You might be surprised to know that my heart is literally RACING at the thought of publishing this post. Look, I know that I share intimate, vulnerable details of my life all the time. It’s honestly second nature to me at this point. But here’s the thing (and my fellow peeps with skin issues might relate to this), I have a DEEP ROOTED insecurity about my skin.
So, sharing unfiltered, unedited photos of me before is tough for me. I think this is surprising to most people, because it’s such a superficial thing. And I think most people assume that because I’m a bit of a natural, crunchy girlie that means I don’t care about what I look like. However, You can be someone who rarely wears shoes or makeup, AND also care about your appearance. It’s not one or the other. Personalities simply aren’t as simple as that. So. Let’s get into it, shall we?
First, we need to rewind back to 2018 in order for all of this to make the most sense. Although I know most of you are familiar with the chronic health struggles I’ve faced over the years, it’s important to do a little recap for new readers here with us. This is also important to start with, because it really illustrates how INTERNAL many of the issues I was dealing with were. But, we’ll get back to that. Don’t worry.
Okay, so I was bit by a tick in Uganda in 2012, and contracted African Tick Bite Fever (African version of Lyme disease). I was diagnosed with it immediately, but wasn’t aware of the long-term effects until about 7 years later. Since we’re talking about skin, I want to keep the focus there in relation to these illnesses. But, truth be told, there were a WIDE variety of symptoms beyond skin that were presenting in this time.
Alright, so it’s the end of 2018, and I decide that I want to take out my IUD. This was significant, because this meant I was coming off of birth control for the first time in 15 years. I’d been struggling with frequent yeast infections, so I wanted to just come back to the most natural version of me as possible, in case the IUD was the culprit (it wasn’t). At first, I felt AMAZING when they first took it out. And then, about 30 days later, I fell into the worst depression I’ve ever experienced as my hormones worked to rebalance themselves after 15 years of tampering. The yeast infections did NOT get better. They actually got worse, and more frequent. In this same time, I began to develop large boils on any given part of my body that would then turn into a gaping abscess. Not only were these infections incredibly painful, but also quite embarrassing. I mean, they definitely weren’t nice to look at, and pretty hard to miss. They were also starting to leave deep scars all over my body (including my face).
I went on to find out that I had an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staph (similar to MRSA, although not that specific strain). I also discovered that I had Candida overgrowth in my gut, which was the culprit of the weekly yeast infections (yes, you read that right, WEEKLY). Unfortunately, I had tried blasting out the Staph with SO MANY strong antibiotics over the course of the years, that my gut was destroyed. And, perhaps even more unfortunately, I was also popping over-the-counter yeast infection meds like candy. They were the only thing that helped! And I didn’t know this kind of medication is really only supposed to be taken once or twice a year, rather than once or twice a month. Needless to say, my gut was further destroyed in the process.
Here’s the thing, Candida overgrowth is SUPER common. We all have Candida naturally occurring in our gut, which can easily get overfed with sugary or starchy foods. Or, it can get all outta wack with heavy medication use (like I was doing). Candida overgrowth can affect everyone differently, but it’s quite typical for it to manifest through the skin (even if it’s just redness and itching).
During this time, I was also unaware of just how allergic and/or sensitive I was to certain foods- which was only causing further inflammation in my body, and expressing out through my skin. I had regular rashes, swelling, redness, nerve itching, and overall discomfort on a regular basis.
Now, in relation to my face, I should also point out that I’ve always been a sunworshipper. Everything from tanning beds in high school and college (ugh, I wish I listened to my mom on that one), to living on one remote island or sleepy surf town after the next. I lived in a bikini, and was usually sandy, salty, and hatless up until the last year or so of my twenties. Needless to say, the sun damage was real. And THAT was not a result of anything internal going on. As most of us know, getting blasted with sun (especially without sunscreen) for hours a day can also age the skin more rapidly.
This was something I really started to notice by the time I was about 28 or 29. I remember seeing a photo of me with lines on my forehead and a sun mustache, and I was thinking: “Wait, is that how I always look, or is this just bad lighting?” I mean, hell, I was in my 20s! And, honestly, I didn’t notice it on any of my friends- which is really when the self consciousness started to kick in. Should I get Botox?
Ugh, I literally felt instantly ashamed for even THINKING about it- mostly because I felt like I was too young to be showing these signs of aging, and was still at a place where I thought only “old people” got Botox. Ya know, like people in their 30s. (Please know that’s dripping with sarcasm, and written by a nearly 35-year-old now). I was also on a pretty tight budget. And I couldn’t justify the price tag of Botox, or other fancier treatments like lasers and peels. Plus, I couldn’t really stay out of the sun long enough to heal from something invasive anyways. So, my solution was simple- I just started being a lot more diligent about wearing a hat (shaking my head and younger me, who still wouldn’t even use SPF at this point, but oh well).
