Proactiv, Melasma, and a Real Cure for Acne

Like a right of passage, I accepted my acne in high school.  But the ritual was growing old by the time I reached college.  My mom went with me to see a dermatologist the summer before my junior year.  He swung through the room, muttered a few words about “the patient” into an audio recorder, and left me with a prescription for Accutane.  I took it for a few weeks, but the warning label scared me.  I was on my way to study abroad in Senegal, West Africa.  How could I avoid sun exposure while living on the edge of the Sahara?

I stopped taking the pills soon after my arrival in Dakar.  Amazingly, my skin cleared up completely for the rest of the year!  I marveled at Accutane’s impressive acne-busting power.  Little did I know, the real reason my acne vanished had nothing to do with the medication.

My acne made a comeback along with my return to the States senior year.  That’s when I first tried Proactiv.  I continued using similar benzoyl peroxide products off and on for the next ten years.  They didn’t clear up my skin completely, but it was improved to the point where I could get away with a good makeup job (most of the time, anyway.  I still have my fair share of embarrassing acne situations –another post altogether).

Ironically, it was another study abroad experience that brought my acne story to its climax.  This time, I was off to language school in Tunisia, North Africa, another mecca of Saharan sunshine.  After a routinely gorgeous day at the beach in Hammamet, I stopped into a hotel restroom to freshen up.  That’s when I first noticed it.  A dark shadow on my upper lip.  No, I’m not talking about a spontaneous eruption of facial hair. At least facial hair can be plucked.  This was an actual alteration in the pigment of my skin.  I panicked.  Is it skin cancer? Is it permanent? Do I have that Michael Jackson skin disease in reverse?  Will it spread over my entire face?  As if looking like a mini-Hitler wasn’t bad enough.

A quick call to some doctor friends back in the States revealed that I had developed melasma, a skin pigment disorder brought on by hormonal imbalance.  More common in pregnant women, several factors can induce melasma, such as excessive sun exposure (check), the use of products containing benzoyl peroxide (check), and hypothyroidism (didn’t figure out I had this one until a couple years later.  Not coincidentally, fluoride is shown to depress thyroid function… Oh yeah, check).

I stopped using benzoyl peroxide and after several LONG months, the melasma faded away.  From Tunisia, I was off to Scotland for my Fulbright year at St. Andrews.  Again, my acne cleared up  completely.  Finally, at thirty years old, I thought I had my skin all figured out.  But for those of you who are familiar with the CI blog, you know my acne troubles didn’t end there.  My cystic acne returned worse than ever after my return to the States, and this time I couldn’t treat it with my go-to move.   Every time I applied benzoyl peroxide to my skin, the dreaded melasma would start to rear its shadowy head.  That’s when I made my first appointment for a lymph drainage session at the Upledger Institute, where my therapist helped me identify fluoride as the root cause of my lifelong struggle with cystic acne.

If the melasma hadn’t forced me to stop using benzoyl peroxide, I might never have figured out that I have fluoroderma.  My long history with cystic acne taught me that acne isn’t a problem that should be covered up with medication (and neither is cellulite, for that matter).  It’s a sign that something is “off” in the body.  If we try to treat acne with a band-aid cure, we miss out on an opportunity to experience true healing.

*This post is a part of Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade.

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PCC says:

Is there a way to filter floride out of city water? I hate to have to switch to bottle water. I have been having to use a Rx topical antibiotic every day.


yes, you can filter fluoride out of the water but it does take a bit of effort. I installed a reverse osmosis filter under the kitchen sink. It's not the most efficient method (it wastes more water than other units) but it removes 95% of fluoride and lots of other contaminants. They range in price, but I am happy with the one I ordered from  They have a very informative website, too.

I recently re-realized the importance of having a carbon filter on the shower, as well.  I was doubtful about how effective this little guy would be, considering the high output from the shower head, but it really does do an impressive job. You have to change the filter every 6 months (they are $30 on Amazon, including shipping) but it's worth it. I forgot to change mine a couple months ago, and my honey and I both started complaining about dry skin. I didn't put two and two together until my travels earlier in the month.  When I showered at my brother's place (non-fluoridated) I didn't have any outbreaks afterwards but at my parent's place (heavily fluoridated) I had almost an immediate reaction.

I hope that helps. Please let me know how it goes and if I can be of any further assistance!

completebody says:

I'm surprised that they didn't have as much fluoride in Scotland. I assumed they would have it everywhere in Europe and America.

I had pretty bad acne as well. It went away eventually towards the end of high school. I'm glad I didn't take any medications for it. I did use face wipes though which probably had benzoyl peroxide in them.


I was surprised to learn that public water fluoridation is rare in Europe. A lot of other countries looked into it based on the studies out of the U.S., but concluded against it for various reasons. It's interesting to read through their decision making processes:

Thanks for your comment!


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Jessica says:

Flouride is evil. JK. But it is truly horrible. I do firmly believe it, flouide poisoning, is what people call FIBROMYALGIA. Compare the symptoms and see for yourself. Then drink distilled or reverse osmosis water.


I am just starting to learn about the possible connection between fluoride and fibromyalgia, Jessica. It would be tragic if this was the case.

Noah Minard says:

Although they do not remove the fluoride I would highly recommend a shower filter for acne. Chlorine can dry your skin out and your face will produce more oil in response. I recommend the Sprite Shower Filter brand.


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