Hormonal acne: Eeek, you’ve hit your 20s, 30s or peri-menopause and are surprised to find yourself suddenly trying to manage stubborn hormonal acne. It would be amazing if after we hit our teenage years, we never had to deal with acne again. Unfortunately if you are a woman aged over 25 you may experience adult female acne (AFA), which may persist continuously or periodically from adolescence or manifest for the first time in this period. I know these difficult breakouts and cystic acne are frustrating, painful and often confidence shattering. Luckily, there are a number of ways to support your hormones naturally and help clear your skin without resorting to hormonal birth control.
If you want to manage hormonal acne naturally and address the root cause rather than rely on hormonal birth control you’re in the right place. In this comprehensive guide I explain what you can do to address hormonal acne naturally. This includes key diet changes, recommended skin care and lifestyle practices. But first up, what is hormonal acne?
What is Hormonal Acne?
First, let’s discuss the difference between hormonal acne and a few pimples on your chin. Hormonal acne is primarily triggered by imbalanced hormones (excessive androgens) and inflammation. It often occurs during puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, or when there are abnormal fluctuations in hormone levels. Hormonal acne usually manifests as painful, cystic pimples, primarily on the lower face, jawline, and chin.
If your skin continues to flare and the spots are stubborn, it’s time to look beyond skin deep and start the following actionable steps to help calm hormonal acne.
6 Key Steps To Manage Hormonal Acne Naturally
If you’re wondering where to start to fix your hormonal acne, following are my expert naturopathic recommendations:
1. Get Blood Tests
The first step to take to help manage hormonal acne is to get comprehensive blood tests. This is because it is important to understand and address the root cause. The key is to figure out if your acne is caused by imbalanced hormones such as excess androgens and if they need a gentle nudge in the right direction. For this reason I recommend you book an appointment with your General Practitioner (GP) to discuss blood tests to investigate this.
Once you have your blood test results, you can discuss these with your natural health care practitioner and work together to address the cause of any hormonal imbalances, naturally. Please remember hormonal birth control and antibiotics are not your only options to calm hormonal acne.
2. Eat a wholefoods diet for bright, clear skin.
Enjoy an organic (as you are able), nutrient-dense diet of fruit, vegetables, quality protein, complex carbohydrates and abundant essential fatty acids such as nuts, seeds and avocado. These are anti-inflammatory and help manage hormone production and encourage acne lesions to heal.
Foods to include/Enjoy to ease hormonal acne:
- Healthy fats – from avocados, olives, extra virgin olive oil, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and fish such as kahawai (Australian salmon), anchovies, herring, sardines, trout, mussels;
- Vegetables – Choose seasonal, organic (where possible) and try to consume a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables;
- Quality meats – grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic and wild as you’re able;
- Legumes – Choose dry and organic over canned. Adzuki beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, butter beans, fermented soy products such as miso, tempeh, edamame, lentils;
Foods to reduce/Avoid to help manage hormonal acne:
- Dairy: Whilst dairy is an excellent source of protein and fat it can exacerbate acne. Try to limit it to A2 dairy, ghee or butter. When you choose alternate milks I recommend Mylk Made because it does not have the extra added sugars or hydrogenated oils that many commercial nut/oat milks contain.
- Unhealthy/Inflammatory fats: High omega-6 (inflammatory) oils include soybean, canola, corn, sunflower, vegetable, peanut, and rice bran oils. Hidden culprits include: mayonnaise, salad dressings, potato chips, fried foods, doughnuts, margarine, pastries, pies;
- Substitute meat and vegan products made with textured soy protein and soy isolates: Vegan imitation meat products are often made from textured soy protein and soy isolates, and can contain food additives, poor quality oils, and can be high in sugar and salt;
- Sugar: All forms of refined sugar should be reduced as much as possible. Use honey, fruit, rice malt, and stevia very sparingly;
3. Reduce Your Liver Loaders
The efficiency of your liver is key to help ease hormonal acne. Because your liver filters toxins from your body, it is one of the most important players that determines the health of your skin. If you consume or are exposed to too many “liver loaders” (chemicals, toxins and harmful substances), this compromises your natural detoxification processes. So instead of toxins and excess hormones (oestrogen especially) being efficiently excreted, they recirculate through your body and can cause all sorts of symptoms. This then manifests as acne or dull skin.
Examples of liver loaders to reduce for clear skin include:
- Too much caffeine
- Chemical exposure
- Genetically modified (GMO) foods.
3. Support Your Digestive System To Ease Hormonal Acne
The skin is a great indicator of what is going on inside your body. If your skin is irritated, inflamed or congested, chances are high that there may be an imbalance in your gut. This is because your skin and gut health are intimately connected. Gut dysbiosis leads to immune dysfunction and subsequent changes in skin health. Also, if you do not pass a regular bowel movement (a key indicator of health), toxins accumulate in your system and can in turn lead to dull, congested skin and acne.
How to support your digestive system for clear, bright skin:
- Ensure you drink 2L of filtered water a day, and more if you exercise.
- Ensure ample fibre in your day. Include plenty of fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, flax seeds. If you cannot tolerate legumes such as chickpeas and lentils this is a strong indicator that you have gut dysbiosis. Don’t worry though, you can change this, I’ll help you.
- Add 2 tablespoons of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds (full of zinc) to a smoothie or porridge or super seeded crackers. Plenty of options.
4. Manage Your Stress Levels To Improve Hormonal Acne
Stress is a major contributor to hormonal imbalances and aggravates acne. This is because with modern life and the many stressors it brings, your main stress hormone, cortisol, can become chronically high. This can in turn suppress some of your other hormones or drive-up adrenal androgens such as DHEAS, which can cause hormonal breakouts.
How to support your stress response for radiant skin:
To lower your cortisol levels you need to find a way to de-stress, to tell your body it is safe.
- Long term: This may involve an audit of your whole life. Are there any areas that need to change? Is your current lifestyle sustainable?
- Short term: You may like to start with some simple breathing exercises or a restorative yoga class to help reduce the impact of stress on your skin.
5. Audit Your Skin Care
Unfortunately natural and green washing of skin care products is very common. I see this all the time when I discuss skin care routines with my clients. Whilst many skin care products have some (a small amount of) natural ingredients, many also contain ingredients that strip your skin of its natural oils. This then causes your skin to produce more oil, your skin then becomes greasy and breaks out. Alcohols in skin care are also drying and stop the natural renewal process. Sulphates can block pores and cause acne. Fragrances interfere with hormones and there are also petroleum derived preservatives….and the list goes on.
Hormonal Acne Wrap-Up: Natural treatments for hormone-driven skin concerns
Remember: there is no quick fix for hormonal acne. Repairing hormonal acne requires patience, dedication and a holistic approach. It may take several weeks before any lifestyle changes take effect so remember to keep going. Persistence is key.
If you continue to struggle with hormonal acne or symptoms of a hormonal imbalance, get in touch. Just head over to my booking page and make an appointment. I’m based north of Christchurch, NZ, but see clients throughout New Zealand online via Zoom.
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis. Consult a healthcare professional for personalised guidance.
Kia Ora, I’m Anna,
A holistic hormone and fertility naturopath and medical herbalist here to help women and non-binary people in each life stage flourish. From periods and hormones to fertility, preconception care and postpartum right through to peri-menopause and menopause, I offer holistic, expert care.
Harness your health potential and make your skin, periods, hormones, fertility or menopause transition better. Together, let’s transform your health.
You can learn more about how I can help you here.