PCOS & Acne: Tips From a Pro [Podcast] - PCOS Diva
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PCOS & Acne: Tips From a Pro [Podcast]

PCOS Podcast 46 - AcnePersistent acne is the bane of many women with PCOS.  If you believe the ads, there are countless magical products out there which will give you a perfect complexion in 30 days. “It’s pretty preposterous,” says master aesthetician, Valerie Tukey.  Val successfully treats many clients with PCOS and finds several common elements, particularly inflammation. Listen in to our conversation as she explains the expected and unexpected (pillowcases & toothpaste!) ways that your pores become clogged as well as:

  • How to find a knowledgeable aesthetician
  • Things that you can do to improve cystic acne
  • 3 supplements she recommends to her clients
  • Foods to avoid if you’re acne prone
  • Is coconut oil the best natural moisturizer alternative
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A full transcript follows.

ValTukeyValerie Tukey is a Master Aesthetician with a background in the beauty industry that spans over 26 years. Before owning her own skin care studio, she served as counter manager for companies such as Estee Lauder, Lancome, and cosmetics manager for Victoria’s Secret Beauty, where she gained unique insight into the retail world of beauty. Valerie is a Certified Acne Specialist, as well as a Reiki Master and National Guild Certified Hypnotist.

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Full Transcript:

Amy: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the PCOS Diva podcast. This is your host, Amy Medling. I’m a health coach and the founder of PCOS Diva. As a woman with PCOS, you should be thinking about your care team. You may have a reproductive endocrinologist or an OB/GYN, a dermatologist, a health coach like myself on your team, maybe an acupuncturist or a chiropractor. Have you ever thought of working with an aesthetician? Especially if you suffer with acne or other PCOS-related skin issues. I can tell you from personal experience that this type of expert can be really helpful on your PCOS journey.


I’m so fortunate that my personal aesthetician, Valerie Tukey, is going to join us today on today’s podcast. Valerie, welcome.


Valerie: Hi, Amy. It’s a pleasure to be here.


Amy: Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. I want to just give our listeners a little intro to your background. You have an extensive background in the beauty industry that spans over 26 years. You’re a master, and it’s pronounced “es-the-tish-an.” I may have mispronounced it in the intro. Before owning your own skincare studio, you have served as a counter manager for companies like Estee Lauder, Lancôme. You were a cosmetics manager for Victoria’s Secret Beauty, where you gained unique insight into the retail world of beauty. You’re also a certified acne specialist, as well as a Reiki Master and a National Guild certified hypnotist. You really are a magician, too, because over the years, working with you, my skin is really, it looks better than it ever has. I wanted to bring you on and kind of have you share some of your sort of secrets for women with PCOS.


Valerie: I can give up my secrets, but then I’ll have to kill you. No, I was just joking-


Amy: Oh no.


Valerie: We have a saying in my field, I’m an aesthetician, not a magician. I look at aesthetics as, and some people may disagree with me, but it’s mostly science and a little bit of an art, to be able to read the skin and find how you want to work your products and your tools that you use with the clients, much in the way that an artist paints a canvas and decides what brushes and what colors they’re going to work in in that day. I find that nothing is ever black and white in aesthetics. It’s all gray area. There’s always room for interpretation, there’s always more than one way to approach a skin problem. I might look at a client one month and say hey, we need to do XYZ to approach what’s going on with your skin, and then three months out do a 180 and do something completely different. Because there are so many factors going on internally and externally with the skin that can impact what it’s doing, what it’s presenting to us. We’ve got to be ready at any moment to kind of change the sails and go where the wind takes us.


Amy: I love that analogy about kind of deciding what brushes you’re going to use. I think women feel kind of that same way. There are so many choices out there, and you just kind of walk through the mall and you’re sort of bombarded with people selling Proactive and you go to the Lancôme counter, and everyone has kind of an acne solution, and they’re all expensive. So you’re not really sure-


Valerie: They are.


Amy: Where to start.


Valerie: It’s very daunting for someone. I’ve been in this business for years, and I still get absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of media, the advertising that’s out there and the magical promises of a perfect complexion in 30 days, which is pretty preposterous. If these three step systems really worked, I’d be out of a job, so I’m kind of grateful for that. It is tough. Going to the mall can be a mixed bag. I usually tell my clients, listen, if you want to go into your favorite, the big chain makeup stores and go ahead and have some fun and buy some eye shadows and liners and things, but when it comes to the skincare products or even the products that touch the face, like the foundation or bronzers and blushes, anything that’s coming in contact with the skin for a long period of time, you really need to know what you’re buying and looking at that ingredient deck, especially if you’re an acne prone person.


