Mother Earth Living

Cystic Acne and the Hidden Cause

The Hidden Cause of Acne(Healing Arts Press, 2018)by Melissa Gallico, can help readers facing cystic acne issues. Find out if health issues you may be facing are from toxic water. Learn more about Gallico’s journey with toxic water and the health issues she has faced. Find this excerpt in Chapter 4, “Stopping Breakouts Before They Start.”  

As millions of American adults can attest from personal experience, acne is no longer exclusively known as a rite of passage for teenagers. Well into my thirties, I continued to develop deep cystic welts around my mouth, along my jawline, forehead, down the front and back of my neck, and even inside my ears. I could feel each breakout forming a week before it came to the surface, erupting in a tender white volcano that took another two weeks to heal.

After becoming frustrated with conventional creams and medications, I turned to alternative treatments to heal my skin. I used apple cider vinegar as a toner and coconut oil as a moisturizer. I coated my face in clay. I took evening primrose oil and probiotics. I went for acupuncture. I did yoga. Nothing seemed to help.

One night in my mid-thirties, my acne was bothering me so much I couldn’t sleep. I wandered downstairs to the refrigerator, desperate for relief. Lying on the couch, I gently painted my skin with yogurt. Its coldness was the only comfort I could think of for the mass of inflammation formerly known as my face. Acne was driving me mad. Why after all these years was I still struggling with acne? Why do I have acne even though I take meticulous care of my skin? How do people who eat nothing but junk food not have acne, but I do? I could not figure it out. I was defeated. Yogurt tears dripped down my face.

I decided to consult a lymph drainage specialist to see if it would help with my acne. I was fortunate to live near the Upledger Institute, one of the preeminent facilities in the world for Lymph Drainage Therapy, a light-touch therapy created by French physician Bruno Chikly. The therapist I consulted, Mya Breman, studied closely with Dr. Chikly and was a longtime practitioner at Upledger.

After each session with Mya, I noticed immediate improvement. The redness and swelling decreased overnight. Existing blemishes healed at an astounding rate. But within two to three days, my skin would return to its normal distressed state. After a few weeks of treatment, Mya suggested I take a break from our sessions until I could figure out what was causing the breakouts in the first place. Mya is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and at our last session, she decided to make use of her psychotherapy training to help me get to the root of the problem.

“If your acne was a cartoon character,” Mya asked, “what would it look like?”

I thought the question was silly but I followed her instructions and said the first thing that came to mind. “If my acne was a cartoon character, it would be an oil drop.”

“When did this oil drop form?” she asked.

“Seventh grade,” I responded.

“Are you sure it hasn’t been around longer than that?” Mya asked.

In true psychotherapy style, I was soon answering questions about my deepest childhood fears. I continued to respond with the first thing that popped into my mind. I was most afraid of the dentist. I laughed at first, but then realized how real the fear was as a child. One year, my dentist required the extraction of four of my baby teeth. Each tooth made a cracking sound I can still hear today as it loosened from my jaw. My mom said I was such a good little girl for the dentist and that I didn’t even cry until the car ride on the way home. I was seven.

I continued to ponder this unearthed childhood fear over the next few days. I thought of all the other things I hated about going to the dentist. The drooling. The scraping. The needles in places there should not be needles. The feeling of vulnerability lying in the dentist’s chair. The awkward fluoride trays. As a child, my dentist directed my parents to give me fluoride pills, which I later learned are the reason my teeth are slightly discolored. It’s a condition called dental fluorosis and a common indicator of fluoride toxicity.

One night after my last session with Mya, I had a dream about going to the dentist. I was a small child again in the dentist’s chair. There was a fluoride tray in my mouth but this time the tray was made of glass. When the dentist tried to remove it, the tray shattered into a thousand pieces embedding small shards of glass deep in my gums. My subconscious already knew…

I remember exactly where I was standing when the idea first struck my conscious mind. I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in central Florida for Thanksgiving when I was explaining my frustration with acne to his sister, a physician. There was a glass of tap water in my hand and I was about to take a sip. I looked at the water and the idea came to me: maybe my cystic acne was caused by drinking fluoride.

I was aware that fluoride could cause acne through topical contact, a condition known as fluoroderma. From the Physicians’ Desk Reference: “In hypersensitive individuals, fluorides occasionally cause skin eruptions such as atopic dermatitis. . . . These hypersensitivity reactions usually disappear promptly after discontinuation of the fluoride.” But I washed my face with bottled water and used nonfluoridated toothpaste. The idea did not occur to me until precisely that moment that perhaps cystic acne could be caused by fluoride ingestion. Case studies from the 1960s and 1970s indicate that fluoride ingestion can cause skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and hives. Could fluoride cause cystic acne, too?

