I think a lot of people see me today, and in recent years, and think I have always looked the way I do now.

  • Hairy
  • Healthy
  • Lean
  • Muscular
  • Smooth hair and skin

Mostly hairy.

This is in no way representative of how I grew up though, particularly in regards to acne. Even this picture sucks though, other than in how swollen/poofy my face used to be.

Sucks because I used to have really, really, really bad acne. The kind where your entire face is covered, top to bottom.

The kind where on, numerous, numerous occasions, the girl next to you in class had to tell you “your face is bleeding”, because it would actually be bleeding and/or oozing puss.

As a teenager, this is pretty mortifying, to say the least.

As a young adult?

You tend to not give a shit what other people think, or at least, you shouldn’t. What matters is what you think.

Does this mean cast aside a strive for the ideal? For health, wellness, and physical beauty?

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I think I’m beautiful.

No it doesn’t. And this post is a compilation of my thoughts on acne, based on experiences from my own life and knowledge gained from a few years of digging around the internet researching health, nutrition, and exercise.


1.  Physically irritating your face is the number one inducer of problems.

If you shave with a razor, stop, immediately. This dropped my blood oozing zits from level 9.5 to level ~7, almost overnight.

When I exercised the will to stop picking and poking at them every day, this further dropped my acne level from a 7 to a 5.

In regards to shaving, use a buzzer. It’s that simple. I’ve used one from Wal-Mart for $20 for going on 3 years now. I am on my second one only because the charger broke in Amsterdam last year. The actual buzzer still works as a backup.

2. Consider growing a beard.

Growing a beard is bad ass. It’s obviously the only thing that makes a man a man. So grow one.

On a more serious note, for the course of a couple million years, people were pretty hairy. Assuming you’re genetics allow for it, your body is expecting some level of facial hair throughout your entire adult life. For some, having none, and sliding a sharp blade across the face every day, may pose no problems.

On the flip side, for many, this may cause problems. Irritating the shit out of your face is one, but it could go beyond that if your body is expecting something and then not getting it.

From my own experience, this — growing a beard — significantly (meaning noticeably, and permanently) improved the clarity and health of my face, in addition to the improvement of going from blade to buzzer.

3. Wash your pillow cases

And wash them in a detergent that you don’t suspect is irritating your face via fragrances, chemicals, etc. Use the simple stuff.

4. Eat healthy, and then tinker with the remaining foods.

Here’s how you learn to eat healthy: Mark Sisson T21C 2010.

Removing all grains from my diet in October of 2008 had the biggest and final impact, because after that, the few zits I had from time to time no longer bothered me. They are exceedingly rare today, other than in times of extreme stress (more in a sec).

Staying on point, I suggest removing nuts from your diet first, if you ate them in the first place. Do a 30 day trial where you completely abstain from them.

If no effect, try removing dairy next. 30 days with only butter and heavy cream. No milk protein or carbohydrate. If no effect, remove everything dairy, save for ghee.

If you really want to go all out, remove dairy entirely. I’m doubting ghee would pose any problems for most people though (it’s virtually 100% animal fat).

From there it’s a shot in the dark. Have patience, and keep going 30 days without a certain food that you are suspect of.

If nothing has proved effective within 6 months, it’s probably safe to say it’s not any one specific food (assuming you are eating properly). Feel free to get tested for food allergies. Couldn’t say how accurate the tests are, but it’s probably worth a shot if you have the dough and time.

5. Get a shit load of sleep.

Here’s how you learn about sleep: Lights Out

The basics

  • Sleep a lot (upwards of 9 hours a night)
  • Sleep in complete darkness

This is especially important, and can be especially difficult during times of extreme stress. I know because I go through this every year in and around The 21 Convention. It’s important, and in addition to all sorts of fun shit that chronically high levels of stress bring, sleeping less only compounds upon them further.

Get your sleep. You need it, and your face may benefit from it.

Sleep is the currency of high-performance living.

6. Increase your Vitamin D intake (or start taking it if you haven’t yet)

Here’s where you learn about: Vitamin D.

Short story, it’s the single most important thing you should be doing in regards to your health, once eating properly.  I say this literally. Getting a lot of sun, and more likely, popping these suckers every day with some fat, is really, really important. This is not a stupid Flinstone vitamin. Take your D3, and get out in the sun as often as possible.

How much?

Mark Sisson recommends 4,000 IU a day. I upped my intake to 6,000 IU a day about a month ago. While I can’t attribute the following solely to a slight increase in D3 intake, I did drop ~4 pounds, while my results in the gym continue to climb.

Meaning, I’ve literally made lean gains over the past month, doing everything the same otherwise in regards to my nutrition and exercise regime.

Really. I eat the same stuff every day, and do almost the exact same workout every week, or even less frequently.

Conclusion: I suspect the D3 increase had something to do it [I will also add that I have been tinkering with fasting more than usual over the past month, and overall, eat less on a daily basis].

I will also note that I live in Florida and am constantly in the sun. On days where this breaks 30 minutes, I’ll lower my oral intake of D3 to 4,000 IU. If I break an hour, I’ll decrease it to 2,000 IU that day.

Still alive and kicking.

Note: I can’t find the post, but Doug McGuff had a similar experience when he upped his D3 intake a few months back.

7. Coconut Oil for that big sucker.

Out of all the weird stuff I put on my face over the years – including Pro-Active, which I recommend avoiding like the black plague – coconut oil has been the only thing to ever have any real benefit.

Primarily, in getting rid of that lone wolf, mega huge zit that comes out only when the super-moon does.

Why coconut oil?

Because so far as I am aware, your skin absorbs it pretty easily, and it kills everything – it’s even anti-viral.