I’m very blessed. I do not suffer from acne. I’ve never suffered from acne. I can put pretty much anything I want on my skin, and I’m not going to have a problem. There’s been a couple of very rare instances where I’ve used a product and actually gotten some cystic acne, and I figured out pretty quickly that there was something in there that my skin wasn’t happy about. Someone who does have PCOS or someone who is acne prone, like a diabetic, a diabetic can’t run out and just eat whatever they want, or they’re going to suffer the consequences. It’s like that with skin that’s challenging. You have to know what you’re putting on your skin.


I became an aesthetician because working in the retail industry for years and I’m not knocking the companies. They make lovely products, and it’s such a fun experience to go into your local department store and go into the cosmetic department and everything smells so good and looks magical and you’ve got all these celebrity endorsements on the glossy ads and everything, and the packaging is exquisite. Everything looks like a little jewel box, and you can’t wait to bring it home and unpackage it and put all your pretty bottles on your vanity. But having worked in that environment for so many years, I got very frustrated by the realities of it, which was that it is a business. These are huge corporations with stockholders who expect profits. That trickledown effect, it comes down to the people working on those counters, a tremendous amount of pressure to sell product, whether or not you need the product.


I remember one of my executives, I think this was like in my mind one of the final straws that broke the camel’s back, and I said I’ve got to get out of this business. We had a new vitamin C serum, and my executive said, well, you need to sell 12 of those this week. I said, well, what if I don’t find 12 customers that need this serum? I remember her saying, “Oh, you will.” I knew what that meant in that moment, and I also knew that I couldn’t work that way. I couldn’t pressure people to buy things that I didn’t truly believe they needed. Knowing that the price of those products is so high because the customer is paying for the uniform that I wore to work every day that the counter provided me with. We got uniforms. They, you were paying for the free makeup and skincare allowance that we got a few times a year. You were paying for the latest celebrity’s multimillion dollar contract to endorse the product. You’re paying for that $10 glass jar. Packaging is very, very expensive, between the glossy boxes, the inserts and the containers themselves. If you ever get into that type of business and you start pricing out packaging, it’s unbelievable how much that stuff can cost. It all comes back down to the consumer. And the free gifts that really aren’t free, because you’re paying for those.


I started looking at what am I selling here? I’m selling stuff that, you know, it’s okay, but there’s nothing really very efficacious here, nothing that’s really helping anybody. It’s just kind of coating their skin, and I’m being pressured to sell these things or I’m going to lose my job, because they love to threaten you with your job if you didn’t make your sales plan. So you’re really hustling. It just didn’t feel like a job with integrity to me anymore. That’s when I decided I want to do this on my own set of standards. I went back to school and became an aesthetician, and that’s what I love is that I-, when someone walks in my door, Amy, in my mind I want a long-term relationship with this person.


That’s what a lot of solo aesthetician’s think. We’re out there working for ourselves, by ourselves, and we rely on our clients to be happy, number one, for us to have a good relationship with them that’s based on integrity and trust, and so that client knows that if we’re making a recommendation to them, it’s because we want what’s best for you, not because we’re trying to make a sales goal for somebody else. I want you to come back to me over and over for years. I want you to send your friends and family to me. The only way that’s going to happen is if I’m getting you results, number one, and number two, that you trust me and you know that when you leave with a bag with product in it, it’s because I really truly in my heart believe it’s going to help you.


Amy: Yeah. No, I get that. I mean we’ve been, I’ve been seeing you for the past ten years. You’ve seen my kids grow up.


Valerie: Yeah.


Amy: The product that you sell is not something that I’m going to find at Sephora or it’s professional products. I think it is important to find the right person to work with, and maybe you could give our divas some tips. How do you find a knowledgeable aesthetician?


Valerie: I realize it probably is easier said than done, but some of the things you want to look for is-, and this is not to knock day spas or groups of aestheticians if they’re working in some kind of facility. I’m not trying to suggest in any way that they are not knowledgeable or good at what they do. What I would look for as a consumer is someone who is a solo, someone who works alone or a couple of aestheticians working together, again, because if you’re able to be self-sustaining in this business without relying on a chain, the name of a chain to feed you clients or a day spa that’s just well-known that you’re going to have this revolving door of people showing up whether you’re good or not, just because it’s a well-known name, that tells you something right there. If you can find someone who works by themselves, go on their website. You want to see good before and after photos. To me the proof is in the pudding, and you’ve seen my work. I often post pictures on my Facebook page, and sorry, my website is down right now, but I do have my acne page up and I do have some of my pictures of my clients on there.


