My Skin Journey #1: Volcanoes, HS, and Diet

Skin as of October 2017

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been well. I know it’s been a while since my last post. I caught the plague a couple weeks ago and have been recovering and it’s been a slow process. For what it’s worth, here I am with lots to share! I had been planning on creating a series of posts to keep you all updated with my skin’s progress (or lack of) and I’ll be calling it “My Skin Journey”. In this case, it’s a lack of progress. My skin goes through stages where it fights me on everything and every now and again I get lucky and it acts like it’s improving or playing nice and then BAMMO I get a volcano (or two) and they chill out on my face where they cause me some pain for a few days, then they decide to erupt on their own and alas, I’m stuck with the pain of having the drain it carefully—and then having a giant wound on my face. It’s truly a lovely sight.

Here’s what I know so far—based on what I learned from my previous natural path doctor and my experimentation and eliminations in my diet:

  • My skin most definitely reacts to dairy, eggs, and too much refined sugar.
  • My skin acts up the worst during my menstrual cycles.
  • Even if my skin calms down based on a good diet, it doesn’t fully clear up ever.
  • No amount of skincare routines, products, tricks, etc. will change what is happening on my face.
  • My HS (Hidradenitis Suppurativa) is mild, but it can also get exacerbated if I don’t eat right as well. My HS is separate from the cystic acne that happens on my face.

If you want a more detailed look at my diet restrictions based on the allergy test conducted with my doctor, check out my very first blog post. If you’ve seen the list, I don’t follow it as strictly as I did when I first began the diet and eliminations back in April of 2017. For example, I mainly only strictly avoid the items that were listed on my “avoid” list. Anything under the “moderate” list such as avocados, bananas, apples, etc., I’ve been eating again without any visible consequences, however that being said since I can’t tell what exactly those moderate food items do to me on the inside or the outside so I just heavily limit how much I eat of it at once and how often. So for example, if I had avocados one day, I try not to have it too many days in a row. I’ll alter the days I have a moderate food item to every other day or like once a week. So for smoothies, I don’t always add bananas and sometimes I do. While I was seeing my doctor, she also had me limit my caffeine intake and I went from having coffee every day, to every other day, and eventually cut it down to once or twice a week for the past year. I’ve also fell away from my caffeine limitations and have it more often than I did the past year—I typically have coffee a few times a week and sometimes every day, but I try not to. I personally think if I have too much it doesn’t sit well with my skin.

I wanted to share a visual of the fluctuating stages my skin goes through. It’s 95% of the time the same—very bumpy in texture, red in color, and pretty inflamed. I usually say I’m having a good skin phase when it’s not as red and inflamed. My skin will always have texture I presume because of all the scarring and scar tissue underneath any new skin that has formed.

Here are some photos to show my skin’s progression from good, to what it is now:

July 2016

My skin as of July 2016

Then something happened over the next six or so months. February of 2017 my skin started acting up. I hadn’t changed or done anything really different that I know of. So I always chalk it up to my body just getting fed up with what I had been doing. You’ll see that in July 2016, I had some marks and scarring, but come February 2017, some of the marks became more agitated and stuck around.

At this point, I decided to visit my dermatologist and they gave me some acne medication I didn’t agree with and I was in the ER for a short stint. You can read about that in my first blog post, too. After recovering from the hospital my skin just stayed angry. This is March 2017:

Skin in March 2017

Fast forward to October 2017. I’m off birth control and still on the restrictive diet (side note: I say I’m on a strict diet and I followed it for at least 6 months religiously. I did occasionally cheat and have stuff I wasn’t supposed to like eggs or dairy because yolo.) This is also what it’s like when it gets to its worst stages. Something like March 2017’s photos is more of my “good skin days”.
Skin in October 2017

Sometimes I’ll get a combination of the overall inflammation you see above with what I refer to as “volcanoes” below. This was just last month! January 2018—this is one that healed up and went away until today. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me griping about it in my stories. I’ve created a Stories Highlight for blog related things so you’ll find live skin updates there if you’re interested. This photo below is the worst phase of the stage where it just starts to erupt on its own and then ultimately it does burst and I have to essentially drain and clean it out. It’s a gross and painful process.

Skin in January 2018

These next few photos were taken last week, February 20th, 2018. I’d say these photos depict what my skin looks like most of the time pretty accurately, minus the giant volcano. It’s usually just all the extra noise you see.

Skin as of Feb 20, 2018

So, now what? I’m not sure. I’ve decided to stay on my current diet as it does help (even if it’s just a little bit) to keep things in check—I’m mostly plant-based/vegan. I say mostly because I am not full on vegan, I still eat seafood and occasionally still eat meat. However, my skin and body/digestive system do much better when I limit meat. I eat meat probably once a month if that. I do eat seafood pretty regularly and it’s typically sushi, poke, or actual steaks of salmon or halibut. I do consume a good amount of shrimp, too. I’ve considered getting back on birth control because I feel like it definitely kept the crazy volcanoes on my face in check, as well as helped a little with my HS. However, I feel good with or without birth control, but I really need to find a new doctor so I can discuss what my options are.

What I know I don’t want to do unless absolutely necessary or as a last resort, is to go to a dermatologist and get put on acne medication again. Two things:

  • I would be willing to take meds again but I’m deathly afraid I’ll have a bad reaction and end up in the hospital again.
  • Or, I’ll take the meds and be okay and my skin will clear up, but my skin will only cooperate with me while on the meds or for max a year and then begin to become inflamed again.

What I do want to do is find a new doctor or dermatologist that will try helping me find the root cause. I don’t want to just cover this up with makeup, skincare, or temporarily relieving acne medication. I’ve been doing all that for so long, I will either live this way until I die or find something that helps me control these flareups for good. I do have an inkling that maybe I might have PCOS, but I still need to get hormone testing done. I shall update as soon as there is movement on that front. Until then, I’ll continue doing what I think works best and sharing with all of you.

Tell me, do you suffer from incurable cystic acne? Do you know what causes your inflammation? Is it diet related, hormones? Let me know in the comments if you’re in the same boat as me. Thanks for reading if you got this far, I’ll be back soon with a post about what I eat in a day and the foods I’ve found that “trigger” my inflammations. Until next time!