If you’re like me, and you’ve experienced some degree of acne or problem skin for most of your life, chances are you’ve probably heard of—and tried—a host of different things to get rid of it.

From the conventional (as a teenager, my doctor put me on antibiotics and other prescription medications, including topicals and birth control pills), to the holistic (in my 20s, I ditched the meds and opted instead for a low-glycemic, gluten-free, whole foods, organic diet, detox programs, and more expensive supplements than I care to admit), I’ve likely tried it all at one time or another.

And while some of these things did help significantly (particularly the dietary changes, which I stick to still), nothing really seemed to knock my acne completely out of the park.

Until last summer, when—quite by accident—I discovered something so simple and obvious I couldn’t believe I had never heard about it before. Something that has not only cleared up my blemishes, but has given my skin a smooth, radiant quality I never believed my body was capable of producing. Something that’s accessible to anyone at anytime, in any place, using only your own body. Something completely cost-free.

What is that Magical Thing?

That “something” is deep breathing, and I stumbled upon it those many months ago when a minor health incident brought to my attention that I had relatively low blood pressure and sluggish circulation. So, in my quest to get my blood moving to where it needed to go, I began to pay more attention to how I was breathing.

What I noticed was startling. I realized that I spent the majority of my day taking very shallow breaths or—even worse—holding my breath altogether. I knew this bad habit needed to change, so researched deep breathing exercises and meditation. While the meditation was nice, following a specific set of instructions for breathing and focusing on breath work all day left me frustrated and anxiety-ridden. Was I doing it right? When had breathing become so complicated?

How to Do It

Still, I wanted to improve my health, so I decided to let go of everyone else’s instructions and just take a few minutes out of every day to breathe in whatever way felt right to me.

I began taking about 20 deep breaths each morning before getting out of bed, and another 20 before going to sleep each night. I laid in whatever position was comfortable for me at the moment. Frequently, that was my back, but sometimes my side felt better. Each time I inhaled, I focused on taking slow, deep breaths, completely filling my diaphragm first, followed by my lungs. Then, in reverse order, I slowly exhaled the air in my lungs until finally my diaphragm was empty. The entire process usually took less than five minutes. Sometimes, if I’m having a busy day, I do the breathing as I’m up and moving around. The important thing is just to do it.

I also take two or three of these breaths as needed throughout the day whenever I realize I’ve been holding my breath or if I’m feeling stressed.

How Does Breathing Relate to Acne?

While better circulation was my intent, it wasn’t long before something else began to happen. After about 48 hours, I noticed a marked improvement in my complexion, including decreased bumps, blemishes, and redness. By day four, my skin was clearer and smoother than it had been in 25 years. I didn’t make the connection, at first, but time has told me that when I stick to the breathing, my skin looks fantastic. When I abandon it (for any longer than a week), my skin goes right back to its old, rebellious ways.

There is good reason to believe breathing plays a strong role in skin health. In addition to getting more oxygen and nutrients to your cells, our lungs also play a critical role in the body’s detoxification process (which also includes your liver, kidneys, and—you guessed it—the skin). Basically, if we aren’t breathing properly, our other organs of elimination have to work a lot harder to remove the things it wants to get rid of. In fact, breathing impacts every single system in the human body, one reason Dr. Andrew Weil has promoted this action as the single most important thing you can do to change your health .

While shallow breathing may or may not play a role in your skin troubles, I encourage everyone with acne to give it a try—because even if it doesn’t cure your blemishes, you are bound to reap other health benefits. And, unlike many treatments out there, there is absolutely nothing to lose.