acne on a high-carb, low-fat diet and face mask recipes

I have been extremely busy with school this past month and a half.  April consisted of contsant studying for AP tests, and May has been filled with events.  Not one week has gone by without an AP test or some sort of ceremony, concert, or convocation, and the hecticness continues with a banquet and a luncheon, two more concerts, another ceremony or two, finals, and, finally, graduation.  After that my life will be overrun with parties, travel, and college preparation.

While all this craziness can be fun and exciting, it is also, at times, very stressful.  For me, with stress comes acne.  I recently posted about all of the health problems I cured on a vegan diet, and acne is one of the few problems that did not get better as a vegan.  In fact, my acne got worse when I first became vegan, especially when I ditched the prescription acne cream and became high-carb, low-fat (HCLF) vegan.

From what I have observed, my biggest acne triggers in the past year since transition to HCLF have been detox, stress, and pool chemicals (I teach swimming).  In my experience, the best way to treat acne is to find the cause and treat that, rather than the acne itself.  Detox was something I just waited out, stress is dealt with by taking as much time for myself as possible by getting enough sleep, exercising, and relaxing, and I avoid the pool as much as possible (without actually quitting my job).

A few months ago, I also started experimenting with face masks.  Much to my surprise, they have really helped!  Below are two very simple recipes for face masks, as well as a list of other useful vegan face mask ingredients to try.  Experiment and enjoy!

Face mask for acne:

Green tea is extremely anti-inflamitory, and rice flour is great for exfoliating.  It feels nice to use the face mask while the green tea is still warm, and it is more likely to do its job on your skin, but cold green tea will work too.

  • warm green tea
  • white rice flour
  1. Mix a couple tablespoons of each in a bowl to form a thick paste.  You will probably want more flour than liquid.
  2. Coat face with mixture (it will be very thick) and rest for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Rinse face with a scrubbing motion to exfoliate.
  4. Moisturize.

After pool face mask:

Pools are generally filled with harmful chemicals that leach healthy oils from skin and hair, causing them to dry out.  This face mask replenishes vitamins E and C with avocado and lemon juice, which will bring dry skin back to life.  It also works well as a hair mask!

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1-3 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. Mash avocado.
  2. Mix with lemon juice, using less if cuts or open pimples are present.
  3. Spread onto face and rinse off after about 10 minutes.

Other face mask ingredients:

Try coming up with your own combinations to find a mix that works well for you.  However, be careful about using any ingredients, especially essential oils, that you are unsure of or may be allergic to.  I have made this mistake before, and your face is not the place to take risks.

  • any citrus juice
  • banana
  • oats/oat flour
  • mashed kiwi
  • mashed strawberry
  • pureed cucumber
  • essential oils

In case you were wondering about the acne I have dealt with, here are some pictures of me before being vegan, during my acne’s worst, and now:

IMG_1725 IMG_2171 IMG_2654

I have never really had a clear face, but it’s getting better!

health problems cured on a vegetarian and vegan diet

This is a post listing and discussing some of the problems I have cured or improved as a vegan or lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

Eczema.  For most of my childhood, as I can remember, I was plagued with eczema, especially on my feet, ankles, and knees.  I still have faint scars from itching and bleeding.  When going vegetarian and focusing on eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and properly hydrating, my eczema quickly vanished.  I would occasionally feel it start to come back, especially when not properly hydrating, but eczema has not returned since giving up dairy.  Drinking lots of water is very important for eliminating eczema, and, in the winter, putting oils (I like jojoba) on my feet and ankles every week or two makes my skin less dry.

Mental fogginess.  As described in my post about how I got to where I am as a vegan, going vegetarian was like seeing light for the first time.  My grades went from normal to stellar, I found positive friendships for the first time, and I started to get a sense of my place in this world.  In high school, however, things started getting worse consciousness wise because my positive friends had all gone to different schools, I got so much homework that I did not have time to do the things I most enjoyed, and, most significantly, I really started under eating.  During this time was when I went vegan.  Things temporarily got worse because I did not realize how low in calories vegan foods are and how much more I needed to eat.  As soon as I started really trying to eat enough, things got better.  Mental clarity is back!  For me, food and sleep are the most important ingredients for a functional mind (and body).

