Acne fighting regimen: Cleansing your skin from the inside and out

So anybody who follows this blog knows that I have been dealing with adult acne, more so than ever since my wedding last year. Since then I have tried many regimens and “miracle” products to try and get my acne into check.

Recently, I have been having some success in achieving better skin, and I would like to share what I have discovered through much trial and error. This is what worked for me – no guarantees it will work for everyone!

1- Stop using face moisturizers that have shea butter, cocoa butter, or beeswax amongst its ingredients

Most butters, although very hydrating, will block your pores if you have an acneic complexion. Butters will affect people differently, but for me, the effect was almost immediate: every time I tried a new moisturizer with butters as an ingredient, my face would break out. You could literally see the clogged pores. So if you have an issue like that, one of the first steps to take is to stop using your moisturizer to see if it gets better.

I have been using, for a month now, Pai’s Geranium & Thistle Combination Skin Cream. This cream uses a base of jojoba oil (which is very close to the composition of the skin’s natural oils). It is truly non-comedogenic, and it feels fresh and light when applied. And it smells like geraniums, which I love. It’s also 100% natural and contains a majority of organic ingredients.

2- Stop moisturizing at night

I have found that one of the problems with my skin is that I was not giving it a chance to breathe. Night time is a great time to allow your skin to breathe and rebalance itself. Stick to cleansing, and a spot treatment if necessary, and leave it at that.

3- Use a cream cleanser

Soap-based cleansers have the advantage of being very sudsy and of leaving your skin feeling really clean and fresh, and tight. But this tightness is actually a sign that you are stripping your skin of its natural oils, which makes your sebaceous glands go into over-drive, and actually cause acne.

Cream cleansers are just better for your acne-prone skin. Cream cleansers clean your skin without over-stripping it, which helps to balance your skin. I use Cocoon Apothecary’s Petal Purity Organic Facial Cleanser, and LOVE it. It is very gentle, is great for removing make-up, and has lavendar and geranium to fight breakouts. Plus it smells super fresh. And its also 100% natural and mostly organic

4- Exfoliate and use a face mask more often

I have always had a tendency to forego my weekly scrubs and face masks due to lack of time or motivation. For the past month, I have dutifully exfoliated my face 5 times a week, and done a face mask twice a week, and my skin has been thanking me. Use a gentle scrub (one that has jojoba beads for example) and a clay mask for combination / acne-prone skin, like Eminence Pink Grapefruit Clarifying Masque.

5- Use a good spot treatment

I discovered the Eminence Herbal Spot Serum recently, and have been applying it to my trouble zones (cheeks and forehead) every night after cleansing, and it has been very helpful in keeping my acne in check. It is pricey but you need to use very little to get your whole face, so well worth the investment.

6- Treat your acne from the inside: use probiotics and drink lots of water

I have always been good with drinking my 1.5 – 2L of water per day. What helped was to cut the caffeine I was adding to that. Drinking a cup of tea or coffee cancels out an equivalent of water that you may have drunk that day. So if you drink 1.5L of water and 0.5L of tea, you’ve really only drunk 1L of water. So I have cut all caffeine from my diet and drink only non-caffeinated herbal teas and water, up to 2L a day, which means that my skin is well hydrated from the inside-out. Drinking lots of water also helps you get rid of toxins in your body, also helping with acne.

Also, I have started a regimen of probiotics. Everything in your body is related, and if you have an unhealthy gut, you’ll most likely have bad skin. Since I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, I have been really careful (mostly) with my diet, which I think has helped greatly to balance my digestion. But I decided to boost my digestion by adding daily probiotics, which encourage good bacteria in your intestines. I have been taking one Bio-K yogurt (the equivalent of 50 billions live and active bacteria) daily for the past 3 weeks, and I feel great. I have also noticed a considerable improvement in my skin

Any other tips you’d like to share?


My new year resolutions for 2011

I don’t usually make new year resolutions because I have no willpower and would never stick to them anyway. But I thought this year I would give it a try. I don’t have a lot of resolutions that I want to make but the few that I do, I am very serious about. So here goes.

1. Stop biting my nails
I have been biting my nails for years and years and have never been able to quit for a long period of time. I managed it in the nick of time for the wedding, but relapsed soon after it was over. I often saw it as the way I manage stress, but it’s also become just a habit that is hard to kick. Like chocolate. Or cigarettes. So in 2011, I want to actually do it. Stop biting my nails. Forever. Tips anyone?

