood sugar or hormone related issue, antibiotics are not the answer. If your acne is caused by a gut issue then antibiotics will actually just make your problem a whole lot worse and that’s what I think the key issue for me was. My early teens was spent battling health issues like Glandular Fever, acid reflux, food allergies and chronic constipation…all huge signs of an unhappy gut and the constant antibiotics was just killing off my internal ecosystem bit by bit and making my immune system and digestive issues even worse!
Worryingly, the last 30 years has seen an alarming increase in resistance to antibiotics commonly employed to treat acne and the P.acnes bacteria. What’s even more scary is that antibiotic resistance has been shown in acne patients in as little as 8 weeks. I took this little snippet from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to summarise why we should care about antibiotic resistance.
“Antibiotic resistance can cause conditions that were once easily treatable with antibiotics to become dangerous infections, prolonging suffering. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are often more difficult to kill and more expensive to treat.”
Rather than taking antibiotics, you may find that a probiotic supplement does more to help with acne. Gut health is increasingly linked with skin health and taking probiotics will support the healthy bacteria that live in the gut, restoring balance and helping the body to eliminate toxins effectively.
Oh the contraceptive pill… where do I begin?
Birth control pills are often prescribed as a miracle cure for acne but can actually be really problematic as they contains very high amounts of synthetic hormones which can send our body and skin totally out of whack, especially if we’re already suffering from skin/hormonal problems. A woman’s natural cycle is composed of rising and falling levels of oestrogen and progesterone, however, when you take the contraceptive pill you are supplied and constant high level of synthetic oestrogen to trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant so another pregnancy cannot occur. All this excess oestrogen is highly toxic and a key reason behind acne – it causes a hormonal imbalance known as oestrogen dominance/low progesterone which triggers other hormone imbalances that cause acne. The pill also depletes vitamins and minerals, causes insulin resistance which can create PCOS-like symptoms and also has a really damaging effect on your gut flora. However, the worst was to come when I came off the pill after 8 years! Years of being on the pill meant that I was in serious trouble with all these symptoms above and my skin erupted like never before. Coming off the pill meant the sticky plaster was off, and all my symptoms returned ten times worse.
You can read more about why the contraceptive pill is NEVER the answer for acne OR hormone balance here.
why did the pill not work for me?
A lifetime of chronic constipation teamed with a love of junk food wasn’t a match for the miracle cure for acne which is ‘The Pill’. Just like antibiotics, Accutane and conventional skin care systems – you’re not addressing the root cause of your acne when you’re prescribed the contraceptive pill so your acne will likely come back when you come off it, and unfortunately for many, it comes back a hundred times worse!
For tips on how to avoid acne after coming off the pill, check out this blog post here.
Often described as a last resort and the King of miracle cures for acne… While Accutane* is one of the few acne treatments I’ve never actually tried (I’ve been very close on a number of occassions), I wanted to include it in this post as more and more clients are coming me having tried Accutane in the past with miracle results initially, but finding that their acne is resurfacing after months, or even years of being clear.
*Accutane is a pharmaceutical drug that requires regular patient check-ups and health checks due to its toxicity within the body. It’s been known to cause birth defects, liver problems, depression/anxiety and even suicide so it’s not a drug that can be taken without proper medical supervision and prescription.
why will accutane not work for me?
From what I’ve learnt about my body over the last few years and the main causes behind my acne I know that Accutane would never have been a long term fix for me. Accutane would never have healed my gut or addressed my blood sugar imbalances so my acne would likely have come back at some point. Also, all the other health symptoms I was experiencing (PMS, heavy/painful periods, fatigue, headaches, anxiety etc) would not have been addressed at all, so while it may have temporarily cleared my acne, I’d still be suffering with all the other health symptoms that made me feel miserable on a daily/monthly basis.
While the high dose vitamin A pharmaceutical drug, Accutane, may have improved and cleared my acne in 3-6 months, so did taking high-dose vitamin A cod liver oil along with a healing diet with absolutely zero unwanted symptoms! Plus, my healing diet and nutrient-rich Cod Liver Oil cured every single one of my health and hormonal concerns within 5 months! My periods now come and go without any pain at all and mood swings, premenstrual acne and headaches are all a thing of the past.
skin care systems
Whilst I was trying every acne antibiotic available in the UK, I was also experimenting with different skin care ranges – usually a 3-step acne regime. The brands I experimented with included ProActive, Dermalogica and Clinique and none of them provided me any relief from my constant breakouts. After I started working as a promo girl for an organic skin care brand, I quickly learnt of all the horrible ingredients in conventional skin care and the reason why my skin never improved on these systems that were claimed to be miracle acne cures. They sell it hard, and they sell it well, if you’ve ever seen an advert for these brands *ahem* ProActive *ahem* you’ll know exactly what I mean. Even now, knowing what I know about skin care and acne, I still get sucked in by these ads and believe they could be the miracle cures I’m looking for, even though in my head AND my heart, I know the damage they ACTUALLY do to the skin.