That really speaks volumes, when someone can actually show you, this is what I’ve done for someone. This is the work that we’ve been able to accomplish with my program or with the products that I use. Look for somebody who like works for themselves, someone who can actually show you pictures of their work. Those would be two of the top things that I would tell you are signs of someone who knows what they’re doing.


Amy: Speaking of your work, the before and afters of women who are suffering with cystic acne are really amazing. I know it doesn’t happen overnight, but I was hoping that you could give listeners, and I know many, it’s just one of those really crummy symptoms of PCOS, but give us some tips on how to help improve things that we can do to improve our PCOS cystic acne.


Valerie: Sure. I will tell you that it has been my experience, because I do have a number of clients with PCOS who I’ve been able to successfully clear. It’s really, what’s been a learning experience for me, Amy, is that I think the old assumption with PCOS, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners have found, we used to know, oh, well if someone is, they’re losing their hair. They have inappropriate facial hair growth on the chin and neck. They’re overweight, etc., etc. These sort of textbook standard symptoms of PCOS that we’d say, oh, well, it’s obvious that she has it. Well, I’ve been finding more and more that it’s very sneaky, and I have women that have a full head of hair and they’re as skinny as a rail, and they don’t have any facial hair growth–maybe like one or two little whiskers on their chin. So it’s just remarkable to me that the different shapes and sizes, I guess, that PCOS comes in, and still these, I see these people with this persistent acne who have great diets, and they eat well, and they exercise, and they do all the things that I know you advocate for a healthy lifestyle, and yet they consistently get these outbreaks, and it’s got to be incredibly frustrating.


Like I said, I have found that I just, I treat them all the same, because it can take a little longer for someone with PCOS to clear, but I still am able to get them to that result that we want. I’ve found that on average it takes maybe sixteen weeks, 20 weeks, so four or five months, and that’s really not a long time if you’ve been suffering with acne for years. So when I do a consult-, oh, go ahead?


Amy: I was just going to interrupt with how many visits per month are you talking about?


Valerie: It depends. I have some people who have super busy schedules and they’re only able to come in once a month. I’ve had people get clear in four or five visits. When people will ask me that question, well how many times do I have to come in? I am more focused on your home care than how many office visits we do. I always compare it to going to the dentist. If you go to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned, but then you go home and you don’t brush and floss, then the cleaning is for nothing. If someone is in a pinch and they’re like geez, Val, I’m on a really tight budget, I would rather that they not come into the office and I put them on a home care routine, because they’re going to be touching their face twice a day, all month long, versus coming into my office once. I still want to see them to monitor them, but in those instances, the focus is really on the home care.


What I do with people who are suffering from acne, we address a bunch of different things. I know that you coach your Divas on dietary recommendations, and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s a lot of clean eating. It’s low glycemic foods, everything to kind of control the insulin imbalances-


Amy: Right, right.


Valerie: Right, I tell people-


Amy: Anti-inflammatory foods.


Valerie: Yeah, exactly. Yep. Because really that’s what causes acne. Acne has a very large component in inflammation. Inflammation is what is the precursor to the clogging in the pore we’re finding now. We can pile all kinds of great product on the skin, but really, the skin is a two sided organ, so we need to address from inside the body out, as well. I’ve really, I don’t have quite the expansive knowledge about diet and supplements that you do, Amy. I mean you boggle my mind every time you come in, and I learn something new from you, and it’s so great. But what I have found is that there’s three basic things as far as like supplements that I do recommend to my clients to take. I always tell them, listen, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, but these are the things that I have found can be helpful for people is number one, taking your omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are very helpful with acne prone people to reduce inflammation internally.


Second thing is I like everyone to take a probiotic, because as we know, we’re finding that the gut is linked to everything, including the skin, including acne, inflammation throughout the body, etc. Again, reducing inflammation. And then zinc-


Amy: Can I just give a little tout to fermented foods there?


Valerie: Yeah.


Amy: I think, yeah, I have a podcast with Summer Box. She’s a master fermentationist, and she talked about just a couple spoonfuls of raw sauerkraut a day is amazing for acne prone skin because of all of those natural probiotics that you get from-


Valerie: Yeah, you’ve got me thinking that, and I love it. It’s delicious.


Amy: I know, isn’t it? Yeah, you get a side of-


Valerie: It is.


