Hormonal acne is not just for teens! More and more women are suffering with it as well. Our appearance is important to us and many people scour the internet daily for clues about hormonal acne treatment. The answer, however, is multifaceted and we need to take a holistic approach to our health if we ever want to truly get rid of our hormonal acne once and for all.
What is hormonal acne and what are the hormonal acne symptoms
I think at some point in our lives we have all suffered with skin issues, but hormonal acne is right up there as one of the most common. Hormonal acne is the presence of spots on the lower part of the face, along the jaw line, chin and lower half of the cheek. The acne may vary in severity and range from blackheads and whiteheads to pimples and cysts. The spots are often inflamed and tender to the touch. An outbreak may be worse around the time of our period.
What causes hormonal acne?
As the name suggests hormonal acne is caused by our hormones! How many times as a teenager were you told that your acne would clear up as an adult? That it was just a teenage phase? Hormonal acne causes great distress for us as teens and unfortunately, for lots of women, this problem continues into adulthood. As women our hormones are always in play starting with our monthly cycle. More and more women are also suffering from hormone related conditions such as PCOS or Endometriosis, before then reaching perimenopause and menopause, perhaps with a pregnancy or two thrown into the mix. Whilst scientists are unsure of the exact reason hormonal acne occurs, it is thought that it is linked to a rise in our androgens. Androgens are our male hormones such as testosterone, and testosterone hormones makes our skin oiler which may lead to clogged pores.
How to cure acne due to a hormonal imbalance
So how do hormones cause acne? Well, as women, our hormones fluctuate throughout the month - in particular our oestrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall, and then drop right down prior to our period. These hormones, in theory, should follow a set route, but if for any reason they become off balance, this can cause other hormones to become more dominant. For example, if our oestrogen and progesterone are out of balance, this could result in testosterone becoming the more dominant hormone. Likewise, if cortisol, our stress hormone, is running high over a long period of time this may disrupt the natural path of our hormones.
If you were to go to the GP and ask them how to prevent hormonal acne, they would most probably suggest the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) (if you were not already on it) - the reason behind this being that the OCP may regulate our periods and hormones. Whilst this may help alleviate the problem in the short term, it is a little like putting a plaster on the situation. It does not deal with the underlying cause. The problem may well return when you stop taking the pill and I see quite a few people in my clinic suffering from post-pill acne. Spending some time working on your hormonal acne treatment without birth control is by far the best treatment for hormonal acne and for managing ‘coming off the pill’ acne.
It is important to note here, that we would never suggest you ignore the advice of your GP. Discuss with them your problems and decide a way forward together. Nutritional Therapy is complimentary to allopathic medicine.
So, how to cure hormonal balance acne? Well, whilst a ‘cure’ as such, has not yet been discovered, we can support our hormone production and regulation by taking a more holistic approach to our health. This means looking at our body as a whole and not only looking at how to ease and support the skin on the outside, but by also paying attention to what we are putting into our bodies.
Whilst there is also no magic hormonal acne diet, following these steps will go some way to helping us treat hormonal acne.
This really is a key player when it comes to our skin and often we are simply not drinking enough. Aim for a minimum of two litres a day. If our skin becomes dry and dehydrated this may lead to it producing oil to compensate, and this excess oil may clog our pores leading to a breakout.
Include Omega 3 Fatty Acids in your diet.
Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid. These fatty acids are called essential because we cannot make them ourselves, so we need to obtain them via our diet. Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Acne is an inflammatory condition and research suggests that including Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet may help alleviate symptoms. Aim to eat 2 portions of fish a week, with one of them being oily. Examples of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, anchovies and herring.
Include plenty of fibre rich foods in your diet.
Our body is producing hormones on a continuous basis all serving different roles and functions. When these hormones have served their purpose, they need to be eliminated from the body and fibre supports this. Fibre is in a number of different foods such as whole grain pasta, rice, bread, oats, berries, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Try to include some fibre in every meal.
Ensure you include plenty of antioxidants in your diet.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E are powerful skin supporting antioxidants that are found in plant foods. These nutrients are anti-inflammatory and also mop up the free radicals that may be floating around your body causing cellular damage.
Eat balanced meals.
Ensuring your meals are made up of protein, complex carbohydrates and fats really is the best way to support your hormones. The protein and fat in the meal will slow down the release of the sugar into the blood stream. Stabilising your blood sugar levels is vital for our hormone health. This should also help alleviate the hormones and food cravings issues that so many of us face.
Pay attention to you zinc intake
Zinc is another vital nutrient that has a beneficial effect on our skin. Including foods such as oysters, beef, lamb, nuts and seeds will all help.
Look out for the 'bad foods'
There are also a number of foods that could be making your skin worse by disrupting your hormones. Sugar is a big one! Now we are not advocates for giving things up entirely, but we do believe that moderation is important. Sugar is not our friend when looking at nutrition for acne prone skin. In some cases, dairy may also be a factor but please do not omit from your diet without speaking to a health professional or nutritionist.
Supplements to balance hormones are harder to suggest as everyone is so individual, but as a rule we would always suggest that everyone take a Vitamin D supplement during the winter months. Supplements for hormonal acne also include Omega 3 fatty acids, another powerful nutrient that has been linked to skin health. Likewise, if you do not eat fish then I would consider a supplement of which there are vegan alternatives available.
As we are looking at our body from a holistic viewpoint, and we have looked at acne nutrition, we now need to take into consideration other factors that could be affecting our inability to balance our hormones. Stress has a massive impact on our hormones. We are all so busy these days, rushing around working long hours, managing busy lives, juggling children and life, that we have learnt to live with chronic stress. These elevated levels of cortisol over a long period of time really can play havoc with our other hormones. Cortisol has one main purpose - to keep you safe, and all other hormonal systems may become out of balance as your body strives to keep you safe. We really need to learn to manage our stress levels, perhaps considering yoga, Pilates or meditation. Stress management needs to become part of our everyday life if we ever want to support our health on our quest to reduce our adult hormonal acne. Fresh air and exercise is another important factor when considering our skin health.
Skincare for hormonal acne is also important. Research now suggests that certain toxins in some cosmetic and skin care brands can have hormone disrupting effects. Taking the time to find the best products for hormonal acne is imperative. Finding products that have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and using them consistently will go a long way to helping us clear our hormonal acne.
Whilst the elusive natural remedy for hormonal acne has yet to be invented, and there is no one food to balance hormones, we can go a long way to helping ourselves by following the steps above, learning to listen to our bodies and by treating ourselves with the kindness we deserve. These steps helped me balance my hormones and hopefully they can help you too, as this really is the best hormonal acne natural treatment. Hopefully now you can see that nutrition and acne, and hormones and acne are intricately linked, and that choosing to balance our hormones with food, water and lifestyle changes is not just better for our skin, but for our overall health.
About the author:
This article was written by our Guest Expert Kirsty Harrison. Kirsty is a Nutritional Therapist specialised in women's health and loves to share her knowledge on how nutrition affects your hormone and skin health. Kirsty believes that a holistic approach to skincare is what truly makes a difference, taking the time to look after our skin from the inside is as important as what skincare we use. The two really do go hand in hand.