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What Is Hormonal Acne And How Can You Treat It?

Wait, did someone say... acne? You thought you were done with those days back in high school, didn't you? Unfortunately, you might find yourself struggling with adult acne, and thinking, "Great, just my luck!".

Oftentimes, patients who struggle with acne also struggle with depression, anxiety, and embarrassment, all because of their acne. While it can be emotionally and psychologically burdensome for many, it can also be painful.


Many of my patients struggle with hormonal acne, but I'm confident when I tell them that it's treatable and not something that they will have to suffer with forever! And no, I don't mean using a quick fix solution like Accutane, antibiotics, or other types of drugs on your face. By negatively impacting your gut and liver, these quick-fix solutions actually just cause your body more harm than good.


I use naturopathic approaches to get to the root cause of this problem. Here's what you need to know about hormonal acne, so you can say goodbye to it for good.


What is Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne occurs when your hormones are out of whack. These imbalanced hormones, or hormone fluxuations, cause not only whiteheads and blackheads but also deep cystic lesions as well. This type of acne usually shows up on your cheeks, jawline, neck, and chin.


Why Does Hormonal Acne Occur?

Like I stated earlier, hormonal acne occurs because your hormones are not balanced. So while some may say your hormones are the root cause, we can still dig deeper. What causes those hormonal imbalances? Once we get to that, then we can make changes and address the imbalance. After the imbalance is fixed, the acne will follow and clear up.


You first have to figure out which hormone is out of balance. This is where lab testing comes into play. Hormone testing can give us insight into what is going on inside your body. It can tell us which hormones are too high or too low and start giving us an idea about what may be causing your acne.


Which Hormones Are Causing Your Acne?

Estrogen Dominance

This is when your estrogen levels are elevated in comparison to your progesterone levels. This means your estrogen levels could be normal and your progesterone levels are low, or that your estrogen levels are high and your progesterone levels are normal.


Estrogen dominance can be caused by:

  • Reduced levels of COMT: catechol oxygen methyltransferase (COMT) helps break down estrogen. This means that reduced levels of COMT could mean that you have excess levels of estrogen in your body.

  • Environmental toxins like ‘xenoestrogens’, which mimic estrogen. These are found in pesticides as well as plastics.

  • Birth control pills could cause acne in some cases.


Androgen Excess

This refers to an excess of androgenic hormone, like testosterone. This can increase the production of sebum (aka oil) in the skin, contributing to acne. It can also overproduce the keratin protein found in skin cells, which can block pores and cause acne.


Androgen excess can be caused by:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

  • A genetic mutation that converts your testosterone hormone into the more potent dihydrotesterone form.

  • Stress can cause your adrenals to create more androgens, like testosterone.


Hormonal Acne Causes

Many times, acne does not occur just because of one factor. Like many conditions, there could be several causes behind it. However, you can see significant results by touching on these few factors.

  • Poor diet choices

  • Chronic stress

  • Environmental toxin exposure

  • Liver isn't working correctly

  • Gallbladder isn't working optimally

  • Poor gut health


How Not To Treat Hormonal Acne

Don't over-cleanse

Did you know that just like how you have a gut microbiome, you have a skin microbiome too! You don't want to wipe out all your good bacteria while you're trying to rid the bad.


Don't Use Antibiotics

Antibiotics can do your body more harm than good. It can wipe out the good bugs in your gut, worsening your hormone imbalance.


What To Do To Treat Hormonal Acne

Instead of forcefully scrubbing your face with intense products, softly use gentle toners, like rose water, which moisturize the skin rather than strip it.


Reduce or Manage Stress

Stress is a main contributor to hormone imbalances. Stress puts pressure on your adrenals, which then impact the levels of multiple other hormones (including testosterone levels). Stress can also cause gut dysbiosis, meaning your gut microbiome becomes unbalanced with harmful bacteria flourishing. Since your gut regulates and produces hormones, stress can inhibit these functions from occurring.


Best Diet For Acne- What Foods To Avoid

The foods we put into our body is one of the biggest influences of acne and its severity. If you are struggling with hormonal acne, there are some foods you should stay away from if you want to see improvements. While diet may not be the sole reason you experience acne, it could be a contributing factor.


Avoid Dairy Products

Dairy is one of the most common culprits of acne. Conventional dairy is loaded with tons of growth hormones. Consuming cow's milk can increase the risk of acne as well as its severity.


Avoid Trans Fats

You will want to avoid processed foods because they contain trans fats. Trans fats is one factor that can exacerbate acne conditions. These lead to high inflammation levels because they can raise your arachidonic acid levels, which competes with your omega-3 fats.


Avoid Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates

Sugar increases inflammation in your body by raising insulin levels. Elevated levels of insulin can make androgen hormones more active. This then raises levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This boosts sebum production, contributing to acne development. When people with acne focus on diet, it has been shown to help in treatment.


Nutrients & Vitamins for Hormonal Acne

Vitamin A, Zinc, and essential fatty acids can help speed up the recovery time and heal acne. Vitamin A plays a role in reducing sebum and reducing keratin production.


Zinc can help speed up the healing time and boost the immune response to protect against bacterial infection on the skin (which contributes to some acne).


It would help if you also increased other antioxidants to help promote healthy cells and bodily processes. They do this by fighting oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which then reduces acne severity.


Treat Your Acne With a Naturopathic Doctor

Whether your acne is a result of hormone imbalances or other underlying causes, a naturopathic doctor can help treat it safely and effectively. If you want to rid your acne for good, please contact Dr. Jillian Smithers. She is a naturopathic doctor who specializes in hormone health. She's currently accepting new patients. Make an appointment with her to optimize your health and get back to feeling like yourself!


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