Amy: I like Micro Mama’s. I don’t know if it’s just available in New England area, but I’ve found that that’s my favorite. Anyway, so I just had to mention that.


Valerie: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that’s a real good one. With diet, I tell my clients, listen, you’ve got to-, there’s certain things we just have to not eat if you’re acne prone, and one of them is dairy. As we all know, dairy has hormones in it, not only the farmers have been adding the hormones, but it’s breast milk of a cow meant to grow a baby cow. You’ve harped on me about this. We’ve had big discussions about dairy, and those hormones affect us internally and absolutely we’re finding more and more proof that there is a link between dairy and acne. And kids love pounding the milk with their cereal or with cookies. I’m finding that teenaged boys, they’ll drink a gallon of milk in two days. It’s unbelievable. So dairy is something that people really need to be careful of, whether it’s cheese or even yogurt. We’ve found with some people it’s not something that’s helping them any. It’s basically like cow’s milk, cow’s cheese. We do find that goat’s milk and goat yogurt seems to be not as likely to flare up people, which is interesting.


Amy: Yeah, I think it’s that A1 casein which is not present in goat’s or sheep’s milk.


Valerie: Yeah.


Amy: For some people, that A1 casein is highly inflammatory. Yeah, you can kind of, I tell people, you can sort of experiment and see if you can have a little goat’s cheese or-


Valerie: Yeah, because everybody’s different.


Amy: Right.


Valerie: Again, it’s that there is no black and white, and that’s, your mileage may vary with all of these recommendations, but it’s always worth it to keep a food diary and really to pay attention to what you put in your body. I have a client who can’t-, Samuel Adams beer, sorry, Sam, but just that one brand of beer, she will be covered in pustules within 24 hours, and all of her chest and shoulders and face. It’s more like a food allergy reaction. Something in that beer-


Amy: It’s probably the gluten.


Valerie: But it looks like pimples, it’s unbelievable. You’ve got to really pay attention to what you put in your body. Foods that are androgenic, peanut butter and peanut oil and corn oil, those foods, you know, people, I love my peanut butter and a lot of people do, but we find that peanut butter is also something that’s really acne triggering. Try to give people alternatives. Like hey, instead of that, have some almond butter or try another nut butter and for oils, you can, instead of cooking in peanut oil or corn oil, try cooking in coconut oil. I’m a big advocate of eating coconut oil, Amy. I put a little teaspoon of it in my coffee every morning, and I just feel really good when I eat that. I love the taste, and I think there’s a lot of health benefits to coconut oil, being a medium chain triglycerides in it and it does have some antimicrobial properties to it.


We want to put the coconut oil in our body and not on our body, especially not the face and the hair. Because it is highly, highly comedogenic and that’s something I think that really needs to be talked about because we live in a day and age of Instagram and Pinterest and everybody’s an expert on the internet with these natural remedies. While I know that they’re well meaning, there really are no studies out there proving that coconut oil isn’t pore clogging. All the evidence points to poor clogging, and I see it myself with my clients. I’ll have someone who’s new will come and they’ll tell me, oh, I’m using coconut oil as a moisturizer, and their face is dehydrated and it’s riddled with clogging.  Or I’ll have someone go to that store in the mall that is very fragrant smelling and they have all the fun bath bombs and things like that, and a lot of the haircare and skincare in there has got a lot of coconut oil in it, too. I get these young kids who love those products, but it’s making an awful mess of their face. Even if it’s in the haircare. Your hair touches your face or you lay on it when you’re sleeping or it’s getting all over your pillow case. That really can lead to some awful problems.


I just want to let your listeners know that if you’re using coconut oil on your skin, I really don’t recommend you putting it on your face, because it’s such a bone of contention with me and my clients. I’m like no coconut oil. It’s not helping.


Amy: That’s a great tip, because I see those posts all the time, as well. Yes, coconut oil internally is great for PCOS too. There’s an article on PCOS Diva about the benefits, so check that out.


Valerie: Awesome. Awesome. Yeah, so I go through dietary recommendations with them, such as those things. Another thing is iodides. There’s a little bit of debate out there right now, and I think anything is up for debate when it comes to our health and our bodies and our skin, but we’ve seen that eating things high in iodides such as kelp, the wraps that go around sushi or taking things like blue green algae and supplements like that or supplements high in iodides, while we do need those, they tend to wreak havoc on the skin. I had a client once we’d gotten her skin totally clear and started taking a new vitamin that was very high in iodine, and it just blew up her face. It was pretty incredible. That’s the thing with supplements, too. You’ve got to be careful. Things like biotin, I know that’s a hot supplement right now people are taking for hair and nail growth. I see that all over the place, but that speeds up the proliferation of skin cells. If it’s going to make your hair and nails grow faster, it’s also going to speed up the production of skin cells, and so I see a lot of pore clogging with people who are acne prone.


