It all started when I reached my teens. I remember noticing small little red bumps on my forehead...sometimes they would become red and inflamed or feel itchy. Other times I would notice bigger pimples forming on my cheeks or even on my chin. They didn't bother me at first, I recalled seeing in movies and TV shows that this was a normal part of being a teenager and that it was bound to happen. However, as time went on they only began to get worse, and it became the only thing I saw when I looked in the mirror. I became so obsessed with them and hyper focused on getting rid of them it consumed so much of my energy and time. I tried covering them with makeup I found in my mother's cabinets but still felt as though the bumps on my skin were seeping through. I tried going to the local drug store and tried every acne product I could find... nothing... worked...
My acne only got worse and worse as time went on. I grew extremely insecure, hiding behind what felt like pounds of makeup, trying to hide what I thought was the ugliest part about me. I grew angry that my friends could splash water on their face and go to school and not wake up and spend hours covering up their skin. I decided I needed to do everything in my power to clear my skin, so I decided to visit a dermatologist who prescribed me a topical acne cream that she assured me would do the trick. After not finding any results with this cream, I went back, and asked her for something else, something stronger. My face began to appear scaly, dry and irritated more red and inflamed.
After trying every cream she had available and not finding success in a single bottle, she told me I should be able to clear my skin through a prescribed antibiotic. As I later found out, these antibiotics did more harm than good as it killed off necessary good bacteria in my gut that only aggravated my symptoms and skin even more.
I was now 17 and my acne had turned angry, inflamed, cystic, red and had completely taken over my face. Prom was approaching and all I could think was, how could I possibly face people? How could I take photos? How I could look beautiful when my skin looked like this? I spent hours on youtube and google trying to find solutions and tried seemingly everything and found nothing that worked. I went to my doctor almost in tears begging her to help me and she told me birth control would be the only option. Considering I had already experienced painful and irregular cycles and dealt with hormonal issues, this seemed like the best option. My friends would tell me how birth control made their periods lighter and that were able to skip a period if they wanted to by doubling up on pills. It seemed almost like it was too good to be true. That is because it was true good to be true. Being on birth control cleared up my acne in 6 months. However, it also came along with some immediate consequences. I experienced mood swings. Feelings of sadness, anger, even feelings of entitlement which led me to foster negative relationships with others. Not to mention how nauseous and tired I felt 24/7.
Yes, I finally had the clear skin I dreamed about for so long, but it came with a price. Clearly birth control was doing a number on me and robbed me of my physical and mental wellbeing. In addition to this, the birth control was pumping mass amounts of artificial hormones into my body, causing my unaddressed symptoms to worsen.
After prom was over and high school was behind me, I decided it was a good time to get off of birth control and let my body go back to it's natural state. However, this was definitely not as easy as I anticipated it to be. Once I stopped taking birth control I was left with a number of symptoms that left me feeling hopeless. One of them being that my acne was now back and it was worse than ever. In addition to this, my hormonal cycle was a complete mess. I felt constantly tired, anxious and sad all the time. I began isolating myself and had trouble even getting out of bed- let alone going out to see other people. God forbid they saw my face. If I did have to go out for whatever reason, I wore tons of makeup- foundation, concealer, corrective creams, powders and the list goes on. These products were no longer purchased from my local drug store. Instead, I would spend more money on 'high end' makeup from popular beauty supply stores, thinking the ingredients were better for my acne and made of better quality ingredients since they was more expensive.
After trying what felt like every skincare or acne product I could get my hands on, I was recommended by friends to see an Esthetician only to hear that my skin was too severe to be touched. Completely out of options, I went back to my dermatologist who said my skin was so bad I needed to go on an acne medication Isotretinoin or commonly referred to as 'Roaccutane' or I would have scars forever.
After one miserable year on 'Accutane', dealing with severe feelings of sadness, distress, anxiety as well as dry, itchy, flakey skin. I finally had the "perfect" skin I had always dreamed about. Suddenly, it all seemed worth it. I no longer wore makeup, I felt confident with the way I looked and could finally take pictures and not obsess about how my skin looked. I felt as though I was finally done covering up and trying to hide me.