I did a quick internet search to see if my current residence was fluoridated. It was, and the amount was toward the upper limit of the Center for Disease Control’s recommended upper guideline of 1.2 milligrams per liter. The last time my skin was this bad was when I lived in Newport, Rhode Island. Do they fluoridate there? Yes. Not only that, but when I visited the Newport water municipality website, they happened to be displaying a notice to consumers informing them that a random spot test indicated they accidentally added too much fluoride to the water—over twice the upper recommended amount—and it would take some time before it returned to recommended levels. I wondered how often they accidentally overfluoridate their population.

The whole story of my experience with acne flashed in front of me. After decades of travel during my time as a military intelligence officer and stints living in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, I realized that my cystic acne only appeared when I lived in a fluoridated region. It all made sense: my dream about the fluoride tray, my fear of dentists—my acne was caused by consuming fluoride and my deepest self knew it.

Over the next few years, I put my fluoride theory to the test of experience. Unfortunately it is not a simple matter of drinking bottled water. Fluoride is insidious in the industrialized diet. It hides in food and beverages where you would never find it if you did not know to look. But whenever I had an acne flare-up, I was able to use the scientific literature to track it back to a few hours earlier when I consumed food or beverages that contained a significant amount of fluoride, either from fluoridated water or fluoride-based pesticides. This happened every time, without exception. In this way, my cystic acne served as a guide that helped me figure out how to limit my fluoride consumption and ultimately cure my chronic acne.

It was a strange coincidence, if you believe in that sort of thing, that my fluoride epiphany occurred in Polk County, Florida. Located in the central part of the state, Polk County is the heart of the U.S. phosphate industry. Prior to World War II, the area was known for its livestock and citrus cultivation, but after the war over a dozen phosphate plants were established there to process phosphate ore for the production of commercial fertilizer.

In the 1950s, unchecked pollution from the newly constructed phosphate plants released large quantities of fluoride into the atmosphere. Raw phosphate ore is roughly 2 to 4 percent fluoride. It was absorbed by nearby vegetation, damaging 25,000 acres of citrus crops and causing mass poisoning of grazing cattle. An estimated 30,000 cattle were lost and 150,000 acres of grazing land were abandoned.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now requires “wet scrubbers” to be installed on all phosphate processing plants to capture smokestack pollution before it enters the air. This unfiltered pollution is then barreled and sold as fluoride to our municipal water authorities for addition to public water supplies.

Most Americans, if we think about such matters, assume the fluoride added to the public water supply is a pharmaceutical-grade fluoride like the kind used in toothpaste and mouthwash. This is not the case. Approximately 95 percent of the fluoride used for public water fluoridation in the United States is hydrofluorosilicic acid, an unfilteredby-product of the phosphate fertilizer industry.

*Excerpt adapted from The Hidden Cause of Acne: How Toxic Water is Affecting Your Health and What You Can Do About It by Melissa Gallico. Gallico is a former military intelligence officer, Fulbright scholar, and intelligence specialist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She has instructed classes for FBI analysts at Quantico and provided intelligence support for FBI national security investigations. She graduated with honors from Georgetown University and holds a master’s degree from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. For more information on how to heal acne by avoiding fluoride, visit

Stopping Breakouts Before They Start

It can be disconcerting to learn the cystic welts on your face are caused by the fluoride added to common tap water. The everyday world takes on new shades of danger. You start to wonder about the free glass of ice water at a restaurant. Maybe you notice an unsettling feeling as you sink into a warm bath.

Preventing acne should be as effortless for you as it is for a teenager on the island of Kitava, as described in chapter one. The longterm solution is to end artificial water fluoridation and demand more responsible use of fluoride-based pesticides (see Appendix: The Plan). But you don’t have time right now to rewrite bureaucratic decrees. You need to start healing your acne today.

Artificial water fluoridation will end—and I predict it will be our generation that makes it happen—but you don’t have to wait until then before you can live acne-free. Once you understand where fluoride comes from and how it makes its way into the industrialized food supply, you will know how to choose foods and drinks that are naturally low in fluoride. You will know, for example, that beer and wine can both contain significant amounts of fluoride but for different reasons. More importantly, understanding those reasons elucidates how to choose options that will not contribute to future breakouts.

Fluoridated water is just the beginning. Soft drinks, juice, iced tea, coffee, and other beverages can all be made with fluoridated water, and if so they will contain fluoride in equal amounts or higher to the water with which they were produced.

