On the day of a big audition, it always helps to wake up to a smooth, glowing complexion. But sometimes the morning starts out with unwelcome blemishes instead. Model and online personality Cassandra Bankson knows only too well what it’s like to struggle with skin issues. She experienced painful acne on both her face and much of her body for 15 years. But, much to her delight, the San Francisco native has discovered ways to promote healing in her skin, and she’s eager to share everything she’s learned with anyone who will listen.

In 2010, Bankson became a viral video star after she created a YouTube video demonstrating exactly how she applied foundation to effectively conceal her pimples, scars, cystic acne, blackheads, and oily complexion. In turn, the then-seventeen year old appeared on several morning news shows and was featured in magazines like Vogue and Seventeen. And as of today, the video has over 28 million views.

After visiting 24 dermatologists, Bankson tried just about every treatment doctors had to offer. When nothing did the trick, she decided to roll up her sleeves and learn the science of skin for herself. Now with a clear, vibrant complexion, Bankson created the How I Cleared My Acne (Chronic, Cystic, Digestive, Hormonal) YouTube video. In it, Bankson details changes she made in her diet, the skin products she uses and discusses ways to manage stress and hormone issues.

Skin Products

Bankson cut back on cleansing her face to just once per day and avoids chemical ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylates. She used to strip her skin of oils hoping the drying would stop more acne from developing, but she then learned that doing so actually triggers the skin to produce more oils. “Switching to more natural products that actually keep my skin’s pH in balance, that actually kind of maintain the integrity of my skin, have been really important,” she says. Bankson also took a close look at the makeup she was using and lists a number of products that work for her. “Even if makeup is non-comedogenic, even if it doesn’t cause acne, anything that clogs the top of the skin can contribute to a breakout,” she insists.

Diet

A change in her diet had the “most profound” impact on her skin. After years of taking antibiotics,  Bankson’s digestive tract was left in bad shape. Switching to a vegan diet and consuming no dairy, meat, or sugar seems to have been just what her skin wanted. This diet is a personal choice that might not be something others are interested in. But she insists eating raw, fresh leafy greens, fruits, veggies, beans, seeds, and nuts have greatly reduced her acne.

Similarly, a young man named Brian Turner experienced an acute acne problem when consuming large amounts of whey protein powder while trying to bulk up. Routinely waking up to four cysts a day, Turner decided to replace his dairy intake with about 12 servings of vegetables per day. “It’s not necessarily true for everyone–some people can drink as much milk as they want, and they won’t break out a little bit–but you have to experiment with yourself to see what does and doesn’t work out for you,” he says. Turner also avoids processed foods like chips and anything that “comes in a wrapper.” As a result, the quality of his skin has improved by leaps and bounds.

Everyday Toxins

From washing laundry in detergent containing dyes and fragrances to resting her head on flame retardant-laden pillows for hours each night, Bankson learned the hard way how her skin is impacted by chemicals. By sleeping on a pillow treated with flame retardants, she says, “I would start to get rashes, and it wasn’t even acne. It starts with a rash, and it becomes pimples.” She now makes sure to sleep with chemical-free pillows and use natural brands of laundry detergent.

Managing Stress

Bankson encourages others to love and care for themselves. This may look different for each person, but it can include tending to mental health issues, cutting out toxic relationships, stretching and exercising, and not worrying about what other people think. Bankson makes a point to spend time with people and activities that really matter to her.

Hormones

As hormones are affected by diet, sleep, and stress, Bankson makes sure to get enough sleep so her body can repair itself sufficiently, and she eats some nuts or an apple when she wakes up to maintain a preferable cortisol level.

As Bankson always says, “Beauty is not something we have, it is something that we learn and something that we earn.”

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