I felt free from my biggest insecurity that constantly weighed me down.
However, as time went on, my acne slowly but surely crept back. In addition to this, my hormones were a complete disaster and on top of that, some new problems arose. After running a bunch of tests, 'Accutane' no longer seemed worth it. Not only was my acne creeping back, I now had elevated liver enzymes, inflammation and my gut microflora was out of sorts.
So what do you do when you've tried seemingly every solution Western medicine has to offer?
You turn to holistic medicine and naturopathy.
The first thing that a naturopath suggested, was that my symptoms aligned with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). A condition I suspected from the moment I had my first batch of irregular menstrual cycles that was dismissed on several occasions by my family doctor.
So my Naturopathic Doctor ordered several tests and her suspicions were correct,
I finally had an answer.
This is why traditional approaches to acne would not help my skin because the problem stemmed from within.
And what was making my hormonal imbalance and acne worse?
The endocrine disruptors, synthetic fragrances and harsh ingredients found in the everyday products I was using. Which mimic or interfere with the functioning of your bodies hormones. "These chemicals are strenuous on your body and linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immunity, and many other problems (Kortenkamp, 2017)."
It's easier to monitor what goes into your body but when it comes to what goes ON your body, the lines become more blurred. Many big corporations claim to be "gentle and natural" however hide ingredients under "parfum" or "fragrance" and under other names as the FDA has not changed their requirements in 80 years and companies have found loop holes. It is more efficient and inexpensive for big corporations to hide synthetic ingredients than to harvest naturally.
This meant all of the make up I used to cover up my acne was only aggravating my acne more. All of the skin care targeted to help my acne that I was using and spending so much money on, were apart of the problem.
When I switched to green beauty and developed a healthier lifestyle I truly saw such a difference in my skin but mostly my overall life. A huge part of this was managing my PCOS symptoms which led to my acne beginning to clear. I still do experience pimples and breakouts and flare ups however I now feel reassured knowing I am on a wellness journey that can manage them. I have now learned the importance of being kind to myself and my skin no matter how my skin looks. Your skin does not define your beauty and ultimately we fixate so much on physical appearance and imperfections when really no one truly notices them as much as we do. Most importantly, there is no magic pill or miracle product that will clear acne overnight. However, having effective products and a balanced lifestyle that supports your overall health is such an important start.
In most cases acne is a sign of something happening internally and sometimes it can take a lot of investigating to find out what it is, but never give up. The skin is a detox organ which means what is happening in your body will appear on your skin. Listen to your intuition, use every resource you can and remind yourself of the importance of loving yourself along the way. It takes time, lots of patience and trial & error but I truly believe you can get to where you want to be- if I did, so can you!
I have also found a skincare routine that has worked wonders for me in managing my breakouts and getting rid of my scars. I fell in love with earth's natural ingredients and superfoods and was able to clean my cabinets of ingredients that triggered my hormonal imbalance and made my symptoms and acne worse.
When I began to realize wellness looks different for everyone and found my own individual wellness routine my whole world changed. I adopted a new lifestyle that made me feel good, happier and more energetic. I felt empowered and healthy. I found brands I could trust and fell in love with their products. I grew so passionate about this new lifestyle and way of living all I wanted to do was share this with others- just as I wished someone would have shared with me sooner!
This is why it was so important for me to start Lurra.
I want this to be a safe space, a place people can openly trust. I want people to be able to shop freely and not worry about the ingredient list in their products. I want our community to feel empowered knowing exactly what is being put on their bodies. Lastly, I want to share the amazing, dedicated brands that have been carefully researched and curated with you all. I know you will fall in love with them just like I did.
Thank you for reading about my acne journey.
- Julia Ammaturo, Co-Founder of Lurra
Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor, this is my own personal story and opinion. Every journey is different. Please talk to your doctor before adjusting your own lifestyle.
Kortenkamp, A. (2017). Endocrine disruptors: The burden of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the USA. Nature Reviews.Endocrinology, 13(1), 6-7. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1038/nrendo.2016.198
So extremely proud of your journey and where it has brought you today. You will continue to inspire so many people myself included and I’m so here for it!!!! Love you!!!