At 18 I started switching to natural skin care and tried everything from Tea Tree and Thyme spot treatments, to Clove, Honey and Cinnamon face masks. While I saw a reduction in redness and irritation after switching to natural skin care, even this didn’t stop the spots from forming as my acne was coming from deep within and NO skin care product was going to fix that.
why did skin care not work for me?
Just like antibiotics, skin care almost always doesn’t fix the root cause of your acne. For the occasional few, where their acne is caused by comedogenic ingredients in their skin care, the switch to a natural, safe, non-pore clogging beauty regime can be all it takes to clear your acne. However for the majority of us, we need to take various other steps and focus on our internal health to achieve permanently clear skin.
Both conventional AND natural products can cause problems for those with acne but conventional products are far, far worse, they often contain pore clogging ingredients such as SLS and mineral oils, irritating ingredients like preservatives and fragrance and worst of all, hormone disrupting chemicals that can have a devastating effect on our bodies. Whilst many natural products are safe and don’t contain the harsh ingredients listed above, they can still be problematic for those with acne. Coconut, Argan, Palm, Soybean, Olive and Wheatgerm are all really common ingredients in natural skin care but can cause skin reactions and/or can be highly pore-clogging. Essential oils can also be an issue for those with hypersensitive, damaged skin with acne from over cleansing or the overuse of acids and harsh conventional skin care systems.
For some of my favourite acne friendly skin care products, visit this page here.
EstroBlock or DIM supplements is probably the most commonly hailed miracle cures for acne in the natural health world. EstroBlock is the brand name for a supplement thats active ingredient is a compound called DIM. DIM, or Diindolylmethane, is found predominantly in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and works as an excellent anti-androgen and excess oestrogen detoxer – two key steps in the fight against hormonal acne. Remember what I said earlier about the pill causing a hormone imbalance where you have too much excess oestrogen? Well it’s DIM supplements that help your body get rid of unwanted oestrogen caused by the pill. However, it’s not just the pill that causes oestrogen dominance, you can also develop this hormone imbalance due to a poor functioning liver and simply due to your current lifestyle. Synthetic oestrogen, also known as xenoestrogens, are found in cosmetics, plastic bottles, pesticides, canned foods, other hormonal birth control methods and so much more so the toxic build-up of excess oestrogen over time is becoming more and more common in modern day life!
why did estroblock not work for me?
I had so much faith in this product after reading so many ‘miracle cure’ type hype and I was devastated that after taking it for over a year that I never saw amazing results. I knew for a fact that high androgens and excess oestrogen were an issue for me, so why did it not work? While I can’t say for sure, I have a couple of suspicions as to why Estroblock didn’t really work for me when I first tried it.
Firstly, looking back, I don’t think my diet was sustainable enough for any ‘miracle cures’ to work their magic! I followed the Delgado Protocol alongside taking EstroBlock which was high carb and minimal fat and while that way of eating may work for some people, as a girl with PCOS symptoms and a bad gut due to coeliac disease, this lifestyle wasn’t giving me the nutrients I needed to heal. A supplement cannot out-perform the wrong diet so if you’re not eating right for your body, then NO AMOUNT of supplements will heal your acne.
Secondly, I have a feeling that due to my severe insulin resistance and high androgens and androgen sensitivity, the dose of EstroBlock I was taking wasn’t enough to achieve the desired results. I’ve read on the EstroBlock website that some people need to take up to 4 capsules if the Triple Strength a day! I only ever took 1 or 2 a day (1-2 month supply) so this dose would have been very expensive. Increasing my dose to 4x a day would only last me 2 weeks and would cost over £60 a month!* On the plus side, if you’re going to see results with this miracle cure, you will do so within 3 months (if you’re at the right dose) so £60 a month for 3 months may be justified as you don’t have to take it long term. Once you do achieve clear skin, you can normally drop down to 1 capsule a day and still maintain great skin – some can even come off it completely. If you’re currently taking EstroBlock and seen some improvement but not a miracle cure, I would try increasing your dose by 1x capsule a day (split into two dose) and see if that helps.