Amy: That’s a great tip.


Valerie: Taking biotin. Yeah, and again, if someone’s not acne prone, they can do pretty much anything they want. But if we’re talking about people who seem to have a sensitivity to getting break outs, that’s something they need to be careful of. You’ve really got to watch supplements. Your shake, your beef derived shake that you sell is acne safe as far as I know. I looked it over, and it looked really good.


Amy: Oh, my Power Protein.


Valerie: Yes.


Amy: The Power Protein, yes.


Valerie: Yes. Yes, I do-


Amy: What about, you know, I really steer women away from whey, because it–


Valerie: Yes, I, yeah, we do too.


Amy: It can increase insulin resistance.


Valerie: Yes.


Amy: I also have a pea, an organic pea protein that if you’re looking for a vegan alternative-


Valerie: That’s terrific.


Amy: So pea is not really an issue with acne.


Valerie: Yes. No, no. We just want to stay away from the whey, because it comes from dairy and it all goes back to the same thing we were talking about. It’s really hard for me to give a specific protocol of what people should do, because again, everything is very individual, but some of the things that can be helpful, some of the ingredients that people want to look for in treating their acne, some of the things that I’ve found to be most helpful is incorporating benzoyl peroxide, and that would typically be in a leave on lotion.  A benzoyl peroxide wash is nice, but that’s on your skin for like one minute, and then it’s rinsed off. We really need something that’s going to go in, oxygenate the pore, help to shed away that build up that’s inside the follicle as well as kill the bacteria.


There’s more than one type of acne bacteria strain, but it does go in there and oxygenate, and they love to live in a anaerobic environment. There’s no oxygen in the pore, so by oxygenating that it helps to kill the bacteria. It’s something that we really need to do on an around the clock basis is fighting those little plugs, those little comedones that form in the pore, you know, that’s part of what’s happening in the skin, whether it’s from the PCOS, with insulin resistance or we’re having a lot of androgens, elevated androgens in the body, that’s resulting in an increase of sebum, that’s just the oil that’s produced in our pore, and that’s mixing with skin cells that are shedding from the inside of the lining of the pore, and it forms these little balls. Sometimes if you stretch the skin, you can see these little white, round sort of, well, it squishes out, so I shouldn’t say it’s round, but it’ll look round if you stretch the skin and you look under the surface of the skin. That’s a mixture of this oil and skin cells.


Bacteria that lives in our pores and on our skin, the bacteria lives there all the time, and most of the time it’s not causing us any problems, but it feeds on that material. When it does, that irritates the follicle lining. You’re getting this proliferation of bacteria in there secreting a substance that irritates the lining of the follicle, and so then we start getting this inflammation, and you get those painful pimples. Often it’s kind of deep in the skin, so you can’t even really see it, and that’s when we start digging at the skin and picking and making scars and hyper pigmentation and a big old mess.


If you do get one of those cysts, one of the best things you can do is ice it. Just like when we injure say you hurt your knee. What does the doctor tell you to do? They tell you to ice it, it will reduce the inflammation. I tell that to my clients, you’ve got to reduce the inflammation. Number one, because we don’t want that follicle rupturing and having that infection spread to other areas of the face. By reducing the inflammation, we have a better chance of actually opening up that pore and allowing, relaxing the inflammation so that the pore can open and allow the infection to come to the surface where you can actually see it, and then maybe gently coax it out with some tissues wrapped around your fingers. People really need to be careful with the picking. I’ve seen a lot of people scarring their faces because they’re digging deep, trying to get to that infection. The reality is you’re most of the time not going to get it, and you’re just making a much bigger mess on your face. Even worse, you could give yourself a staph infection. I have seen that happen on a couple of occasions where people were chronically picking their faces.


Reducing that inflammation is really important. Icing, number one, and then applying a benzoyl peroxide lotion. Also, another ingredient that is really a superstar in my arsenal of caring for client’s skin is mandelic acid. Mandelic acid I can’t tell you exactly when it came on the market, but my recollection of it is probably ten years ago, so it’s still fairly new compared to things like salicyclic acid and glycolic acid, but it’s kind of a cool ingredient that does a multitude of things. If you can find a product that has mandelic acid in it. Mandelic is an alphahydroxy acid that comes from bitter almonds. So the word Mandel is German for almonds, and so hence we have mandelic acid.


