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Ugh...my face!


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So I saw another girl post about hormonal acne, but her issue was improved with whole 30. I seem to be having the opposite! I'm on day 18 of my first whole30. A little background, I used to have horrid acne, but about 3 and a half years ago I cleaned up my life. I started eating really well, exercising, and my face cleared right up. I have lived a very healthy and extremely active life since and have only had occasional little blemishes around my cycle time. I'm also on birth control and that has helped tremendously as well.


Now here's the deal. I started noticing I was breaking out  last week, over the weekend they went crazy. I have the huge, painful, deep under the skin blemishes along my cheekbones, jaw line, and a couple on my neck. I'm 25, I work in a professional office, I deal with clients and I'm embarrassed. No amounts of make up can cover the huge, red, angriness covering my face. I haven't had this problem since I was about 20 and lived a horribly unhealthy, party lifestyle. I was so distressed about it last night I started googling. The number 1 answer seems to be PCOS, but being as I'm on birth control, and that NEVER being a problem before I ignored that. The next answer was insulin. I know in It Starts With Food, they discuss hormones and insulin. Could this be it? I thought this was supposed to correct issues like this, not cause my body to swing the opposite way?


Has anyone else had this during their whole30? Any insight to what could be going on? I'm following the plan really well, so I don't understand why this is happening...should I be concerned? Should I stop? What the heck?? To be clear, I am a few days away from my cycle beginning, but even so, it has NEVER been this severe, like I said before, only a few small ones would happen. Now its the deep cystic all over....help!

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It's been my observation that it can be brought on by an increase of nuts, dried fruits and more than two fruits aday.  Fresh greens and cooked greens, every kind of vegetable  will settle it down and help it go completely away...with lots of good proteins, too.   Fresh fish, beef, bison, fowl and so forth.


Nuts should not be used as the main fat source for optimum results.





  • Cooking fats: animal fats* including duck fat, goat fat, lard (pig fat), and tallow (beef fat), clarified butter*, ghee* (* – must be pastured or 100% grass-fed and organic), coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil (cook at low heat for a short time only). Unrefined red palm oil is also listed as good, but most people don’t like it as much as coconut oil
  • Eating fats  avocado oil,  coconut butter, coconut meat/flakes, coconut milk (canned), olives (all)
  • Occasional nuts and seeds: almonds, almond butter, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio
  • Limit nuts and seeds: flax seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter, walnuts
  • Don’t use nuts, seeds, and nut butters as your primary fat source
  • Meal planning: Choose one or more fat sources per meal.
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Should I stop? What the heck?? 

Hey Ashtyn, so sorry that you are experiencing this.  IN answer to your question "should I stop?", I would have to say, stop and then do what?? Eating protein, vegetables and fats is never going to be bad for you.  Obviously your body is experiencing distress and you need to figure it out, but going back to all day snacking or breads and pastas or wine every night or whatever it is that you did before Whole30 isn't the answer.  


Are you eating something that you never did before (coconut, avocado etc)? Are you eating a lot MORE of something (nuts, eggs, peppers etc)? 

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I ate very clean before, with limited grains, no alcohol, high protein, and some dairy. I feel like I am getting a lot more fats, whereas before I only got fats once or twice a day, I feel I get at nearly every meal now. I eat hard boiled eggs as a preworkout, I'm having some form of nuts everyday and coconut. But it was my understanding we were supposed to be eating a lot more fats? I only have fruit once sometimes twice a day. Here's a typical day for me:


  • wake up 4:30 am: 2 hard boiled eggs for preworkout
  • Post workout 6:30: Lots of roasted veggies, chicken apple sausage, potatoes OR 3 scrambled eggs
  • I know this is frowned upon, but I'm not able to take lunch break at work till about 12:30 to 1:30, but I often have either an apple with homemade cashew butter or a snack baggy of mixed nuts like macadamia, hazelnut, pumpkin seeds, and raw coconut chips around 10:30.
  • Lunch between 1:00-1:30 most weeks, usually left overs from dinner. So protein (chicken, ground turkey, salmon, or pork), lots of veggies, maybe some guac, and some berries.
  • Dinner 6:30-7:00 same as lunch but add some potatoes of some sort and no berries.

So maybe it is the fats? When I say should I stop, I mean go back to my balanced lifestyle before. Granted, I did this because I was having trouble controlling my cravings since Christmas, especially my sweet tooth. I really feel like I have my cravings under control now and back to having self control....I want to finish of course, but this hormonal acne needs to go away...its embarrassing and I thought this was supposed to help my hormones not make them go insane...

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Also do keep in mind that things do tend to get worse before they get better.  For me it was rosacea.  For others it's eczema or acne.


The thing that jumps out at me is the nuts.

Nuts are known to contribute to digestive distress, bloating, disruptive sleep (this is what nuts do to me personally) and sometimes a contributing factor to cystic acne.


So I would definitely drop the nuts and nut butters for a bit to see if your face gets better.