2. Amp up the exercise
In 2010, I walked/ran a half-marathon. During the 4 months I was training for that, I was exercising 4-5 times a week. But once I finished running, I went down to a mere 1-2 times a week, sometimes skipping entire weeks of exercise. I blamed it on the weather, on the dirty people in the dirty gym in my building… anything not to blame my own laziness. I start 2011 with a pretty nice gym in the comfort of my own home (treadmill, bike, weight machine thingy), so I have no excuses. Training for the 2011 half-marathon includes runs every other day until the end of May. I plan on following that training program diligently. And on keeping up the exercise (runs, yoga, some weight training) once the half-marathon has come and gone. Promise.

3. Take more care of my appearance
When I worked at L’Oreal in Montreal, I went to work everyday with makeup on, nice clothing, heels. I felt confident and beautiful every day because I was taking care of myself. Nowadays, I can barely remember the last time I wore mascara, and I am pretty sure I have never worn eye shadow at work, like, ever. So this year, I want to make that effort every morning, as part of my morning routine. And since I  just purchased some awesome Jane Irendale eye shadows, eyeliner and mascara, I have no excuse not to!

4. Get moving on my Etsy business (allyprojects.etsy.com)
I have the website, the name, the business cards, and I have knitted some items. Now time to take photos, and get to selling these things, develop some new products!

I could probably have added “Eat balanced meals” to my list, but then, I already do that. I could probably do with a bit less sugar. But hey, nobody’s perfect. Especially not me!


Organic fruits and vegetables at your doorstep

I recently signed up with Ottawa Organics, a company that offers all sorts of organic goodies, including weekly baskets of fruits and vegetables delivered at your doorstep. It has been a good 6 weeks now that I’ve been getting deliveries, and I find it so awesome that I wanted to share.

Ottawa Organics offers 3 sizes of baskets: small (25$), medium (35$), large (45$). For a couple, a medium basket has proven to be plenty for the week. The vegetables are fresh (usually picked that very morning), mostly local (Ontario and Quebec for the most part, with some out of season veggies and fruits coming from the States), and certified organic. And the awesome thing is that every week there is something in there you are not used to eating often, or don’t even know what it is, which forces you to have a more varied diet. And the basket comes with recipes, so more often than not, you’ll get ideas on hoe to prepare the kale, collard greens, delicata squash and endives. I have tried so many new things since we started doing this and both Nic and I rave about the service to all of our friends.

The concept is simple. You place a standing order online for the size of basket you want, and it gets delivered to your door in a plastic bin every week. You have to remember to leave your empty plastic bin at the door on delivery days (which I forget to do, every other week), so that the delivery person picks it up and replaces with a new, filled one. Delivery is free, and considering the quantity of veggies you get in your basket, the prices are super reasonable. The only other fee is the 10$ deposit you put down for the bins.

The other awesome thing about Ottawa Organics is that every week, you can order as many other things as you want from their website. For example, I have a standing order for a dozen eggs and a litre of 35% cream every week, all organic, which gets delivered with my basket. And once in a while I order gluten-free cookies. Also, if I know I’ll be cooking something special one week, I place an order for specific veggies or fruits that will come as extra with my basket.

CONCLUSION: I strongly recommend signing on for this. Your tummies will thank you.


Letter to my 16 year-old self

This week, Twitter has seen a great number of people tweeting their 16 year-old self – #TweetYour16YearOldSelf – me included. I realized there were a great many things I would have liked to tell my 16 year-old self that do not fit in 140 characters, so I thought I would write a letter to myself, rather than leave it at that tweet.

Dear 16 year-old me,

I’m you, just 12 years older, and much wiser, or so I’d like to think. I know how you feel. Lonely. You have some good friends, yet you still feel like somehow you don’t fit in. You feel like you’ll always be alone in the world. But believe me, you have people who love you. And one day, you will see that and you’ll stop feeling lonely.

And you know that boy you like? The one you think is totally out of your league? Well, you’re going to ask him to Homecoming and he’ll say know. Because he’ll be going with a girl much more popular than you. And that’s OK. One day you’ll realize that even though this boy doesn’t like you, it still took guts to ask him. And even though he’s a superficial jerk, you’ll get over it. And you’ll like a new boy… or several.