What it does is it actually helps to do a bunch of things. It exfoliates the skin, it helps to suppress melanin production, so it helps to lighten discoloration in the skin. It’s also antimicrobial, so it fights bacteria. Also, if you have the right kind of mandelic, because there’s actually a couple of different kinds out there, there’s one called L-mandelic, like L as in Larry, and there’s DL-mandelic. The difference is the L-mandelic is also anti-fungal, and that’s the one that I primarily work with with my clients. I have a series of serums that in graduating strengths that I give people. I find that that’s such a great workhorse on the skin is mandelic acid, because if you’ve got some pimples, like say you’ve got some ingrown hairs on the neck or some inflammatory acne, it really helps to kill that bacteria, bring that swelling down. Open up the pore openings so the infection can release, and it also helps to speed up healing of the marks left behind by old acne, which is always something that people complain about.


On that note about it killing fungus, I’m seeing more and more, and I don’t know what you think about this, but I’m telling you, Amy, 15 years ago, I did not see this condition on skins around here, and I’m seeing it every day. It looks like little pimples, so people will present with usually on the forehead, the chest or kind of like on the sides of the neck running down from the ear, it’ll look like little teeny weeny pimples, lots and lots of them. So if any of your listeners have like all these little bumps on their forehead and they don’t extract, so they’re trying to pick at them and nothing comes out. Chances are, that’s actually not acne, but a condition that we’ll refer to as fungal folliculitis. What that is it mimics acne, it looks like a whole lot of pimples. But it’s actually an overgrowth of the yeast that naturally lives on our skin.


Amy: Which is it related to candida, kind of like that yeast overgrowth that a lot of women have to deal with?


Valerie: I’m not sure it’s the-, I know that there’s a number of different funguses that live on our skin, and I have to be honest, I’m not really sure if it’s the same fungus. I don’t think it is. What you’re saying leads me to wonder, is it something in our diets, is it the gluten, is it all the sugar we eat. Why am I seeing this proliferation of fungus on people. It’s like there’s a fungus among us. Everybody’s got fungus. The mandelic really helps with that. My best friend, I’ve known this girl since 5th grade, she had these bumps on her forehead for 20 years and could never get rid of them. She tried everything. I find it really odd, because she told me she went to like 4 different dermatologists, and nobody could help her. So I’m not sure what to make of that, but I gave her some mandelic serum and it went away, and she was really, really happy, and I felt like a hero.


That’s a really good thing that people, I want people to know, hey, if you’ve got all these weird little bumps growing on your skin, it may not be acne, it might be that. That’s when you want to look again to mandelic serum, and if you’re going to buy mandelic somewhere, you want to ask whoever’s selling it to you what kind of mandelic is this, because there is a difference. If you’d don’t have the fungal problem, then don’t worry about it, but if you do, you really want to have the correct mandelic acid. Typically the L-mandelic is a little more expensive, but it’s completely worth it, because it does all of those other things, as well.


Amy: As we were talking about other acne treatments, it kind of triggered a couple other supplements that I just wanted to mention. Berberine. You know, berberine, I’ve talked a lot about it on PCOS Diva, and have several articles and I actually have it in my store. But berberine has been shown in clinical studies that in just four weeks it’s improved acne by 45%.


Valerie: That’s impressive.


Amy: It’s something to really look at, however, I caution people when you are using berberine, it’s not something that you use long term without a break, because it’s antimicrobial, and you kind of need to give your gut a break, and you certainly need to be taking a probiotic. Check out the blog posts. We talk more about kind of the protocol for berberine. The other supplement that is kind of an androgen blocker. It also helps to sort of metabolize or detoxify kind of some of the bad estrogens, it’s called diindolylmethane or dim, D-I-M.


Valerie: DIM, I was going to say DIM, yes. That’s something I’m hearing a lot about these days, and I’m trying to learn more about it, because I’d like to be able to get people on board with that, as well.