Tendency to break bones.  I am not really sure if this is a health problem I actually had, or if it was just coincidence, but I was in a cast a lot as a kid.  While I have only broken bones twice, I was in a cast for six months for a broken foot, which took twice the expected healing time and for three months for a broken wrist, and I had a growth plate issue that caused my foot to be in a cast an additional three or four months.  This might not seem like that much, but it all happened within 2 years, the two years before going vegetarian.  While I am still fairly clumsy and injure myself in minor ways all the time, I have not gotten any cast-requiring, bone-breaking injuries since going vegetarian.  Whether or not a vegetarian diet has actually fixed this problem for me is uncertain.  However, acidic foods like meat and dairy have the potential to leach calcium from bones, so I would bet that my bone health is a lot better since changing my diet.

Being overweight.  I was fairly overweight when I was younger.  I was only sort of chubby for most of my life, but when the injuries started coming one after another, my weight became a real problem.  I could not participate in gym class, play sports, or even, in some cases, go for walks outside.  The complete lack of exercise, along with the Standard American Diet, caused me to become quite overweight.  When I went vegetarian, I did not even have to try to lose weight.  Despite having the biggest growth spurt of my life, I was dropping pounds like crazy, and weight loss continued for a solid two years.  My weight has kind of fluctuated since then, but, as you can guess, I am not overweight anymore.

Acid reflux.  A lot of people in my family have issues with acid reflux.  If you do not know what this is, it is an awful burning in the esophagus, usually caused directly by something that was eaten.  Dairy never seemed to be the cause my acid reflux.  I would eat ice cream, cereal with milk, and cheese without any acid reflux problem.  Things like dried fruit and especially orange juice really brought it on.  To my surprise, giving up dairy made acid reflux go away completely.  I now can drink up to four glasses of orange juice, eat as much dried fruit as I want, and enjoy several sour grapefruits without any issues.  Since being vegan, acid reflux has only reappeared thrice, once when accidentally consuming something containing chicken broth, another time from eating too many underripe bananas, and lastly from a multi-vitamin designed for vegan teenagers that I stopped taking.

Easy bruising.  Even while I was vegetarian, friends used to say, “Abby, you bruise like a peach.”  This was totally truthful.  I often had ten bruises on my two legs alone, with new ones perpetually arriving as old ones went away.  My hips were black and blue.  My arms and wrists had bruises too.  I was probably deficient in something.  Well, over the years, especially since transitioning to veganism, my bruising seems to be normal.  Rather than being dark, black, blue, and purple, my bruises now are usually light pink, and I have between zero and three at any given time.  Thanks veganism!

Dry and rash-prone skin.  I already touched on this in describing how I cured eczema, but I want to mention how the vegan diet and lifestyle has made my skin even better.  Even while I was vegetarian, I would use expensive lotion all the time to keep my skin under control.  I have very, very sensitive skin, and I have gotten rashes as a result of clothing, soaps and lotions, allergies, the cold, dry air, chlorine, and other things.  Switching to a vegan diet, discontinuing my use of non-vegan lotions and soaps, and choosing sustainable vegan clothing has improved my skin tremendously.  Chlorine (I work at a pool) still causes me problems, but the vegan lifestyle really has fixed almost all of my skin problems.

Poor digestion.  When I was lacto-ovo-vegetarian, I had really, really bad digestion.  Having one bowel movement a week was totally normal for me, and it was awful.  Now that I don’t have dairy and eggs blocking my colon, my digestion is great!  Other than that and eating a whole lot of fruit, I have found that drinking enough water, getting good sleep, exercising, and limiting my intake of things I know cause me issues also helps with my digestion.

Headaches.  Headaches have been an on and off issue for me.  I got a concussion in ninth grade, which was when I started having significant headaches and motion sickness for the first time.  In tenth and eleventh grade, I had headaches all the time, even though I was vegetarian and vegan.  I eventually realized that my headaches, even now, are caused by two primary things: lack of food and lack of sleep.  The headache even concentrates in two different areas of my head for these two causes.  All I have to do is sleep and eat (especially carbs), and my headache will usually get better or go away completely.  Surprisingly, eating even helps me with motion sickness.  I know these things will not fix everyone’s headaches, but being hungry and especially tired is never good for a headache.

Depressive symptoms.  The period of my life during which symptoms of depression were a significant issue ended with my discovery of high-carb, low-fat veganism.  What do people crave when they are feeling low?  Carbs.  Carbohydrates make people happy, and they have the potential to be healthy, as long as they aren’t coated in chemicals, hormones, and unnatural amounts of fat.  Eating lots of low-fat carbohydrates such as fruit, rice, and potatoes really did make my life better.