Researchers at the University of Iowa measured fluoride concentrations of 332 soft drinks and found over 70 percent contained fluoride at levels exceeding 0.6 ppm (Heilman et al. 1999). Researchers in New Zealand examined 532 juices and juice drinks and found fluoride levels ranging from .02 to 2.8 ppm (Kiritsy et al. 1996). The researchers in both studies accounted for the wide range of fluoride in large part because of variations in the amount of fluoride of the water used in production.

Beer made with fluoridated water will also contain fluoride. In 2002, researchers at King’s College in London measured the fluoride content of various brands of beer, lager, and cider available in the United Kingdom (Warnakulasuriya et al. 2002). They found a range of fluoride from .06 to .71 ppm and concluded that alcoholic beverages can be a significant source of fluoride. If you don’t have time to research the fluoride content of beer in advance, those brewed in continental Europe are generally a safe option since 97 percent of western Europe does not fluoridate its water supply.

Whereas beer is made from brewing certain grains in water, wine is made from crushing grapes. There is no water added. Yet certain brands of wine contain significant amounts of fluoride. According to measurements from the 2005 USDA National Fluoride Database of Selected Foods and Beverages, wine contains an average fluoride content of 1.05 ppm for red wine and 2.02 ppm for white wine (USDA 2005).

The reason wine contains fluoride is because of the Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizer, a caterpillar with conspicuous tufts of long black poisonous spines. The Omnivorous Leafroller, a bell-shaped character with a gray bat-like snout and brown ombre wings, is also to blame. To limit crop damage from Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizers and Omnivorous Leafrollers, some grape growers use a pesticide called cryolite which acts as a deadly poison in their grapeleaf-greedy bellies. Cryolite is essentially ground fluoride minerals.

In 1989, European regulators noticed the excessive levels of fluoride in wine imported from California and set a limit for fluoride on all imported wine at 1 ppm. In response, the manufacturer of cryolite joined with Gowan Company, Gallo Winery, the Wine Institute, and California State University–Fresno to request an exception for California vineyards that use cryolite by raising their limit to 3 ppm, an amount that is over four times higher than the CDC’s current recommendation for fluoridated water. Their efforts were successful, and yet some California vineyards treated with cryolite still fail to meet the 3 ppm exception.

Here’s where your newfound insectology knowledge is put to good use. Western Grapeleaf Skeletonizers and Omnivorous Leafrollers tend to confine their grape-leaf dining activities to California’s Central Valley. To avoid wines that are high in fluoride, all you need to do is choose wines from vineyards outside this region. According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s online database, the use of cryolite on wine grapes is generally confined to four counties in southern San Joaquin Valley: Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern. Northern vineyards, including those in Napa and Sonoma, do not use cryolite. Neither do vineyards in southern or coastal areas like Temecula or Monterey. Neighboring vineyards in Oregon and Washington states are not sprayed with cryolite, either.

Grape juice can be high in fluoride because of cryolite, as well. In a study of 43 ready-to-drink fruit juices, researchers from Tufts University measured the highest amount of fluoride in grape juice from the baby food company Gerber at 6.8 ppm, well above the EPA’s already inflated maximum contaminant level for fluoridated water of 4 ppm (Stannard et al. 1991). Even fruit juices and other fruit drinks that don’t have the word “grape” in their name often contain blends of grape juice with significant amounts of fluoride. Cryolite is prohibited on organic crops, but juice made with fluoridated water will contain fluoride even if it is labeled as organic.


Heilman, Judy R., Mary C. Kiritsy, Steven M. Levy, and James S. Weelph. 1999. “Assessing Fluoride Levels of Carbonated Soft Drinks” Journal of the American Dental Association 130(11): 1593-1599. 

Kiritsy, Mary C., Steven M. Levy, John J. Warren, Nupurguha-Chowdhurym, Judy R. Heilman, and Teresa Marshall. 1996. “Assessing Fluoride Concentrations of Juices and Juice-flavored Drinks.” Journal of the American Dental Association 127(7): 895-902.

Stannard, Jan G., Youn Soo Shim, Maria Kritsineli, Panagiota Labropoulou, and Anthi Tsamtsouris. 1991. “Fluoride Levels and Fluoride Contamination of Fruit Juices.” The Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry 16(1): 38-40.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2005. “National Fluoride Database of Selected Beverages and Foods.” Release 2.

Warnakulasuriya, Saman, C. Harris, S. Gelbier, J. Keating, and T. Peters. 2002. “Fluoride Content of Alcoholic Beverages.” Clinica Chimica Acta 320 (1–2): 1–4. 

The Hidden Cause of Acneby Melissa Gallico, foreword by Stephen Harrod Buhner© 2018 Healing Arts Press. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.

  • Published on Jun 15, 2018
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