Sunday, February 23, 2014

When Good Skin Goes Bad, Part II

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.
In my previous post, I began my quest to figure out why my skin has started to fuck with me. Click back there if you want to know exactly what I'm talking about, but in short, I'd been getting worse acne, blackheads, clogged and enlarged pores, fine lines/wrinkles, rough texture, etc., over a really short period of time, and it sucked. I mentioned that I had identified four possible causes for my skin's shittiness. To recap:

  • Increased use of moisturizer to combat seasonal dryness.
  • Discontinued use of BHA exfoliant.
  • Increased consumption of delicious, delicious wheat.
  • Use of battery-powered, rotating face brush for cleansing.
I started to address the second item on the list in Part I, and I'll return to it in a future post. For now, I thought I'd explain what the hell I was talking about with the other three. The thing about wheat probably sounds particularly weird.

First: moisturizer. I don't really think this was a major culprit. The moisturizers I was using didn't contain ingredients that differed much from anything I'd used successfully in the past. Plus, while this could, perhaps, explain an increase in clogged pores, it doesn't explain other problems, like lines/wrinkles.

At any rate, I've scaled way back on the moisturizing, simply because my skin seems to be adapting to the dryness and I don't need as much. That started before I took the other steps described below, and it didn't make much difference in my skin's condition.

Second: The wheat. Okay, here's the thing: my body just has a problem with wheat. I am not gluten-intolerant (I've been tested), but eating wheat does cause issues for me. The main problem is that it severely worsens the inflammation in my joints, which is pretty bad to begin with. I'm not imagining this. Wheat is inflammatory. Plus, I have tested whether or not it has a negative effect on me very extensively, like so: (1) I feel shitty (mainly joint pain in my hands, wrists, and arms - but there are other things too) so I stop eating wheat. (2) I feel dramatically better. (3) Wheat constantly taunts me with its seductive perfection and I begin to forget how shitty I felt when I was eating it. (4) I gradually start incorporating more and more wheat into my diet (bread! pizza! just a little pasta!) until . . . (5) I feel really shitty again. And repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat. At this point it is abundantly clear that wheat hurts me.

So what does this have to do with my skin? I'm not completely positive, but I have a theory that isn't any more sophisticated than this: Wheat is aggravates inflammation (at least for me). Inflammation is bad for the skin (for example, an inflamed, clogged pore = a pimple). Therefore, inflammation caused by eating wheat makes my skin worse.
Please note: I am in no way advocating that anyone who does not have a documented problem with wheat should stop eating it. I am not saying that wheat is bad for your skin. I am saying that there is a good chance that wheat is bad for my skin, since my body has demonstrated that it doesn't like it in other ways. If you can eat wheat, you should, because it is fucking amazing and everything good and beautiful in the world is made from wheat.

So I stopped eating wheat, not for the sake of my skin, but for the sake of my well-being in general. Please, if you catch me eating a bagel, smack me. (Mmmmm bagels.)

Third: face brush. I got one an ULTA brand spinning face brush in December. I started out by using once or twice a week. It didn't seem to be doing much, so I increased to almost every second day in January. Still no noticeable results. In fact, I wonder if it might have been causing some of the problems. It may, if nothing else, have been aggravating irritation to my skin that was caused by something else (inflammation from wheat, for example). 

(People often suggest these brushes as a cheaper alternative to a Clarisonic brush. Since the Clarisonic vibrates, rather than spinning, I'm not sure how useful the comparison is. What I would say is that if you are considering an expensive Clarisonic, you could try one of the spinning brushes and see if it irritates your skin. If so, that might be a sign that you don't want to shell out for the fancy version - even if a lack of improvement from the spinning brush won't necessarily mean the Clarisonic won't do anything for you. I understand that the Clarisonic has a bunch of different brushes that are more or less gentle, and since the mechanism is different, it might suit you better. Personally, I'm not going to bother with a pricey face-cleaning device. My skin is happier with a more basic, gentle routine. Oh, and that "purging" theory is probably bunk. Some people's skin never stops "purging" when they use these things, which sounds a lot like irritation to me.)