Now, by 2019, I was 30-years-old, wearing a hat and *sometimes* sunscreen. I was also making a bit more money to justify a facial here or there (usually I did microdermabrasion, although I didn’t see any results at the time). My main solution was to just not take as many up-close photos. To edit my skin. Use specific lighting. Avoid looking in the mirror. Definitely never take selfies. Basically, my tactic was simple: AVOIDANCE.
I was, however, incredibly dedicated to healing internally, not only because I felt horrible physically, but also because my mental health was so poor, I was scared sometimes I might not make it day to day. My healing journey of 2019 is really a different story, for a different day. BUT, it’s important here, because some of the treatments I started then forced me to deal with my skin, despite my relentless avoidance.
How I Treated the Gut Issues:
I’d been familiar with, and a client of, this medicine for many years, but in 2019 I found an incredible TCM doctor in Perth, Australia (where I was living at the time) who began to treat my gut through herbs and needles. If you’re new to acupuncture, the greatest advice I can give you is to ALWAYS go somewhere by recommendation, rather than blindly.
I’m not gonna lie, I did have to go on a gnarly, restrictive diet to clear the Candida (anyone who’s done the Candida diet knows). Although this is NOT a sustainable way to live long-term, nor would I recommend dieting to ANYONE under most circumstances- this was really a game-changer for me when it came to clearing things up once and for all. This was also helpful, because as I started introducing foods back in, I realized how many foods I was intolerant, allergic, or sensitive to- and could shift my diet accordingly.
This was the moment I became alcohol-free! The year prior, I had maybe had 3 drinks the entire year. But it was the last few days of 2018, that I decided to stop drinking altogether until I got to the bottom of my health issues. The longer I went without alcohol, the less I wanted it back in my life. (again, this is a WHOLE other post if you really want to know the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts of cutting alcohol.)
I stopped using any medications that weren’t absolutely necessary, and switched everything to all natural supplements or herbs, as recommended by my doctors. It’s important to note here that our livers also process supplements! So, overloading our system with fifty million supplements isn’t actually giving out body a break at all. AND, the quality of the product is important, so ask your doctor!
How I Treated My Mental Health
I found a new therapist who really supported me through this time. I know you might be thinking: how is this related to my skin? Well, to sum it up simply, let’s just say that the mind-body connection is a very real thing. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself!
This time period came with ending a 3-year romantic relationship that had caused a lot of stress, heartache, and pain. All of which was manifesting through my skin, and in my gut. Although the break up itself was ALSO painful and heartbreaking, I can now so easily see in hindsight just how healing it was to walk away.
This was the year that I started micro-dosing mushrooms, AND The year that I went to my first Ayahuasca retreat that consisted of 4 ceremonies. You can read more about my Aya experience on my blog, or you can listen from my podcast.
I had been living out of a backpack on and off for 10 years, and my body and heart were tired.
I’d been craving a home for awhile, and after the break up- this felt impossible! So, I made the choice to slow down, and settle in different places for longer than just one week at a time. Grounding down was just really beneficial, as I was able to cultivate routines and structure for the first time in a long time.
Treatments That Worked:
This one is controversial, I know. And it’s also not cheap. But, all I can say is that it worked for me- especially on an external level, when I was treating the abscesses. Wounds that might otherwise take weeks to heal, would heal in days after a topical ozone treatment.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber
This has similar effects of ozone, without the controversy. Again, this was very beneficial when it came to healing wounds, which I commonly had due to the rashes of Candida and the sores from the Staph. It’s not cheap, and it’s not always easy to find, but it remains one of my favorite wellness practices when I’m in a place that offers this service.
I’ve shared this before on my Instagram, but it’s SO worth sharing again here. Coming from someone who has tried most treatments under the sun, I can say with confidence that this is one that’s had the most profound impact on my entire wellbeing. A few years ago, I would NEVER have invested in such a hefty price tag kind of splurge, but nowadays, I prioritize my health above all else. Plus, after feeling SO different since starting EBO2 treatments (and also seeing a difference in my external, like my skin), every single penny of it feels worth it.
My go-to is high dose Vitamin C. which requires specific blood testing FIRST. I know that there are a TON of vitamin IV places now, so just make sure to check their menu of offerings FIRST, because there’s a lot of places that don’t offer this one due to the testing needed. This has been a game-changer for me because it boosts my over immune system (which was suffering greatly most of my 20s, and early 30s). When my body is stronger, and my immune system is happy, then I get that nice skin glow.
It took me so long to go to a dermatologist, and I don’t know why. I guess it was the embarrassment and avoidance? I don’t know, but all I can say now is just go. They will give you curated, specific advice and products for YOU and your skin, rather than trying to learn from influencers online.
Clear and Brilliant Laser
I started getting this laser treatment two years ago, and have since had it about 9 times. The reason I love it is that it’s VERY mild, and the recovery time is minimal (just stay out of the sun for that first day). My skin is SENSITIVE, and getting blasted by an intense laser tends to aggravate it more than it does help it. Plus, it’s important to note that ALL lasers can actually make hyperpigmentation WORSE for some people, due to the high volume of heat applied to the skin.
