The Acne Connection: Cellulite, Cystic Acne, and Lymph Drainage Therapy

If you’ve read any of the recent ketchup posts, you might already be aware that the Cellulite Investigation was launched while ANALYST was living in Scotland on a Fulbright grant to the University of St. Andrews.  The crisp Highland air and pure Scottish water proved to be ideal stimulants for seeking out the deeper truths surrounding the confused issues of health and wellness.

But after a year of living in Scotland, ANALYST’s transition back to life in South Florida did not go as smoothly as anticipated.  The cellulite that seemed to be melting off her body was making an unwelcome comeback.  To make matters worse, within days of her return she somehow developed an even more unpleasant symptom of lymphatic blockage: painful, cystic acne.  Was it the change of climate?  The stress of writing her dissertation?  Withdrawal from the lack of fresh Scottish air?

It wasn’t the first time ANALYST was plagued with this embarrassing condition.  Like a lot of women, she had dealt with adult acne off and on since high school.  If not for her years of military service, she might never have noticed that the problem was geographically specific.  When stationed on the east coast, she suffered painful cystic outbreaks.  When stationed on the west coast or living overseas, her skin was bright and clear.  The acne would return within days of moving back to the east coast, or even while visiting for the weekend.

For years, ANALYST suspected it was something in the water.  Perhaps an effect of corroded lead pipes?  She installed all kinds of filters and even washed her face with bottled water.  She managed to keep the condition under control with daily use of a popular celebrity-endorsed product line and religious visits to her local aesthetician.  But after moving to South Florida from Scotland, the problem was worse than ever.

Based on her research for the Cellulite Investigation, ANALYST knew there was an issue with her lymphatic system.  The cystic acne revealed all the classic symptoms of lymphatic blockage.  The outbreaks traced the lymph passages down the sides of her neck.  Small lumps of lymphatic congestion could be felt along the delicate lymph vessels around her ears.  Knowing the importance of the lymphatic system for overall health, ANALYST decided it was time to bring in the professionals.

To her great relief, the world’s premiere clinic for Lymph Drainage Therapy, the Upledger Institute, was located less than 30 minutes away in Palm Beach Gardens.  After a series of consultations (which ANALYST will explore in an upcoming post; it really is an amazing story!), the lymphatic specialist at Upledger did what all the dermatologists, aestheticians, obgyns, and other healthcare practitioners ANALYST consulted over the years had failed to do.  She got to the root of the problem.

After all those years of suffering with what is supposed to be a problem of adolescence;  the endless parade of skincare products cluttering the bathroom cabinet; the nightly routine of complicated 5-step facial cleansing rituals; the constant paranoia –am I touching my face too much?  Is my pillowcase dirty? Is my hair oily? Is it the phone receiver? Is it this or that chemical in this or that product?

It felt so freeing to finally have an answer to all those open questions surrounding this frustrating condition.  And it can all be summed up in a single word.


(to be continued…)

This post is part of the Natural Cures Carnival at Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation.  She blogs about issues surrounding traditional foods, small family farms, and Real Milk.   Her Natural Cures column is devoted to home remedies and lifestyle solutions that help prevent and heal from disease.

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Anonymous says:

This is an important health topic. It stuns me that even a week after this portion of the article was published, … I am the first to comment.

Maybe a small percentage of the population knows how painful and embarrassing cystic acne is…embarrassing that each outbreak is nasty red outbreak in the diameter of a nickel or quarter on your face…

But, every human being needs effective lymph drainage…. and it is such a key issue related to the growing epidemic of breast cancer.

Hello….? Is there life out there..?

ANALYST… please continue to part II of this informative coverage.

Thank you, TLN


Hi, TLN. Thanks for your comment! I'm also stunned at the lack of useful information out there about cystic acne. So many "experts" say its caused by excess sebum blocking the skin's pores. But isn't that like saying getting drunk is caused by excess ethyl alcohol coursing through the bloodstream? What causes the excess? I just posted part II of my fluoride story. You can find it here:

What's Hiding in Your Homemade Chicken Stock? Fluoridated Water, Fluoroderma, and Fluoridated Foods

I also like your comment: "Hello…? Is there life out there…?" For someone who just started blogging, that's usually what it feels like most of the time. But I keep repeating to myself this ancient bit of Kevin Costner wisdom: "if you build it, they will come."

Winni says:

Wow. Amazing. Never though it could be the fluoride. Thanks for posting!


