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How Natural Anxiety Pills Reduced My Cystic Acne

 Photographed by Eric Boman, Vogue, April 2014

Photographed by Eric Boman, Vogue, April 2014

By the time I’d reached adulthood, the acne that plagued my skin throughout my teenage years had cleared. Well, with the exception of occasional, under-the-skin breakouts, that is. Known as cystic acne, the painful bumps occur only on my forehead—and when I am ridden with anxiety.


Cystic acne is considered to be a genetic condition, but hormones and stress play huge roles in flare-ups. Cystic breakouts occur when overactive oil glands produce excess sebum. In turn, the oil glands become inflamed, swollen, and hard. The gland then ruptures underneath the skin, which results in the swollen mass, or cyst. When you’re under a lot of stress, your body responds by producing cortisol—a hormone that stimulates oil glands—and thus, increases your chances of developing cystic acne.


Unfortunately, cystic pimples are one of the most difficult forms of acne to treat. Since the breakouts occur at a level beyond the reach of anti-acne products, over-the-counter solutions are not very effective. Forms of treatment include cortisone shots (administered by a doctor), a skin-clearing diet, oral medications, and one that I discovered more recently: a daily supplement.

Two weeks ago, I met up with an old friend who was visiting. As we caught up over dinner, I opened up to her about my crippling anxiety. She revealed that she was also experiencing a lot of unease, and recommended I try the chewable, natural anxiety pills she’d been taking to relieve her symptoms.

A few days later, she handed me a white bottle. The label read, “GABA 100% naturel—fast-acting relief for nervousness and acute stress.” She explained that she bought the supplements from an organic supermarket, and that she took them when she needed an instant boost.



The bottle contains 60 chewable, fruit-flavored tablets. Each tablet contains 100mg of GABA (its scientific name is gamma-aminobutyric acid) to relieve stress while promoting relaxation. The recommended dose is one or two pills, three times a day.


Since I’m not the type of person to swallow any supplement given to me, I decided to do some research before trying the tablets. I soon discovered that GABA is a substance that is created naturally in the brain, and one that helps calm the mind and body. Unlike other neurotransmitters (such as dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline), GABA is inhibitory, which means that it induces relaxation and peace. If you have low levels of GABA, you are more likely to suffer from anxiety and restlessness.


After taking the supplements for two weeks (one before bed and one when I woke up), I noticed that it wasn’t only my stress levels that had noticeably lessened, but the cystic pimples on my forehead had declined too. While my initial intention wasn’t to treat my breakouts, the stress-reducing supplements aided in their decline by alleviating my anxiety, and I ended up killing two birds with one pill.

Writer’s note: Not everyone reacts in the same way to over-the-counter pills. If you’re experiencing severe bouts of cystic acne, you may want to consider a visit to a dermatologist to find a suitable solution for your skin.

Homepage image: Photographed by Steven Meisel, Vogue, March 2008

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