Allergies.  This is a big one.  Allergies started to affect me when I was a little kid.  I missed so much school, thinking I was sick, that I got behind in math and reading, and I often felt too ill to play outside.  In fourth grade, I missed at least one day of school each week.  I began taking allergy medicine in fifth grade, and it helped a lot, but after a while, over-the-counter drugs did not work anymore, so I started getting prescription medicine.  I am allergic to lots of things, such as flowers and grass and trees and dust and cats and dogs, and they usually cause me to have itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, rashes, and/or a sore throat.  I used prescription allergy medicine for six years.  Last year, right around the time I started looking into high-carb veganism, I decided to stop using it.  At first, I felt a lot better.  I noticed that i was a lot less tired, and I did well on 8.5 hours of sleep, unlike the 10 or so I needed before.  Mental clarity also seemed to improve a little.  Going through the seasons and spending time with friends who have pets has shown me that my allergies are not cured, but they are better.  I do not miss any school due to allergies, and I only notice a sore throat in the morning when I did not properly hydrate the day before.  I can usually spend about 20 minutes around pets themselves before having problems, but this really depends on the pet.  This might still sound bad to some people, but it is an unimaginable improvement.  It also makes me happy that I do not have to rely on pills anymore to feel healthy.

These are the problems that have been fixed or improved through the vegan and vegetarian diet and lifestyle.  While I know not all problems can be cured this way, diet has a huge impact on health, and vegan testimonials regarding all sorts of problems can be found throughout the Internet.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section!

when? why? how? VEGAN

The questions I get most about going vegan are when I went vegan, why I went vegan, and how I went vegan.  And it is usually really hard to respond because there is no short answer!  For anyone interested in the long answer, you will find it here.

At 12 years old, I had never considered a vegetarian diet, and I did not even know about veganism.  A family friend of mine loaned us the documentary Food Inc., and, being the easily scarred-for-life person I was and still am, I had zero appetite for meat after watching it.  My parents thought it was just a phase, as I had been a meat-loving child all my life.  After going several months without it, however, my parents realized I was pretty serious about never eating meat again.  At that point, I became a proclaimed vegetarian.  I still ate fish occasionally but primarily because I had no idea the health and environmental detriments eating fish can have.

Before I was certain that being vegetarian was something I wanted for the rest of my life, I had a few realizations that kept me on the path to this lifestyle.  In the early days, there was one time that I ate meat by choice and several occasions where I ate it by accident.  What I noticed while eating it was that I had completely lost all desire to do so, which, over time, evolved into disgust and nausea at the mere sight and smell.  Worse than that, after eating meat, I would get a horrible stomach ache and have diarrhea for several days (TMI?).  It occurred to me that if my body was rejecting something I ate, even just a bite of it, I probably should not be putting it inside of me in the first place.

I also realized that being vegetarian made me a lot healthier.  During the biggest growth spurt of my life, I was losing weight, not gaining it, and I had the energy and drive to move my body like never before.  I have always been particularly horrible at sports, but I went from being very bad to semi-decent at the sports I did play in just a few months.  It was not so hard to run anymore.  In addition to that, I had an unbelievable boost in mental clarity.  I kid you not, it was like I was blind and then I could see.  My grades in school went from Bs and As to straight As without even trying that hard, and I was moved up a level in math.  I even realized that some of my lifelong friendships were not having a positive impact on my life, so I gave those friends up and made new ones.  I felt great, and I did not want to go back.

Although I have no idea how I found out about veganism, I know I started getting interested in it around age 14.  My younger brother, who never really liked meat but became vegetarian right around the time I did, and I watched Vegetated, a documentary about the vegan lifestyle, and we were really compelled to try being vegan because of it.  I ate much less dairy and eggs after that, and I really wanted to stop eating fish so I could at least be a full vegetarian.  Unfortunately, my parents did not like this at all.  When I asked my mom if she would support me going vegan for Lent in 2014, she said no.  I did it anyway, and I loved it.  What I remember liking most about being vegan was that I could eat a way larger volume food without feeling like I ate too much (due to vegan foods being less calorie dense).  On Easter Sunday, I ate a little bit of egg, but I knew at that point that I wanted to reach veganism eventually.

One of the biggest reasons I did not go vegan right away, other than my parents, was that I was about to study abroad in France in the summer of 2014.  If you don’t already know, France is not vegan friendly at all.  I barely got by as a vegetarian, and almost everything I ate had either butter or cheese.  I did manage to find almond milk to veganize the breakfast cereal my homestay family fed me in the mornings, but they packed me a cheese sandwich for lunch literally every day.  I was so desperate for something dairy-free that I once called my homestay family, told them I would not be home for dinner, went to the grocery store, bought a massive carrot and some other raw vegetables, and just sat outside savoring the fresh, cheese-free produce.  When I got home, I ate salad for three days.  I never wanted to eat cheese again.  Can you believe it?