Amy: It really helps with the acne because of that androgen blocking. Those are two other supplements that I know I just, I know that they’ve been shown to help with acne, so-


Valerie: Uh huh, that’s awesome. I had a couple of little talking points I just wanted to touch on to your listeners as far as what they can do at home. I know it’s like we talked about when we first started this conversation, it is very daunting. There’s so much information out there, but one thing they really want to look at again, going back to being careful what you put on your skin, and we really, we read food labels, but do people really read their product labels of what’s in their product- looking at pore clogging ingredients. We talked about how the coconut oil unfortunately is very pore clogging. But there are a lot of pore clogging ingredients in makeup that we don’t even, can’t even understand what is this ingredient. Like meristal meristate is in a lot of cosmetics and very acne triggering, or if you see algaen, you know, the algae extracts in cosmetics can be very pore clogging. There’s a lot of lists on the internet that you can find that will tell you pore clogging ingredients.


I know in my field, you know, aestheticians are always debating about everything. We love to have heated conversations about what’s true and what’s not true, so someone might say oh, well, that list you found isn’t accurate. You need to start somewhere. Is any one list out there with pore clogging ingredients completely accurate? No, I don’t think any of them are completely on the money. But at least you have some kind of a guideline, somewhere to start if you’re not doing anything to at least look at your cosmetics and look at your skincare and say hey, maybe this foundation that I got from Joe, whoever, I don’t want to name names, but if you’re wearing a foundation, it could have some pore cloggers in it. You really want to be mindful of what you’re using on your face, because it may not, it could be that you do have PCOS and you are acne prone, but by making a few little changes to your regimen of what you’re putting on your skin can make all the difference.


That’s what I’ve seen with some of my clients. We didn’t have to do anything terribly difficult but tweak a few things that they were using on their skin or changing some habits. Like if you are acne prone, you want to change your pillow cases really frequently, and you don’t want to be using dryer sheets and fabric softener on them, because those put a waxy coating on the fabric which your face is pressing against that for eight hours a night, typically. That’s going to cause you some problems. Toothpaste is another big trigger. Sodium laurel sulphate in toothpaste is a big acne trigger, and I often see clusters of clogged pore at the corners, the lower corners of people’s mouths where the toothbrush is kind of going back and forth, embedding that microscopic particles of what’s in the toothpaste into the skin. So I tell my clients, listen, brush your teeth in the shower and then wash your face off after you’ve brushed your teeth, so you’re really able to rinse all of that away.


It’s summer time, we’re in the pool, we’re at the beach, and the chlorine and the salt in your pool water can be a huge acne trigger. This is going to sound kind of crazy, but if you are having a lot of break outs and you’re concerned about the pool water affecting your skin, you can put a thin layer of Vasoline on your skin before you go in the pool to protect you. Vasoline is not pore clogging, believe it or not. It’s not exactly, you know, petroleum is not something we think of as being this wonderful ingredient that we want to use on the skin for health reasons, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve been misinformed by mass marketing for years and years that led to believe that mineral oil and petroleum or petrolatum were pore clogging and that’s an absolute lie. They are not pore cloggers, so surprise, surprise. Isn’t that interesting. Meanwhile, some of our most natural botanical based oils can be extremely problematic on the skin.


If someone is looking for a good oil, if you like doing oil on the face, I’m a big advocate of oil cleansing. I have a lot of my clients using the oil cleanse method to dissolve their makeup, and if you use the right oils, it can actually help to dissolve clogging in the pores. I’m a big fan of sunflower oil. Your skin typically likes sunflower oil. It’s very gentle on the skin. It doesn’t clog pores. As long as the bottle doesn’t say high oleic oil. There are different types of sunflower oil. You want to look for one that does not say high oleic, because that will cause some pore clogging, but if it doesn’t, you’re probably going to be okay. It’s definitely a better bet than coconut oil. I actually do have my acne clients oil cleansing along with their acne washes, and it seems to work really, really well at keeping the skin balanced.


Amy: That’s interesting. I never would have thought that.


Valerie: Learn something new every day, right?


Amy: I know. I know. We’re coming to a close of the podcast. Wondering is there anything else that you wanted to mention to listeners. I know that you had talked about a particular makeup line that you like-


Valerie: Oh, right, yes. Trying to keep our conversation brand neutral, but I am going to mention one brand, because there is so much makeup out there, people trying to navigate and find what is safe for them and what isn’t safe. My good friend, Kelly Madison, out in Pennsylvania has been developing this mineral makeup line for years. We know there’s that other big mineral line out there that has the stores in the malls and unfortunately, that big line that you find in the mall uses some ingredients that actually can aggravate acne. Their original formula of mineral foundation is still fairly safe, but they’ve introduced a lot of new products. These matte powders and pressed powders and stuff with earth soil in it, and really that’s, I don’t recommend any of that because we’ve actually seen people getting acne from these newer products that have been introduced. So I try to steer clear if that, in general.


