One of the toughest types of acne to get rid of is hormonal acne. This is because acne is not really the main problem, but simply a symptom of a more serious internal health problem or imbalance. It’s an obvious sign that your body’s crying out for help. That’s why topical skin care products (no matter how amazing) or contraceptive pills or eating ‘pretty healthy’ often still don’t work against stubborn hormonal acne.
My own struggle with acne was primarily due to hormonal imbalances, and it took me a while to figure out hormones, how they relate to acne, and how to eventually cure my own acne. So I know how frustrating it can be when you feel like you’ve tried everything; you’re eating super healthy organic food, taking helpful supplements, using top quality natural skin care products, you’re exercising and meditating daily, you’re detoxing regularly etc…..and you still can’t get rid of your acne completely! I was once at that stage and it just made me feel hopeless and just want to give up :(.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may need some extra help, some more info and a different approach, when it comes to hormonal acne. It’s really helpful and important to not only figure out whether your acne is hormone related (and not just due to toxicity due to years of an unhealthy lifestyle) but also figure out exactly how your hormones are unbalanced, what kind of imbalance it is, how it came to develop in the first place, and what specifically can you do to balance your hormones and regulate your sebum production for your unique situation (since everybody’s health, body, and acne situation is different).
Plenty of times I’ve been to the doctor or dermatologist to try and find out more about my hormonal acne, only to be put on the contraceptive pill (which only made my hormonal balance worse and made me break out even more when I tried to go off it). I felt like it was so difficult to find any real answers, and I spent a lot of years doing my own research, looking through forums, testing things on myself until I finally managed to re-balance my hormones and clear my skin. So I want to share with you what I’ve learnt about hormonal acne in the hopes that it will help you too :).
We all know that one of the main contributors to acne is overactive oil glands in your skin that produce excess sebum (oil) that then collects in your skin, blocking hair follicles and pores. This forms plugs that prevent the normal drainage of oil and also causes dead skin cells to become trapped. Bacteria in your skin then feed on the excess sebum which causes an infection which results in a pimple.
So you can understand why many doctors and dermatologists say excess sebum is the cause of acne. But really, it’s not. Excess sebum is just another symptom of a bigger problem within your body that’s causing it. Instead of getting rid of the symptom (excess sebum) by using harsh drugs and chemicals, we need to actually fix the root cause of excess sebum and acne.
2 Main Causes of Excess Sebum:
- Excess Hormones (androgens)
Excess toxins that your body has to expel through the skin can be caused by:
- Sluggish digestion, poor kidney and liver function
- Candida overgrowth
- Bad diet (junk food/low quality food)
- Chemicals in food and environment
- Allergies and Food Intolerances
Hormonal imbalances (particularly excess androgens) also increase sebum production. Hormonal imbalances can be caused by:
- Emotional stress
- Physical stress
- Environmental synthetic hormones (e.g. xenoestorgens in plastic)
- Hormones in animal produce/food
- Contraceptive pills
- Genetic predisposition
- Bad Diet, Poor Nutrition
As you can see, a lot of the root causes of hormonal imbalances are diet, lifestyle and emotional health related. These causes result in certain types hormonal imbalances that I’ve found to be common in acne sufferers:
- Adrenal Stress/Fatigue with elevated Cortisol levels
- Estrogen Dominance (Low Progesterone)
- Insulin Resistance
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
How Hormonal Imbalances Result In Acne
A lot of you already know that the main group of hormones that help to control sebum production is androgens (male hormones). In particular Testosterone, and even more specifically a type of Testosterone called DHT (which is formed when Testosterone is converted to DHT by an enzyme called 5 Alpha Reductase).
It’s really helpful to realize that hormones are like a team that all work together. They ALL impact each other in different ways. So even though ‘excess androgens’ is what causes increased oil production there can be different reasons why you have excess androgens in the first place. For example, you may be lacking in other hormones that usually balance out androgens and so your androgen production may be a little out of control. You could also have a hormonal imbalance that causes an increase in the enzyme 5 Alpha Reductase so you may have an increased amount of Testosterone being converted to DHT resulting in more oil production and more acne. I don’t want to get too technical, but I guess my point is, different people have different reasons to why they may have excess androgens, and any imbalance in your other hormones can send your androgen levels out of whack too.
The type of hormonal imbalances and their root causes probably need an article each to explain how you can tell if you’ve got a problem with it and what specifically you can do about it. So I’ll write an article on each in the future. But here are a few general things you can do to help balance your hormones overall:
Please don’t underestimate the impact this has on your hormones and acne. Any time you’re stressed your adrenal glands pumps out Cortisol that contributes to increased androgens and increased acne.
2) Eat a Low GI Organic Diet
Cut out all bad food, especially stimulants and sugar. Eat low GI, healthy organic food. Cut down on fruits too (even though they’re good, don’t eat too much because the sugar can be stimulating and add stress).
3) Eat plenty of Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty can help reduce the production of androgens and balance hormones. People with acne have been shown to have deficiencies in EFAs. You can also apply topically to your body, face and hair for added benefits.
- Flaxseed Oil (15-60ml per day)
- Omega 3 Fish Oil (5ml per day)
- GLA from Evening Primrose Oil (5ml per day)
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Grape Seed Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
4) Make sure you’ve got enough of these Vitamins and Minerals
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B’s (especially Vitamin B6)
- Vitamin A
5) Herbs that help to balance hormones
- Holy Basil
- Chasteberry (Vitex Agnus-Castus)
- Milk Thistle
6) Natural Anti-Androgrens
- Green Tea Extract
- Saw Palmetto
- Spearmint Tea
- Pumpkin Seed Oil
- Emu Oil
- Soy Isoflavones
- Beta Sitosterols
- Alzelaic Acid
These are just some general herbs and important vitamins and guidelines of things that can be very helpful for balancing your hormones overall. Make sure to do your own research to make sure something’s right for you.
The most important thing you should do first is to go and get your hormones tested with a saliva test (more accurate than a blood test). It’ll give you a better picture of what you need to work on, and like I said earlier, I’ll be writing more articles that go into detail on some of the things above that will give you more specifics and hopefully help you :)
Remember, if you’re suffering from hormonal acne and nothing you’ve tried seems to be working, please don’t give up. It may take a while to re-balance your hormones again, but once you do, it will be soo worth it!