At any rate, since the brush certainly wasn't helping, I stopped using it. I guess it would have been more scientific to remove one possible trigger at a time in order to figure out exactly what was at fault. But my face isn't an experiment, and anyway, I had other motivations for changing all of these behaviors. The moisturizer wasn't needed. The wheat was hurting me. The brush was a waste of time with no good results.

I have seen some slight improvements since making the above changes, while continuing the use of the BHA product I wrote about in the last post. I actually dropped wheat a week and a half into the two weeks I initially used the BHA. The after photo below is another week and a half later, but I decreased the BHA use to 4-5 times that week instead of using it daily.

As a reminder, here's what my skin looked like when I last updated you, after 2 weeks of Clean & Clear BHA, and half a week of no wheat and no face brush.


And here it is a week and a half later, so two weeks of no wheat and no face brush, and 3.5 weeks of BHA (decreased use).


Chinny chin chin.
As I said, the improvement is minor, but it's there. The texture still isn't great, but it's not worse, and I still have some extremely clogged pores. The major difference is a decrease in inflammation. It may be hard to tell, but those zits on the right side of the photo are much improved. They're not cleared up entirely, but they are barely red at all anymore, not swollen, and not painful. The spots on my upper lip have gone away completely. (Again, the thing right below my lip on the right side of the photo is a mole, as well as the thing on the far left. Not going anywhere.)

Progress. Slow, tedious progress. In the meantime, I ordered some of the Paula's Choice BHA that I mentioned in the last post, and after I've used it for two weeks or so, I'll post again (these posts are a little delayed, so I've actually started using it now). I hope that's the ticket.

And keep the croissants away from me.


  1. Do you wear sunscreen every day?

  2. Ugh, that sucks that you are having wheat sensitivities, as wheat is not only delicious but pretty much ubiquitous in western industrialized societies!

    Just to be a pedant, though, the article on wheat you linked to does not demonstrate that wheat is inflammatory, but rather suggests "how the daily consumption of wheat products and other related cereal grains *could* contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases" (emphasis added). They pretty much acknowledge that more research is needed, especially on the effects of wheat on healthy individuals.

    On a related note, have you ruled out an autoimmune problem as the cause of your joint pain?

    1. Oh, I know, I've read a bunch of other things, but one link seemed like enough here, since it's not a post on inflammation and diet. The sentence I wrote was overly simplified though, I admit. Thanks for pointing that out. The link between eating wheat and experiencing pain is pretty clear to me, but the mechanism and any possible effects on my skin are not so obvious.

      Not ruled out, no. Some of my joint issues resemble (not severe) rheumatoid arthritis, but I haven't looked into it. I have had a series of tests to investigate other symptoms, which I am definitely not going to go into detail about in a public forum. Ha.

  3. I love your recommendations about beauty products, so I have some recommendations for you as far as not eating wheat (I believe you on the wheat, using an elimination diet to determine food intolerances is totally valid, and my daughter's gastroenterologist had us cut wheat out for her diet for tummy problems and then her eczema went away). Anyway, my tried and true ways to not miss wheat are Nut Thins, Udi's Gluten Free Bread, polenta instead of pasta, and lots of french fries.

    1. Thanks! I haven't tried all of these. I have definitely tried lots of fries though . . .

  4. Just started reading your blog and I really like the candid way you explain things. I like the way that like the rest of us you are addicted to pretty yet unnecessary beauty products. It makes me feel better about myself, That there is another woman who knows she doesn't need something, but its so pretty you need to try it. Not to glamorize waste or anything, but to be human.

    1. Thanks! Yes, it's a weird state of mind, at the very least. I don't like rampant consumerism and yet . . . I do. So I at least try to not spend too much money on them and to look for things that are actually effective and useful.


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