Kelly owns PRIIA™ minerale-derm and so it’s a mineral makeup company, and it’s spelled P-R-I-I-A.com is her website, and she has a fantastic line of cosmetics that she has developed, and it is acne safe. It’s also gluten free, cruelty free, and she has a lot of vegan friendly choices. She does not have any talc or DNC dyes or parabens or pore clogging ingredients in her makeup. She’s going to be giving your listeners for a limited time a discount code. I think you’ll probably have that listed and paired up with the link to the podcast here-


Amy: Yes, at some point, uh huh.


Valerie: Cool. Yeah, and she, I reached out to her and I said, hey, listen, I’m going to be doing this great podcast with Amy, and I love your makeup, and I just want to let Amy’s listeners know that there is a really lovely natural option for them out there.


Amy: That’s fantastic. And we’ll also be posting Val’s acne website and follow her Facebook page, because she’s always posting some really informative and entertaining content.


Valerie: Yeah, I just, be forewarned, I’m kind of like-, people who know me know I am what I am. I’m kind of like that, there’s this blog I love to read and the lady swears a lot, and I can’t remember what it’s called now. I’m not for everybody, but if that’s, I’m just, I’m just kind of down to earth. A little kooky and irreverent, and my client’s know, there’s no holds barred with me I guess is what I’m trying to say. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my clients, and I just want everyone to feel beautiful and to be empowered in their skin. Because I know that beauty, you know, is more than skin deep, but when we’re able to look in the mirror every day and really feel like a Diva, to feel confident, to feel beautiful and be able to go through our day and not be focusing on our skin or what we look like, but just feeling comfortable in our own body, there’s no price tag you can put on that.


Amy: You’re absolutely true. There’s so much more that I wanted to cover, and we just really focused this podcast on acne, but I’d love to invite you, Val, to come back and talk about some of the other issues that women with PCOS deal with in regards to their skin. Things like skin tags and kind of that darkening of the skin caused by insulin, the Acanthosis nigricans, the-


Valerie: Yeah, the acanthosis nigricans is a, yeah, that’s a tricky one. I’ll tell you really quickly, it’s a skin condition that typically comes with insulin resistance and diabetes and obesity, and honestly there is no cure for that. I know someone had written in a question about that, and I did want to at least answer one of the questions today. I know I’ve been-, would you believe I thought I was going to run out of things to talk about. This is hilarious. But with the ancanthosis nigricans, it’s, there really is no cure, unfortunately. It’s really all about controlling blood sugar and losing weight, and that can help it to go away on its own. But if you don’t address the insulin resistance, it actually can come back, and it can come back even worse. Unfortunately, that is really the crux of it.


Amy: Yeah, and I can say I had that in my teens and early 20’s when my insulin was, my PCOS was out of control, and nobody really knew, you know, because I was still thin. But you could, I want you to know, you can be thin and still have insulin resistance. I had it on my neck and kind of under my arms, but since I’ve got my PCOS under control, it’s gone. But yeah, like you said, if I went back to my old ways, it would probably come back again. There’s just so much that you can do with diet and lifestyle change.


Valerie: Absolutely.


Amy: I’m just so glad that that’s part of your acne protocol and just want to thank you again, Val, for sharing your knowledge. I really encourage all of your listeners who struggle with skin issues to find your own Val. Or if you’re in the Nashua, New Hampshire, area, you’ll have to go visit and try her wonderful facials, which I think I have one scheduled in a couple of weeks.


Valerie: Yeah, I think it’s next week.


Amy: Yeah. Thanks, Val, and thank you everyone for listening. I just want you to know if you enjoy these PCOS Diva podcasts, I’ve added them to an updated PCOS Diva app that you can find on iTunes and through Google Play for Android, so you can access all of the podcasts through the app now. You can also find us on iTunes, as well, and all of the podcasts are archived on the website. I think this might be podcast number 46, so lots of great info if you want to go back and look at the archives.


Thanks again for listening, and I look forward to being with you all again soon.


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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this information! I’ve been searching for over a year for a solution to the tiny bumps on my forehead and cheeks that Valerie described as fungal folliculitis. I’m really hoping that L-mandelic acid will finally help to clear up my skin. I’m also going to try PRIIA makeup.

  2. I am curious if benzoyl peroxide lotion or L-mandelic acid are endocrine disruptors? Are they safe while trying conceive or during pregnancy? If so, do you have any brand recommendations? Thank you!