Thanks for your comment, Winni. I never would have thought of fluoride, either. I have to write a post next week about how that diagnosis came about. It's such an interesting story.

Anonymous says:

So thankful to have found your articles. I have suffered from cystic acne and now painful outbreaks of acne all over my neck that come and go. It's embarassing to be 43 and still suffering from sinus problems, acne and cellulite that started in my teen years. No matter how much I exercise and eat healthy it seems to get worse over the years and not better. Perhaps Fluoride could be part of my issue. Definitely going to check it out.


I'm thankful you found them, too! I have a sneaking suspicious that fluoroderma is more common than we think and I would be so thrilled to help out a fellow sufferer –I know how embarrassing adult acne can be!

From what you've described, it does sound like something is messing with your lymphatic system. Fluoride is a possibility, but some people have the same reaction from other halogens like iodine, for example. I knew it was something in the water so I focused on fluoride. The dental flourosis was another clue. If you don't experience any improvement after limiting fluoride, you could try cutting out iodized salt and see if that makes a difference.

It took a few months before I was convinced it was the fluoride. It's really hard to eliminate it since it's so prevalent in the food supply. I often referenced the website after an outbreak to see if I had consumed anything with high fluoride levels. As I cut down on my fluoride consumption, my skin steadily improved. Please let me know if you have any luck and if I can help out in any way!

harbour house says:

I'm interested in finding out if and how massage focused on lymphatic drainage is significantly different from a body massage one might get at a beauty salon. Does the lymphatic massage somehow follow the ideal drainage flow? Do you think lymphatic massage helped with your acne?


Hi, Harbour House. Thanks for your question. Lymphatic massage is a lot different from a normal body massage. Instead of focusing on muscle groups, a lymph drainage specialist is trained to feel for lymphatic blockage and follow the lymphatic flow. It's a "light touch" therapy because the lymph vessels are so delicate. The first time I went, I didn't think such a gentle touch was going to make any difference but my acne was visibly improved by the next day. I was impressed.

I returned for several more sessions and each time, my acne improved so much following the treatment but the effects did not last more than a few days. Finally, my therapist recommended that I take a few weeks off and try to figure out what was causing the blockage in the first place. At this last session, she used some of her psychotherapy training to try and help me uncover the root of my acne problem. (I wrote about it in this post: The Mind Body Connection in Action).  Once I figured out that my lymphatic system was under stress from all the fluoride I was consuming, all I had to do was cut out the fluoride and my acne healed on it's own.  I still have the occasional breakout,  but I'm moving into a new (non-fluoridated) place in a few weeks and I'm hoping my skin will completely clear up then. 

I'm going to post some pics in a few days so you can get an idea of just how much my acne improved. I'm also going to be interviewing Mya Breman, a renowned lymph drainage therapist. She is the prodigy of Dr. Bruno Chikly, who developed the technique, and she teaches lymph drainage courses all over the world. Please let me know if you have any specific questions for her. Thanks again for dropping by!

Annie says:

Hi Melissa,
I saw that you studied at St. Andrews for a period of time. I am planning on studying abroad there next year. As I know that you promote real food, etc., I was wanting to know if you might have any tips about the food there. I am just wanting to know what it is like, and would be very appreciative of any advice, etc.


Hi, Annie. You are in for a wonderful year. St. Andrews is sublime! I discovered real food halfway through my time there and it was quite an adventure to do so in Scotland. Here are a few recommendations.

Go to the farmers market! It's in St. Andrews once a month, but it rotates through different cities in Fife on the other weeks. The farmers market there is unlike any one I've been to in the States, very heavy on the meats, fish, butter, etc. The "smokies" are a local speciality.

St. Andrews also has an excellent cheese store, fish market, and butcher shop. You will have no problem finding raw cheeses, fresh fish, and pastured meats (including, of course, organ meats). I was surprised to learn that the locals really do eat haggis –it's not just a tourist thing (you can buy it at the butcher shop on Market Street and cook it at home).

There is a local CSA for veggies but I didn't find out about it until later in my stay so I'm afraid you will have to look around for more details on that one. You'll want to stay away from the pastry shop, Fisher and Donaldson. It's horrific 😉 They sell farm fresh eggs with dark yellow yolks at most of the local food store. I miss them.

Feel free to email me at Analyst{at}CelluliteInvestigation{dot}com if you have any more questions. So nice to hear from a future St. Andrews alum. Happy travels!


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