Written by Audrey S. Geyer
Let's talk about skin care, specifically hormonal acne. Hormonal acne can be incredibly difficult. For some, it only affects them as teens. For others, especially those with hormonal imbalances such as PCOS, it can be a lifelong issue.
Traditionally, when you see breakout occur, you’re taught to go look on the aisles of a drugstore, inside of cosmetics stores like Sephora, or even in a dermatologists office… But while quality topical skincare is certainly important, it doesn’t address the underlying causes of chronic hormonal acne.
Hormonal acne often surfaces during the luteal phase (often identified as a PMS symptom), around the time of ovulation, or during times of stress. As noted above, it is especially common for women with PCOS.
The timing and symptoms related to the breakouts can reveal a lot about what’s going on beneath the surface of your skin. Getting insight about hormonal acne and implementing holistic health strategies can help you more effectively heal - and prevent! - these breakouts from taking place.
Here are 3 foundational tips to start implementing if you have hormonal acne.
Support Your Liver
Excess sex steroid hormones (including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone) are metabolized by the liver before they’re excreted out. Many people believe our liver is simply a dumping ground for toxins, but the liver is also responsible for assisting our hormonal health.
The same way an air filter needs to be cleaned and changed so it continues to purify our air, our liver’s “filtration system” also needs our care.
Reducing or abstaining from caffeine and alcohol are two important places to start. Alcohol is especially harmful for the liver, and it is such a toxin to our bodies that the liver will stop all other functions (including the ones related to our hormones) until alcohol has been fully processed.
Foods like broccoli sprouts, dandelion greens, milk thistle, rosemary, pomegranate arils, and grapefruit can be especially supportive of the liver. They're especially important during ovulation, when estrogen and testosterone are at peak levels.
Improve Your Gut Health
Lack of diversity in microbiome, leaky gut, and poor gut health can contribute to hormonal acne. If you struggled with sickness as a child and were prescribed antibiotics a lot, or if you’ve previously used hormonal birth control, these can especially cause an imbalance in your gut microbiome, which then appears on the surface of the skin.
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and sourdough are wonderful ways to begin improving gut microbiome.
Research also supports the idea people who eat a diverse array of plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and herbs, have better gut microbiomes than those who eliminate food groups without medical cause. In fact, 30 different plants per week is considered an ideal benchmark for diversity in your diet!
Reduce Stress Levels
When your body is in a state of stress, cortisol and DHEA-S are produced to help your body combat the effects of stress. Temporarily, this is a defense mechanism. However, when you’ve been in a state of chronic stress, this can lead to frustrating acne breakouts, among an array of other bothersome symptoms, like cravings, brain fog, and fatigue.
Stress acne is a type of hormonal acne caused by these two hormones. Cortisol spikes blood sugar by tapping into the liver’s protein stores and turning it into glucose so your body has fuel. DHEA-S also helps fight stress, but it’s an androgen and increases sebum in your skin. Together, this can cause cystic acne, pustules, or papules.
Having a healthy support system, counseling, yoga, and meditation can all become part of a hormonal acne healing routine by calming your stress hormones. Adaptogens, such as reishi or ashwagandha, can also help improve resilience to stress, as well as supplements like L-theanine, magnesium, and B6.
*Note: ashwagandha has been known to increase testosterone. As always, speak to your provider before trying any supplement.
By integrating these practices into your daily life and being consistent with them, you can improve hormonal acne over time. Typically, it takes about 3 cycles to begin to notice significant differences in the changes you make. Hormonal acne doesn't have to be forever!
Audrey is a High Performance Women's Wellness Coach based in Memphis, TN, working virtually with clients both across the United States and internationally. Leaving nothing unintentional or uninspired, she is a go-to source for women's health, personal development, and lifestyle strategy for ambitious, health-conscious women. She has a fresh perspective on what it means to live a balanced life and coaches women on how to achieve their goals, while making PMS and burnout a thing of the past.