Getting to the root of my acne

Getting to the root of my acne

So I have done a profuse amount of research over the course of my acne journey, to the point where I get tired of looking at my computer sometimes lol. Thankfully, I did not come away empty handed! In my last post, I shared my struggles with acne over the course of my life. The most frustrating part of having acne, for me, was that I had no idea what was causing my acne breakouts. But after much researching, pieces of a puzzle quickly started coming together.

One weekend when I was feeling especially down in the dumps and insecure about my skin, I had been watching countless skincare videos on YouTube. It probably sounds slightly morbid, but once I realized my breakouts were here to stick around, I began searching for countless videos on YouTube of people who have acne issues just like me. In a way it made me feel better that I was not the only one who had to deal with adult acne. So I spent a couple hours a day trying to find videos of people with my skin complexion who were also trying to heal cystic acne and acne scarring.

I stumbled across a girl who is battling with the same skin issues as me and to keep a long story short, she started taking fish oil vitamins just to start taking some vitamins again. And later on she found out that she has something called PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). PCOS is a hormonal disorder among women of reproduction age. PCOS causes sacks filled with fluid (known as cysts) to form on the ovaries. One of the effects of having PCOS is cystic acne. Later on, she found out that taking fish oil or the omega oils can help reduce the size of the cysts on her ovaries which in turn can affect her acne. So it was a good thing she randomly decided to start taking fish oil.

But I got curious. I looked up PCOS and its symptoms and I’m certain that I don’t have it. But I became curious about how fish oil/omega oil can affect the skin, as well as other vitamins.

(read more about PCOS here. This is NOT an affiliate link. Just wanted to make it easier for you if you were curious)

During some downtime at work, I randomly started googling face mapping for acne, foods for healthy skin, and vitamins that can assist in clearing up skin. I had been taking vitamins all through college, all the way up to around the beginning of 2018. When I ran out, I just never repurchased them. I figured I didn’t need to since I was no longer competing in a sport anymore.

But one google search resulted in another, and then another, and then another, and to keep an already long story short, I am 85% certain that I have figured out why I broke out in acne again, and yes, that 85% is completely an arbitrary number, lol.

Two words: Zinc deficiency.

Zinc deficiencies are actually not common in the U.S. but they can still happen. Zinc deficiencies are also really hard to catch even with blood tests, so it’s possible that more people have them and just don’t know about it. A zinc deficiency can manifest in many different ways but some of the ways are acne breakouts (including cystic acne), white spots on nails, ridges in the nails, and low iron levels; all of which are things I currently have or have had in the past for years.

Although not deep enough for anyone else to see unless up close, I have ridges on my nails. I never really noticed them because I wear my nails painted a lot. I also had white spots on my nails while growing up ALL THE TIME and still get them on my nails from time to time.

I was always told that white spots on the nails mean the possibility of a calcium deficiency (which it can), but it can also mean that a zinc deficiency is present. I used to be super confused because I am someone that has never shied away from dairy. I used to love milk and practically drank it like it was water when I was growing up. And since I was being told that the white spots meant a calcium deficiency, I thought I needed milk. I currently no longer drink milk, but that’s beside the point.

The difference between calcium white spots and zinc white spots on the nails is this: Calcium white spots are cloudy and not smooth in shape. Zinc white spots are sharp and prominent. Mine were always sharp and prominent.

If it is true that I have a zinc deficiency, it makes sense that the little white spots went away after I entered college (around the time my acne started improving) because I had started taking vitamins with zinc in them! In my mind, I was only taking them because my coach said that as athletes we need the extra vitamins and supplements. I had no idea they could affect my acne. It also makes sense that my skin was at its absolute clearest when I was taking pure zinc pills not mixed in any type of vitamin (which is also the time I started using Korean skincare products, 2015-2017).

After reading up on how zinc deficiencies are hard to catch even with blood tests, my mind started traveling back to the multiple blood tests I had back in college to check for any deficiencies I might have. I’ve had an iron deficiency before (multiple actually, until I started taking iron pills), and after having a virus for an entire month I also had a mild vitamin D deficiency for a short time. Zinc was never mentioned.

After thinking about all of this, I started to reflect some more and laid it all out.

  • I’ve always had ridges on my nails.
  • I’ve always had white spots on my nails up until I started taking vitamins.
  • I had acne starting from age 10 (a very young age, if you ask me!) and nothing worked for it, even after seeing a dermatologist. I was prescribed antibiotics and a bleaching soap. Nothing worked.
  • In college, I started taking multivitamins (with zinc) and iron pills.
  • My nails grew longer and smoother.
  • My acne started clearing even though I wasn’t doing anything special with my skincare.
  • After college I started taking pure zinc pills to add to the iron and other vitamins I was taking. I also started using Korean skincare at this time.
  • My skin was at its absolute best.
  • January of 2018, I ran out of vitamins and zinc and never repurchased
  • Then I started having skin troubles.
  • Skin troubles got worse as time went on (the body does not store zinc or vitamin C).
  • In 2018, my skin troubles went back to what they were before I ever started taking any type of vitamins (cystic acne, whiteheads, painful pustules, etc.)
  • I purchase vitamins on iherb.com (zinc, omega 3-6-9, iron, and multivitamin chewables)
  • Within a few months my acne breakouts started slowing down.
  • I stuck to a simple skin routine (still with K-skincare) while taking vitamins daily, and my skin cleared tremendously. See here in my last post.

Am I 100% certain that I had a zinc deficiency? No. But I am certain the breakouts had something to do with the vitamins that I was no longer taking. In my research, I found that zinc, omega 3-6-9, iron, and vitamin C aid in the health and reproduction of cells which helps with overall health in general, and in turn, can also help improve acne. So that is what I have been taking and I don’t regret it one bit.

Sorry for such a long post but I just wanted to share my findings. For anyone suffering with acne and you’re not getting answers, KEEP. LOOKING. It may take a long time to find an answer but there is an answer out there somewhere. I’m almost certain I found mine. Skincare products are not always the answer, although they might work for others. Food is not always the answer either. Sometimes it’s more than that and it takes a lot more work to actually find it.

I hope this post was helpful for someone 🙂



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