This is not your last heartache believe me. There are many more to come. But one day, further into the future, you’ll meet someone wonderful. Someone who will love you for who you are. Who will always be there for you. And you will marry that person. And even though right now it feels like you’re ugly, and that no one will ever love you, that will get better.You’ll realize you’re a beautiful person. And the boy you’ll marry, he’ll help you realize that. Hang in there, he’ll be there soon.

In the meantime, enjoy yourself. You will graduate high school, leave home, move to a whole other country and you will live. You will have beautiful experiences. You’ll have happiness. And you will have heartbreak. All of that will make you a better, stronger version of you. One day you’ll see.

Much love,
28 year-old me


Gluten-free sandwich bread recipe

I found a great gluten-free sandwich bread recipe that I wanted to share. It’s much lighter than the other breads I tried, which tend to be very dense and dry.
This recipe is a variant of the one posted by Gluten Free Cooking School. I had to adapt it to the flours I had in my pantry.

1 Tbsp. gluten free yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 ½ c. water (105 degrees or a little less than hot)
2 ½ cups of flour mix: 1 cup of brown rice flour, 3/4 cup of sweet white rice flour, 3/4 cup of tapioca starch
2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
1tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 ½ Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar


  1. Combine the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add the water while gently stirring the yeast and sugar. Let this mixture sit while you mix the rest of the ingredients. Bubbles and foam should form if the yeast is happy.
  2.  Combine the flour mix, xanthan gum and salt in another bowl and stir well.
  3. In a third bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vinegar until the eggs are a bit frothy.
  4. By this point the yeast mixture should be foamy, so you can pour the two liquid mixtures into the flour mixture. Blend the dough with a mixer for 4 minutes.
  5. Scoop the dough into a greased loafpan – the dough is very sticky and not like conventional dough. That’s normal. The proteins that form gluten are actually what gives normal dough it’s texture. Allow the dough to rise in a warm area until is is about 1 inch from the top of the pan. Then bake at 375 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes – I used the convection setting on my stove and it came out great.



The food dilemma and dealing with food sensitivities

For the past 10 years, I’ve developed digestive problems that slowly have grown worse and worse. In the last 2-3 years, I would have aches in my lower abdomen and bloating every single day, sometimes ballooning up so much that I looked like I was 6 months pregnant.

I decided to take action this summer and consulted a naturopath, who, by the way, is awesome. She instructed me to go on the brown rice diet (no red meat, no dairy, no gluten-containing grains, no nightshade vegetables, no processed sugars of any kind) for 3 weeks, after which time I would be able to slowly reintroduce foods to find out what I may be sensitive to.
I ended up being on the diet for 4 weeks, during which time I lost 5 pounds off my 130 pound frame (caused by the decrease in calories ingested) but noticed dramatical improvement: no bloating, no pain, more energy and less acne. Also I noticed my frequent migraines just went away.
This past Monday was gluten day: I was allowed to eat gluten at each meals. And the reaction didn’t take long to come: by the end of the day I looked pregnant, my tummy ached and I had a migraine. To me the results were obvious: gluten sensitivity.
Learning you have a food intolerance is pretty overwhelming. My mom is fructose intolerant, so I’ve witnessed first-hand the pain and confusion a person goes through when they find this out. For me, I was relieved to know there was a solution (albeit a complicated one) to my problems. Yet the whole process of figuring out what I can and cannot eat is pretty overwhelming, and I am slowly figuring this out.
On Friday, I reintroduce dairy in my diet. There is a chance that dairy could also be a problem for me, and I am anxious to find out. I have to say though, that if I can have dairy, I am juggling the idea of going dairy-free, or at least cutting back on dairy, as my research has lead me to believe that my acne is probably caused by hormonal imbalances caused by my diet (which was grain and dairy heavy). I’m also considering cutting back on nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes and peppers) as they have been know to cause pain in the joints, and may explain my constant joint-popping and the hip pains I sometimes have. Something to think about, as nightshade veggies are my favorites!
In the meantime, I have enjoyed my life without stomach pain and bloating for the last 4 weeks, and I am motivated to keep it up. I will now need to find a way to incorporate more calories in my restricted diet (bananas for example) to stabilize my weight, and stay healthy.
To be continued!