8. Sun and salt

When my acne was at its worst, in the middle of high school, the only thing that ever helped was taking my boat out to the beach. This might actually aggravate some cases of acne, but it only helped mine, by giant leaps and bounds, especially if I went two days in a row. It would eventually return, so it was not addressing the source of the problem (directly and intentionally anyway), but it helped for days on end, when it bothered me the most.

At the same time, I suspect there is more to the sun and your skin in regards to acne than D3 production alone. Your skin can literally change color in response to the sun. Don’t count it out for acne.

9. Cold showers

Hot showers can drop your sperm count, and dry your skin out. Consider taking a warm shower, followed by ice cold water at the end for 2-3 minutes. Or just go the whole time on cold. Your skin may thank you later.

10. Conclusion

As a final point, and if it’s not obvious, I think the signals we give our bodies affect things in ways, and to such an inter-related degree, that no one fully understands how and where what affects what, yet. For all we know, your posture may be the source of your acne.

With that said, if you

  • Eat properly
  • Get plenty of Vitamin D3
  • Sleep a lot
  • Sleep in the dark
  • Workout once a week
  • Stop irritating your face

And try to relax every day…

You will probably get rid of your acne, in a long enough time span, no matter how bad, or who you are.

There’s a chance you won’t, but you would be the exception that proves the rule. In which case, you should see a skin doctor, filter what he says through the above, and then start scouring the internet for answers (chances are your doctor won’t have the answer, but he may be able to point you in the right direction).

It might take a while, but the answer is out there if you have the drive to find it in such a situation. You could also try waiting, assuming you are a teenager or young adult.

Voice crack when you’re a kid?

Yeah that shit ended. Acne might too if you are doing everything else right.

— Anthony Dream Johnson

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at and

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18 Responses to Acne

  1. Will April 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Hey Dream,

    Thanks a lot man! Could you please add in through a reply comment: What exactly do you do in terms of face wash? Like when you go in the shower, do you just rinse it with water and that is all or do you cleanse, tone, moisturize, etc?

    Again, I really appreciate you getting this post out for me.

    • Anthony Dream Johnson April 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

      Rinse it with water, always cold at the end. Leave your face alone as much as possible. It doesn’t need special treatment to be free of globs of puss and blood.

      • Will April 13, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

        Haha that statement right there just saved me tons of money on refilling my set of cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Do you ever moisturize or use any kind of lotion for any possible circumstance?

        Or, if your face is really dirty from something like possibly paint, would you use anything else to wash it other than water?

        • Anthony Dream Johnson April 14, 2011 at 7:29 am #

          If my face were sun burnt really bad, I would put some aloe on it. If it were really dry from extreme cold/wind (chapped lips for example), I would put coconut oil on in spots.

          If and when my face is dirty, I use a light soap to clean it off. Dr Bromers is a good place to start.

          Again, take it easy on your face. Less is more.

  2. john April 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    going on accutane is the worst thing I ever did. Started it about a year ago and my dr. made it seem like this shit is like popping a multi vitamin. Now after i finished the course I have scars all over my back, chest, face,really dry skin,permanently dry lips and now I have facial flushing all the time and I never flushed before. So for anyone reading this do not take accutane I don’t care how bad your acne is, mine was probably the worst it can get and it isn’t worth the side effects.

    • Anthony Dream Johnson April 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

      I never took it, but had I gone to a skin doctor, it’s likely I would have been put on it and not known the better as a youngster. Your experience mirrors what I have heard from others since.


  3. clark April 16, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    What brand of vitamin d do you take? Is generic drugstore vitamin d good enough or is there a more potent high absorbent brand you know of? Thanks.

  4. Robert April 17, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that acne is a disease of civilization. In other words, homo sapiens didn’t have acne until very recently and modern HG societies still don’t experience acne (I’m assuming).

    I helped my roommate lose 40 pounds last year (he was 17 years old and would have ended up becoming another obesity/diabetes statistic showing how unhealthy Americans are and now he’s a good lookin’ dude) by following a moderately-strict paleo diet. Not only did he lose weight, but his acne cleared up.

    I also find that consuming sauerkraut (a non-dairy probiotic) seems to help if I ever have problems.

  5. Dave April 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Overall, some great words of wisdom, Anthony.

    However, make sure to note that if you increase Vitamin D intake, it’s absolutely VITAL that you increase Vitamin A intake along with it. Otherwise, you’re looking at symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, and depression (among others).

    • Anthony Dream Johnson April 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

      Is a proper diet not sufficient in Vitamin A?

      • Dave April 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

        Perhaps, but not always. If you’re consuming 3,000-6,000 IU of vitamin D3, vitamin A intake is worth paying attention to.

        I know whenever I increased D3 levels to about 2,500 IU, I saw some really nasty side effects. I implemented more carrots into my diet and saw my side effects disappear:

        Tim Ferriss speaks on this during his Q&A session at his recent visits to the Twitter and Google HQs (can’t remember which one).

  6. James Steele II April 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Just eat liver and eggs and your Vit A will be pretty much covered. I always eat liver 2-3 times a week and eggs most days.

    • Dave April 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

      True, that’s another great source.

      Doesn’t work for me, though, as I’m too lazy/in too big of a rush to make eggs in the morning, and I hate liver. 😉

  7. William April 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Hey is it true that you should put on sunscreen on your face and body after about 30-45 solid minutes in the sun?

    Do you ever have to put sunscreen on your face dream?

    • Anthony Dream Johnson April 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      It’s been many years since I have used sunscreen. I don’t plan on using it anytime soon, and I live in Florida.

      Chances are, I never will again. More likely is that if I feel my face is getting burned, I’ll get in the shade for a while, or cover it up with a hat.

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