I mentioned this before, and said I didn’t notice much of a difference at first. This was definitely because I had yet to get to the root of the INTERNAL issues happening. In that case, there’s only so much EXTERNAL treatments can do. Once I got the internal stuff on lock, then I started noticing a drastic difference after Microderm treatments. Think tighter and brighter.
That’s right, I LOVE me some Botox. I started getting it in 2020, and I couldn’t be happier. I know this comes with a ton of judgment and stigma, so let’s save all that for another post, shall we? For here, I’ll just say that I’ve noticed my fine line disappear, without having a frozen face. Love.
Skin Tips & Products:
Stop Washing Face in Morning
That’s right. Stop it. Usually we put on all these lovely, luxurious creams and serums at night- so why wash them all off when we wake up?! The only time it might be important to rinse your face is if you have a night product that makes you sensitive to the sun (like Hydroquinone or a retinol). Otherwise, I just splash cold water (always cold for tightness and less drying) on my face to wake up and rinse the sleep out of my eyes.
Thank g I finally wised up and started applying facial sunscreen like it was my job. Ugh, it’s such a boring and cliche tip, but it DOES work. Literally, it’s the first thing I do after I get out of bed in the morning, because i KNOW I will be exposed to sunlight IMMEDIATELY. I like to do it with a yummy facial massage, which also helps to wake me right up. For me, EltaMD is bae (I go with the tinted version to help even out my skin tone). I’ve tried A LOT, and this one feels the best on my skin, and doesn’t cause break outs for me.
I refused to take collagen for ages, because when things get TOO trendy, then I don’t trust them. But then I started developing early on-set arthritis to the point that my left wrist and hand could hardly function for about 6 weeks. Then I learned that the ATBF eats collagen in my body! Which was also contributing to the wrinkles and breakdown of elasticity in my skin. So, I started taking collagen to help my joints, and I started with a vegan, algae-based brand called Biosil. I loved it, because it WORKED, and the pain in my joints went away (but it does taste like ASS, just warning you). Then, I started organ supplements for OTHER reasons about 6 months ago, and I didn’t need the vegan collagen anymore. Highly, highly recommend. Organ and collagen supplements have changed my life.
I love me some light therapy. Like, big red light junkie. And still, even after all the red light exposure I’d get, I didn’t know a difference in my skin. It wasn’t until one place did the LED light mask for me after a facial that I was like, NEED. Yes, some of these devices aren’t cheap, but they ARE a lot more affordable than regular treatments in spas. So, I did some research and landed on the Cleopatra mask. Alix says I look like a Power Ranger, and I’m okay with that. Pro tip: red light for recovery, and blue light for breakouts, rashes, killing bacteria.
Look, I still wear hats all the dang time, but I’ve also stepped it up a notch with a giant ass sun visor (it’s by Eric Javits, and also blocks UVA/UVB rays). Although this sometimes makes me look like a grandma roaming the beaches of Florida, I literally don’t care, because it’s the only thing that keeps my face FULL protected. Also love it, because I can roll it up to travel with and it keeps the shape. Pro tip: look on Poshmark if the new ones are too pricey for you!
Gotta close it out with a woo touch, of course, because this wouldn’t be a Kayla post otherwise, right? It’s a little cheesy, but I wouldn’t write it here if it wasn’t helpful. Remember, I’m someone who stopped looking in a mirror for about two years, so I needed to work on building self love within my body. Or, at the very least, just start to come back to my body at all. If you’re a far way off from mentally repeating love notes to your skin- i feel you. I was too. So, start with neutrality, instead. I would simply say things like, “Thank you for protecting me,” to my skin, by recognizing it’s most foundational function. This expanded into more loving words and affirmations, but starting first with a very neutral recognition of gratitude was POWERFUL. Pair it with that sunscreen facial massage in the morning, and you’re GOLDEN girl, I promise.
Okay, this blog may or may not have taken me two hours, and I’m sure there’s STILL something I’m forgetting. So, you might need to keep your eyes peeled for a part two.
Otherwise, the biggest takeaways here are:
THIS TAKES TIME. Everything I shared here, and the progress you see in the photos are over the course of FOUR YEARS! Be kind and gentle to yourself. And remember too much, too soon can do more damage than good.
THE INTERNAL COMES FIRST. Look underneath the skin to find the root cause of the issue. Usually, not always, there’s something going on inside that is simply expressing through the skin.
INDIVIDUALITY IS IMPORTANT. Although I’m sharing specifics here, I really want to encourage you to go to your own doctor to find the perfect blends for YOU. I went through a phase of trying everything on the internet, but I saw the biggest change when I saw someone for ME, rather than someone speaking to the masses.
MIND-BODY CONNECTION. It’s real. And if your confidence or mental health is suffering because of the way your skin looks, I see you. I feel you. Remember to be value the quality of your thoughts just as much as you value the way you LOOK on the outside. It’s all connected, boo.