I can certainly empathise with anyone experiencing hormonal acne – I have been there and know how it can affect you both internally and externally. The common treatment is often antibiotics and Accutane, which do not address the underlying cause and can severely impact the skins microbiome, deplete nutrients, and affect our mental health. In my case, I was prescribed Accutane which not only came with an extensive list of side effects, but I would also have had to pause working as a flight attendant due to the medical downgrade of this pharmaceutical. That was my giant red flag – if I had to cease working to address my acne, then something wasn’t right. Long story short, I opted to see a Naturopath, had my hormones tested via the Dutch test, commenced a herbal and mineral plan to address the underlying cause and I haven’t experienced acne since. Oh and I managed to keep my job (yay!).
My naturopathic experience with acne led me to commit 6 years of studying Naturopathy in the hope to support others who want to correct their conditions and essentially improve their life.
Addressing acne from a naturopathic perspective involves identifying the root cause, so let’s look at some common causes as well as beneficial foods and herbs.
What causes hormonal Acne?
It is important to note that the cause of hormonal acne is multi-faceted and dependent on many individual factors. We can very easily try and align our symptoms with others in hope of finding the perfect treatment and this can lead to feeling disheartened when our results are not the same. Therefore, it is important to treat your case individually, see a Naturopath and have your hormones tested to allow for an accurate treatment plan.
Acne, in general, is the result of excess sebum leading to clogged pores and this begins at the sebaceous follicle level. Increased sensitivity to or raised levels of androgens (testosterone) increase sebum, which clogs the pores and leads to breakouts and oily skin.
The hormones impacting acne include:
- Progesterone and Oestrogen balance,
- Elevated androgens such as testosterone, DHEA and DHT
- Elevated insulin
- Elevated cortisol
Factors that can trigger hormonal imbalances include:
- genetic susceptibility,
- high inflammatory diet,
- high stress,
- a gut or skin microbiome imbalance,
- poor blood sugar balance and regulation,
- nutrient deficiencies,
- dysbiosis (impaired gut health),
- poor detoxification (sluggish liver).
Foods that cause hormonal acne
Certain foods cause inflammation and make the androgen receptors on your skin cells hypersensitive. This results in excessive oil and can cause white heads and/or cystic acne.
- Processed: These foods promote inflammation and offers little nutritional value while impairing the absorption of the nutrients that are high value.
- Dairy: the hormones in dairy cause our own hormones to increase, resulting in increased sebum production.
- Gluten: gluten allergies and sensitivities can cause digestive damage, preventing optimal absorption of nutrients. This can also increase inflammation and compromise immunity.
- Sugar: sugar breaks down collagen (the building block of our skin cells), causes inflammation and acidity which depletes nutrients and hydration.
- Alcohol: dehydrates the skin, causing sebum to work overtime.
- Caffeine: is a diuretic AKA depletes moisture from the skin cells.
- Zinc: Crucial for skin function, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-androgen, wound healing. Chicken, pumpkin seeds, tahini, garlic
- Vitamin A: Regulates sebum production & pore size, antioxidant, antibacterial, prevents clogged pores. Egg yolk, fish, cod liver oil, dairy, carrots
- Omega-3: Strengthens skin barrier, regulates sebum production, anti-inflammatory, lowers IGF-1, antibacterial. Fatty fish, chia, walnuts
- Probiotics: Reduces inflammation, improves immune system, balances hormones. Kimchi, kefir
- Vitamin E: Antioxidant, prevents lipid peroxidation, helps wound healing. Nuts, seeds, avocados
- Vitamin D: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, regulates immune system. Salmon, tuna, fortified foods
- Vitamin C: Synthesise collagen, reduces inflammation, initiate skin healing, prevents & protects from oxidative stress. Citrus, strawberries, broccoli, capsicum
- Fibre: Improves gut microbiome. Seeds, whole grains, beans
- Protein: Balances skin and energy, encourages healing & repair, building block for healthy skin cells, supports detoxification system. Meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, quinoa
- Vitex/Chaste Tree: This herb works by indirectly raising your progesterone levels. Less progesterone means more oil and more acne, therefor Vitex prevents this happening.
- Liquorice & Paeony: Suppress androgen (testosterone) production in women
- Saw Palmetto: Stops testosterone exerting strong effects on your cells. Weaker testosterone = less oil production
- Blue flag: Helps decongest skin
Top tips to support hormonal harmony
- Reduce stress (effects how our hormones communicate)
- Get adequate good quality sleep
- Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet
- Exercise regularly
- Support your liver (eat lots of fruit & veg, reduce alcohol)
- Restore nutrients
- Avoid hormones disruptors (plastic bottles, unfiltered water, conventional cosmetics)
- Image: Pinterest