*Once I started eating a hormonally optimal and healing diet and saw huge improvements in diet alone, I tried taking EstroBlock again after about 4 months into my healing. This time at a higher dose and I had better results.
vitex / agnus castus
Vitex and EstroBlock/DIM are often used together in the fight against acne and period problems. Vitex works by preventing your pituitary gland from producing too much prolactin. High prolactin can cause reduced FSH levels which then results in ovulation problems. No ovulation = no progesterone production, and low progesterone and high oestrogen can cause all sorts of hormonal issues including acne and missing periods (amenorrhea).
Whilst Agnus Castus is a powerful herb that has some impressive hormone balancing qualities, it isn’t an overnight cure and it definitely isn’t a good supplement for everyone. You will need to take Agnus Castus consistently for 3-4 months before you start to notice improvements and quite often, people find their skin gets worse before it gets better.
why did vitex not work for me?
On paper, Vitex (or Agnus Castus in the UK) seems like the perfect solution for me. It’s great for PMS, breast pain, irregular periods and of course acne – all symptoms I’d been struggling with for a long time. After the initial ‘gets worse before it gets better’ phase, I thought my skin was improving a little bit, but after continuing to take Vitex for over a year my skin didn’t clear up. Why? After reading Lara Briden’s book The Period Repair Manual, I learnt that Vitex can make some hormonal imbalances worse – especially if you have PCOS. According to Lara Briden, this is because Vitex assists in raising Lutenizing Hormone (LH), a hormone that is already elevated in many cases of PCOS – such as post-pill PCOS and insulin resistance PCOS (the most common types of PCOS). You can find out about the different types of PCOS on Lara’s blog post here. It’s really important to remember that Vitex is a really potent herb and should only be taken if you are 100% sure of the specific hormone imbalances you have.
a ‘healthy’ diet
Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Juice Cleanses, Water Fasts, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Fruit Free…I’ve tried them all! And none of them cleared my acne, and in some cases actually made my skin a lot worse!
The issue with all of these diets is that they don’t really address one of the key issues behind adult acne, and that’s blood sugar imbalances and our own unique carb tolerance level. Not properly anyway. Yes, they can all HELP towards improving blood sugar imbalances but for some people, cutting out junk food just isn’t enough! There are tonnes of people out there who HAVE seen miracle results from simply changing their diet. Some are extremely lucky and just have to cut out processed foods and eat more vegetables to see miracle results in their skin, others may find that they also need to cut out sugar, others may need to cut out gluten, grains or sweet fruits too – it all depends on your unique carb tolerance level. Only when you developed an understand of this, you can start to see great result with your skin.
On a completely different note, I’m seeing more and more new clients suffering with disordered eating habits, full of fear and anxiety that foods x, y and z will cause a major breakout the next day. I’ve been there myself, struggling with orthorexia and constantly restricting my diet further and further every couple of weeks when I wasn’t seeing results. At the time I believed I was being super healthy, but I now know that’s far from true. It took me two years of experimentation and gaining a diploma in Nutritional Therapy for me to understand the importance of getting the RIGHT nutrients at the RIGHT time for our health, our mind and our skin.
why did a healthy diet not work for me?
For the first two years of my acne healing journey, I was eating what I thought was eating the healthiest diet I could eat. Zero processed foods, added sugar or alcohol, plenty of carbohydrates from ‘healthy’ whole grains, lots of fruit and vegetables, some protein and some healthy fat from avocado and a bit of coconut oil. As someone with poor digestion, hormone imbalances, acne and other PCOS symptoms this turned out NOT to be the right way of eating for me. For the body to heal quickly and effectively, we often need LOTS of healthy fats to help our bodies produce the right amount of hormones, sufficient protein for building blocks to help heal the body and gentle carbohydrates in the form of starchy vegetables for energy. Once I slightly increased my protein intake, massively increased my healthy fat intake and removed all grains and sweet fruits from my diet and focused on vegetables and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash, I started to see proper results for the first time in 2 years. It took me a while to learn the key to a lower carb diet and I made plenty of mistakes on the way but as soon as I started releasing that the more healthy fat I ate, the less I craved junk food, my hanger disappeared, I no longer relied on snacking all day and my fear of food dramatically reduced. Once I started believing in the healing powers of a higher fat diet, I fully embraced this way of eating, fell in love with delicious, simple, ENJOYABLE foods and let go of so many distorted, unhealthy eating habits I’d picked up over the previous two years of restrictive ‘diets’. Although there were no ‘miracle cures’ or quick fixes here and my skin still took around 5 months to heal, I saw big improvements and knew it was working for me within the first 6-8 weeks.
Have you been let down by any miracle cures for acne? Let me know your stories in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin,