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A holistic approach to clear skin

What goes in…


In an effort to control my milia and closed comedones (white heads) I have always tried to control 2 things – what goes in and what goes on. Essentially, I try to approach my skin care from a holistic perspective. This is something I took a long time to learn, and I will by no means say I have perfected my holistic skin care routine – just read my last blog “What are those little white bumps on my face…?”. However, I do have a much more educated idea of what to do to control my skin and to try to regain a little confidence. As I often talk about what to put on your skin, I thought I’d devote this blog to what goes in…


I grew up in South Africa between the cities of Johannesburg and Durban, and the rural farm areas of Krugersdorp and northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. I was a typical child that would put just about anything in my mouth – I ate sand, I followed ants and then licked them, I sucked on the juicy stalks of the tall African grasses, I even remember licking my cat at one point.  I was also exposed to interesting and tasty foods. I remember eating many things on my grandparents Krugersdorp farm: prickly pears (a kind of cactus pear), rock pigeon hearts and livers, and fresh milk (have you ever had truly fresh milk?). The best part was that I was encouraged to try these things for myself. I am sure I owe my health and lack of allergies to this childhood in Africa.


It’s this exposure that has meant I’ve always had an open mind when it comes to food. I’ve tried so many diets, trendy foods, and a few weird things (think of the barnacles you find on the bottom of a boat – yup, they’re a delicacy in Portugal) that I will pretty much try anything if it will help my skin. So this January, I embarked on a “Clean and Lean Diet” ala Elle McPherson’s favourite trainer James Duigan:


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I’ll spare you the details, but essentially this diet advocates:

  • Only eating fresh vegetables and lean meats combined with an exercise routine (anything really, but you just have to do something)
  • Nothing processed
  • No dairy
  • No carbohydrates or sugars (including natural sugars like honey or fruit)
  • No caffeine
  • No alcohol
  • For 2 weeks…

After that you can add in some fruit and high quality carbohydrates (quinoa, pumpkin, corn, beans) – and yes, if you want you can go back to caffeine.


The most important reason I chose this diet is simple – the only reason we developed into the intelligent homo sapiens we are today is because of what we were able to catch and find to eat.  So over the last 200,000 years we ate meat, vegetables, and the occasional fruit when we could find it. We did not become the intelligent beings that we are by eating farmed crops and processed foods. This has only come about in the last 10,000 years since the advent of farming. I firmly believe we should eat what we are genetically designed to eat.


In everyday life I tend to eat lots of veggies and meat anyway so that part of the diet wasn’t hard. I would start with eggs in the morning (and by the end my eggs became very creative!), a big salad for lunch, and then some veggies and chicken/ fish/ lamb/ mince for dinner with some nuts, hummus, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and sliced red capsicum for snacks in between. When I was out I would often eat just the meat with a side order salad or veg. No brown rice, no quinoa, no wheat free pasta. No carbs at all except those I was getting from my veggies. Giving up caffeine was hard – I actually don’t drink more than 2-3 cups of coffee a week – my vice is English breakfast tea. And of course saying goodbye to my evening glass of wine made me pretty sad and a bit of a social hermit… sometimes after a long day all you want is that one glass of wine. You even tell yourself you deserve it… Giving up dairy wasn’t hard when the tea was gone. I also went back to the studio I love and took up hot yoga again for the first time in a year. Of course there were days that I wasn’t 100% perfect, but that’s ok I’m only human.


And after having done this diet for 2 weeks, and then for the last few weeks bringing back my fruit in the morning (2 slices of papaya) and some quinoa, I look and feel much better. My stomach is flatter. I’ve lost 2.5kgs. I’ve gained some muscle. But most importantly – my skin is much clearer. The bags under my eyes have reduced and the darkness has subsided. My skin looks smooth – I may even dare to say that my closed comedones seem to have calmed down…! I always know when something has worked when I feel confident to go out wearing just a tinted moisturiser, under eye primer (no concealer) and mascara. It’s such a freeing feeling – and I’ve gained an extra 5-10 minutes in the morning!


The only side note I should make is that since I’ve been eating this way, I have noticed that whenever I do eat gluten or dairy again I truly feel ill the next day. I don’t sleep well, I feel down and tired the next day, and my skin looks sallow. Yes it tastes great at the time (that’s the sugar high for you!), but the result is that it takes 2-3 days to get back to looking and feeling how I was before I indulged…


So this means I think I have a good handle on my “what goes in” and I feel much more in control. I would definitely encourage you to read this book or something similar (think paleo) and give it a try for yourself. And always remember – what works for other people may not work for you. Take the time to think about what’s right – do you feel a bit queasy after eating cheese? Are you tired the day after eating pizza? Are you moody when you eat carbohydrates or sugars (even too much fruit)?


Good luck on your inner skin care journey!

 The Luxe Botanics Team


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What are those little white bumps on my face…?

As I stepped up on to the therapist’s bed I was already starting to relax. She gently covered me with a blanket, secured my hair away from my face and started with an essential oil ritual. I began to feel calm, serene, relaxed… After cleansing, she rolled the steamer over and left me to my thoughts while my pores slowly opened. After 5 minutes she rolled the steamer to the side and turned on the bright light. And that’s when she gasped…


I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. It happens to me a lot.  It’s the moment when the therapist realises how bad my skin actually is. I don’t know if its anxiety or excitement that causes the gasp – some of them love the thought of the extractions to come. Personally, it’s something that quickly takes me from the initial calm headspace I’m in, and puts me right back into my usual self-conscious state. I like to think I’m used to this reaction. But as I get older I am getting more annoyed that this is still the story of my skin. I wish I could have left this all behind with the other teenage woes…


Thanks to my mom’s early interventions and teachings I have always had a good grasp of what works for my skin. I know when to use which type of mask, the importance of exfoliating, going for regular facials and most importantly – when to know that you need professional help. I’ve seen countless dermatologists and every time I have to carefully explain to them – no I am not making this up, this is my skin history, it runs in my family, and then I have to almost beg them to fix me… Most of them don’t believe me and just think I like to exaggerate to get the medications I know will work for me. At least that’s how it feels when I’m in their clinic…


Through all of this though, I have noticed that as much time and effort as I spend preventing, I still get new bumps on my skin. I have tried having them lanced out (when they make a small nick in your skin and take them out), I’ve tried extractions during a facial, I’ve tried exfoliants, I’ve tried clay masks, I’ve tried lasers, I’ve even taken prescription medication… All of these do work. The problem for me is that they only work for a little while. Sometimes its months, or even (if I’m lucky) a year or more, but mostly it’s only a few weeks.


In order to understand these things for yourself you need to understand that differences in the types of “lumps and bumps” on your skin:

  1. Closed comedones (“white heads”) are caused by a blocked pore and often appear as white bumps on the skin:


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  1. Open comedones (“black heads”) are when the blocked pore is open and the surface appears black from melanin (not dirt as commonly thought):

Black heads

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These can be limited on the skin and may only appear at certain times – teenage years, hormonal cycles – or they can proliferate and even become inflamed and infected. At this point you may be diagnosed with comedonal acne. And this is exactly my diagnosis – however mine is limited to closed comedones (I do have the occasional open comedone on my nose, but nothing too scary).

There is a third term that you may hear occasionally related to these “lumps and bumps” on your skin:

  1. Milia are often confused with closed comedones as they look alike. On physical appearance though the milia are often a harder round lump, and the close comedone may be a little softer and not as hard and round. You’ll know the difference if you squeeze – milia comes out as a perfectly formed, round hard white ball. And closed comedones come out in a white greasy thread. Note that there are many types of milia – you can read up on them here .

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Essentially I have discovered that I have a problem that is 2 fold – I have both milia and closed comedones. And I am happy to say that the treatments for both do have some common characteristics:


Characteristics & Causes:

  Milia Closed Comedones
Characteristics ·  Small cyst containing keratin

·  Appears as hard round white/ pearly lump

·  Often around eyes, eyelids, mouth, nose, behind the ears, along the jaw, cheeks and forehead

·  Forms at the site of a hair follicle

·  Can resolve on its own and doesn’t always require intervention

· Caused by blockage of the follicle either by dirt and debris or sebum

· Can occur almost anywhere but rarely on the eyelids

· Forms at the site of a hair follicle

· Soft white lump

· Requires intervention


Causes ·  No specific cause but generally occurs at the site of injury during healing (burns, scalds, skin resurfacing (e.g. dermabrasion), long term use of steroid creams) · Hormonal changes

· Reduced linoleate in sebum (this is the salt of the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid)

· Increased inflammatory proteins

· Free fatty acids produced by bacteria

· Overhydrated skin (moisturisers or humidity)

· Follicle damage or rupture (abrasive cleansing, chemical peels or laser treatments)

· Chemicals such as: Oily pomades, isopropyl myristate, propylene glycol, and some cosmetic dyes

· Smoking

· Dietary factors – milk and high glycaemic index foods (sugars and fats)



  Milia Treatment Closed Comedone Treatment
Similar ·   Topical retinoids  (e.g. retinA)

·   Oral retinoids (e.g. roaccutane or Accutane (isotretinoin))

·   Chemical peels (usually done in a doctors clinic)

·   Dermabrasion (also microdermabrasion)

·   Laser abalation (usually done in a doctors clinic)

·   Tetracycline antibiotics (e.g. minocycline)

·   Extractions (e.g. using sterile needles with physical squeezing, usually performed by a doctor or professional therapist)

Different · Cryotherapy

· Diathermy and curretage


· Hormonal therapy (e.g. contraceptive pill)

· Benzoyl peroxide (e.g. Clearasil, proactiv)

· At home use acids: Azelaic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid

· Prescription antibiotic creams

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With the understanding I’ve gained over years of doctors’ visits, therapists advice, reading everything I could, researching the ingredients in my skin care, I have gained a semblance of control. I know that I need to control both the internal and the external factors that lead to both my milia and my closed comedones. Of course, real life always gets in the way – who always has the time to do a mask (or remembers every day/ week), who has the endless resources to pay for professional treatment, who has the time for a facial every 2-3 weeks, and who among us has never eaten anything sinful? That is my ideal – but it’s not realistic. If this is you – and you have the time and resources – I say good for you! Go out there and show off your beautiful skin – you deserve it. As for the rest of us, we will continue our quest to find the perfect balance for our skin.


I hope that this blog has helped you understand your skin a bit better, and what changes you can make to improve it x

The Luxe Botanics Team