Some other food for thought: If dropping the nuts isn't doing the trick then maybe consider eliminating eggs, and/or nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes).  These foods are known to cause some inflammation in people.


I totally understand your need to have a snack when you are hungry.  That is a pretty large gap. However might I suggest a mini meal instead of a snack of nuts or fruits?  Think a handful of olives, with a couple of slices of roasted chicken breast, along with some carrot sticks.


Also your need to snack because you are hungry is telling me that you might not be eating enough in your meal 1.  So I strongly suggest that you increase your portions size for meal 1.

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Thanks for the advice Carlaccini, perhaps I'll try dropping the nuts and see what happens as that seems to be where I have increased the most compared to my prior diet. I'll try that mini meal instead as well. I don't think my portions are the problem, as I'm quite full after I eat meal 1 (post-workout) up till about that time. I'm on a very intense training regimen right now for 3 different types of races this summer. So between all my lifting, HIIT, running, and yoga I think my body is just needing the extra fuel!

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Any chance you recently switched birth control, or are on a progestin-only birth control? Progestin-only is known for an increase in acne. There is lots of good food-type advice above, but if there's a chance it is the bc, I had to chime in.

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I never had acne or was never really bothered much by spots then about the same stage as you in my W30 I broke out with huge zits on my nose & chin along with my eczema getting worse. Like you I also ate quite clean before starting so this was a bit if a surprise, I'm also in my 40's so no teenager either. It really was a case of things getting worse before getting better, the spots went a week later and my eczema is mostly gone too with the odd little flare up. Do persevere, it will probably get better for you too. 

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I wonder if you have changed anything..like added in anything that you hadn't been eating prior to the whole 30. One thing that gives me acne like you describe is fish oil..I know that everywhere you read that fish oil is supposed to be good for acne, but for me it isn't and gives me really huge, deep papular acne. I can't take supplements but am ok with canned wild salmon a few times a week. If I have fresh or smoked atlantic salmon a few times a week, I'll get some acne and with daily supplements it's horrible. You may also consider it could be a cleansing phenomenon. If you have initially increased your inflammation by circulating toxins being in the blood stream, this can cause rashes and acne too..the old it gets worse before it gets better trick! I hope you get the root of it, I know it really makes you feel quite disgusting. 

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My birth control hasn't changed, it's a low estrogen one and has never caused me any problems. Its syeda. I am supposed to start my cycle in the next day or two, but like I mentioned it's never caused such large painful, TONS of acne before...


The only change food wise is increased nuts. Before I would eat just almonds or cashews once in a while. Now, it's daily, as well as increased good fat foods like avocado's.


I guess I am just going to have to wait it out and maybe cut back on my nuts and wait it out. A friend of mine gave me a doterra roll on oil blend that's supposed to help acne. I used it last night and the swelling has gone down tremendously. Here's hoping it gets better and doesn't happen again!

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Hey, this acne sucks, been there. The fact that they are on the jaw is telling me that it's a hormonal imbalance - testosterone dominance likely. There are certain concepts that believe that our external body reflects our internal body. Your body is freaking out a bit, that will pass. There is a possibility that eliminating dairy (which nowadays is saturated with hormones) threw a little havok on your system. Just a guess. 


My suggestions other than wait and breathe:


- eliminate nuts 100%, these are evil for my skin as well. It might be very well temporarily as I have noticed that my ability to digest them has increased. If you have some time, try soaking and sprouting them. This step destroys a lot of antinutrients.


- look at your cafein consumption. Can you limit it for a bit? Same goes for the stress (coffee causes mild cortisol spike). It makes it hard for your body to produce counterbalancing estrogen.


- how's your sleep? Can you do a de-load week while you deal with acne? You wake up at 4:30 which means that you go to bed at 8:30 pm?  :rolleyes: Are you prioritizing training over sleep? 


- add more vitamin B rich foods. Beef, liver, turkey and avocado are good sources. 


- try to avoid shellfish, I know it's a weird one, but I found that skin can be sensitive to it. 


Last but not least, it can be a PCOS, but don't panic yet or get self-diagnosed with the mighty doctor Google.


Hope it will help. All the best. 

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  • 2 months later...

Ashtyn, I am curious if this has continued or has gone away?


I'm on my third whole30 and I started it to try and address my hormonal acne. At first it got better - rapidly better! But on day 14, it went the opposite direction. Now I'm broken out and frustrated. I struggle with testosterone dominance as Nadia said.

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I'm on day 25 and this is probably the first day I can say since I started my Whole30 that my skin is 100% clear. I didin't have many blemishes to begin with, and it definitely got worse before it got better. Marula oil from Acure Organics worked wonders as a night treatment for me.

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  • 1 month later...

I had a bad breakout and my skin is blemish free. I post menopausal so not hormones but I had like huge red bumps allover my face. I now think it was nuts. I had a Rosacea facial with ultrasound and within 24 hours I broke out I called the spa and the ingredients were organic and avocado oil was base. Day 29 and face not clear but better. I've been addicted to almond butter at night on apple or banana..

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