Slowly, I went vegan over the next six months.  I started noticing that what meat had done to me in the early days (stomach ache, etc.) was happening with dairy.   And this I was glad about because it meant my body was making the transition.  I was 16 years old.  Because my change to vegan was so long and slow, I did not have any immediate results or surge of epiphanies like I had when going vegetarian.  This may be what led me to under-eating.  I would wake up, eat a banana on my walk to school, have a small bag of nuts for lunch, and come home starving for calorie-dense foods.  That’s like 300 calories.  By no means was I eating abundantly like the first time I went vegan (any avid Lent fasters see the irony?).  Mental clarity was fading away, and school was unbearable.

Eventually, actually around the end of Lent in 2015, I stumbled upon some YouTube videos about the high-carb, low-fat vegan lifestyle, and it really appealed to me.  The guidelines  are to eat around 10 percent or less calories from fat, 10 percent or less from protein, and 80 percent or more from carbohydrates and to eat as much food as you want.  I tried it.  Although I found it extremely difficult to keep my fat intake that low in the beginning, I really did start feeling better because I was eating more food.  Mental clarity came back, will to exercise got much better, and I could actually make it through the school day.

At the present, I am still high-carb, low-fat vegan, and I eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as I can.  The more I eat the better I feel, and I am still healing my body from previous diet mistakes.  I am convinced that eating abundantly vegan is the best way to live.

As I have mentioned previously, being vegan is not just a diet but a lifestyle.  It includes vegan food, vegan clothing, vegan cosmetics, and choosing cruelty-free companies whenever possible.  Before I was vegan and discovered all this, I did not really know just how many products use animal skins and ingredients.  Since then, I have eliminated all hygiene products that are not cruelty-free, replacing them with purchased vegan or homemade vegan products, and I no longer buy clothing that is not vegan.  I still wear my leather boots and down coat, but as soon as they are worn, I will buy outerwear that is vegan instead.  As for cosmetics, I do not wear makeup and I never plan to.  If I change my mind, be sure it will be completely vegan.

In all honesty, I do not have an answer for why I went vegan.  It just seemed like a natural step in my life, like moving from one grade to the next.  I am thankful for all that led me here.

I know why I stay vegan.  I love to eat, and I can eat more and taste better because I am vegan.  My brain and body feel great on a vegan diet.  Exercising is fun.  I feel like I am making a difference by my choices as a consumer, saving the lives of animals, and promoting something that will change the world.  It is fun.  It is interesting.  It keeps me motivated and confident.  It can be a real challenge at times, but it is worth it.  I recommend going vegan to anyone trying to enrich and improve their health lifestyle.

I already broadly discussed how I went vegan, but I would like to expand the conversation a little to include anyone interested in going vegan him/herself.  In my eyes, there are two approaches: Jump Right In and Take Your Time.  I used Jump Right In for becoming vegetarian and for going from unhealthy vegan to high-carb, low-fat vegan, but I did the Take Your Time approach for transitioning from vegetarian to vegan.  Both are good, so choose whatever feels natural.  In my case, Jump Right In worked best when I was emotionally invested, but Take Your Time was good when I was experimenting and not yet passionate about veganism.  If you know your body does not react well to big changes, then go slow, making one change at a time.  If you just threw away all your non-vegan food in an emotional rage after binge watching food documentaries, you should Jump Right In while you are still on a roll.

For anyone under the jurisdiction of parents who will not support lifestyle changes like these, I do have a few suggestions.  Do not ask them if you are sure they will say no.  I know that sounds like horrible advice, but trust me, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and going against them will cause too much conflict.  Instead, use the Take Your Time approach.  Start eating less meat, or completely stop eating meat, and, if they ask, tell them you want to see if it helps you feel healthier, lose weight, cure acne, etc.  If you have parents who want to control what you eat, they probably care about you and your health, so explain that you think this one thing will help with that, and talk about it like it is an experiment.  Do not reveal your master plan of going completely vegan/vegetarian.  Remember, not talking to them can sometimes be the best option.  When they begin see the improvements in your health, they will support you.  This could take a very, very long time, so be patient.  In the worst case, you will have to wait to make changes until you either go to college or move out.  However, your parents may be more lenient than you think, so give it a try!

That’s my vegan story.  Questions or suggestions can go in the comments below.  I look forward to hearing from anyone who benefits from my story, my advice, or the vegan lifestyle in general.