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It’s one thing to have acne as a teenager. Teenagers are supposed to get acne, right? Which means that skin should be problem free once you reach the magic age of 21.
Except it doesn’t always work out that way.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists are finding that adult-onset acne is becoming increasingly common in women in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. Studies show that up to 50% of women in their 20’s and 25% of women in their 40s struggle with acne triggered by hormonal changes in the body.
Pregnancy, diet, stress, menopause or even the birth control you use can cause hormonal imbalances. Hormonal acne typically appears on the jawline, chin or lower cheek. It can often appear red and inflamed and cause some amount of pain. For even more information about acne triggers, take a look at our post all about which supplements can cause acne.
How do hormones affect acne?
Hormones have a major role in the development of acne, and although the exact mechanism behind their powerful influence is unknown, we do know that androgen hormones gum up the follicle by triggering oil (sebum) production.
Androgens are the so called “male hormones” and are present in males and females. They are produced by the testes, ovaries and the adrenal glands. The most well known androgens are testosterone and its breakdown product dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Why is all of this important in regards to acne? Because research has shown that there are androgen receptors in the base of the oil gland and also in the cells that line the pores! If there are high levels of testosterone and DHT floating around the body, they are highly capable of binding onto these receptors.
To put it simply, when these hormones attach to the oil glands (aka. receptors) in the skin, they trigger the gland to produce more oil as well as feed the bacteria and then an inflamed acne lesion is well on its way to surfacing. So, by lowering androgen and testosterone levels in the body, the skin will not produce as much or no acne.
Also at work is DHEA, the chief precursor to testosterone. DHEA causes the growth of and increased productivity of the oil (sebaceous) gland. DHEA levels start rising well before puberty when the adrenal glands start producing this chemical. At this time, acne starts to appear in genetically predisposed teenagers.
The majority of women who suffer from hormonal acne will notice their skin getting worse a week or two before their period. Women who are entering menopause may notice skin changes as well. This is because androgen levels are higher.
So it makes sense that if you lower androgen levels, the skin will not produce as much oil—and your acne will improve.
The hormonal acne and diet connection
One component to fluctuating or increased hormone levels is the food we consume.
The typical American diet is acidic and high in saturated fats, processed grains, meat fats, refined sugar. It’s also low in fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, fiber and antioxidants. Research has shown that this can cause an imbalance in testosterone and androgen levels, respectively.
Therefore, a healthy diet is one form of natural treatment for hormonal acne. Another way to balance hormone levels is by taking certain herbs and vitamins for acne. Both these items are discussed in more detail below…
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition in which women have an imbalance of female sex hormones. It is linked to low levels of estrogen and progesterone and high androgen levels (male hormones typically found in small amounts in women).
It is not completely understood why or how the changes in hormone levels occur. This hormonal imbalance causes the woman’s ovaries to not release eggs, instead, they form very small cysts.
Symptoms of PCOS include: lack of a period or an irregular period, body hair growing on the chest, naval, face or around the nipples, thinning of the hair on the head, acne, dark skin markings around the neck, armpits, groin or breasts as well as decreased breast size.
The increase in androgen levels is responsible for causing these male-characteristic symptoms. It makes the skin oilier than usual and cause breakouts on areas like the face, chest, and upper back.
If you think you may have acne triggered by PCOS, please contact your physician for testing and diagnosis.
3 hormonal acne treatments that help you get clear naturally
While hormonal acne is stubborn, there are some easy strategies you can take to balance hormones for acne relief naturally. These include:
1. Take Your Vitamins and Herbs
In women, hormonal acne typically manifests along the jawline and chin. If this sounds familiar, taking Vitex for acne may be a successful treatment.
Vitex agnus castus, also known as Chasteberry, is a “woman’s herb” that’s been traditionally used for hormonal imbalances. It’s been used for menstrual symptoms of low progesterone in the luteal phase (the part of the cycle that starts at ovulation and ends the day before your next period). These symptoms include depression, crying, mood swings, acne, nervousness and anxiety.
Vitex has also been used as a natural remedy for treating such symptoms of high estrogen levels as pain, tender breasts, bloating and heavy periods.
Current research shows that Vitex can support healthy hormone levels and relieve pre-menstrual symptoms. It can also be an effective natural hormonal acne treatment.
How does Vitex work?
The Vitex herbs acts upon the pituitary and hypothalamus glands by increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) production and mildly inhibiting the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This results in a shift in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, with a rise in progesterone. The ability of the Vitex to increase progesterone levels is an indirect effect.
Vitex itself is not a hormone. Therefore, it is important to know if your progesterone levels truly are low before taking Vitex as it could stimulate an acne breakout from too high of progesterone levels.
The best way to take Vitex for acne is by taking it first thing in the morning between 7-8am. That is when your pituitary and hypothalamus glands are active to regulate female sex hormones. You can expect to feel the full benefits of taking vitex for acne within 3-5 months.
We offer an organic, vegan and therapeutic-grade Vitex that is designed for hormonal acne treatment.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have also been shown to be an effective hormonal acne treatment. Not only do these essential fatty acids sooth your body’s inflammatory response to excess sebum and bacteria, they also help balance acne-causing hormones such as testosterone and androgen.
Taking Omega 3 Fish Oil supplements in addition to eating foods high in Omega 3’s can be an effective hormonal acne treatment.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Decrease your intake of saturated fat: In 1984, the first study was conducted in Finland that showed a diet-hormone connection. In one six-week study, Dr. Esa Hamalainen and her team showed that by switching from a diet high in saturated fat to one with 38% less fat and more polyunsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens) caused a significant reduction in androstenedione (precursor to testosterone) and testosterone in the blood.
Increase fiber consumption: Yes, eating fiber can help clear your skin! One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets high in refined carbohydrates resulted in higher incidence of acne. Research shows that a high fiber diet can decrease blood testosterone, DHT and DHEA—androgens that trigger hormonal acne.
In America, the average daily consumption of fiber is 13 grams. The recommended daily dosage is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. So switching from white breads, rice and pastas to high fiber, whole wheat foods can help lessen the severity of acne.
Stay away from cow’s dairy (especially cow’s milk): Research shows that dairy can cause acne due to high levels of iodine. While milk itself does not naturally contain iodine, farmers give their cows iodine-fortified feed to prevent infection. They also use iodine solutions to sanitize cow udders and milking equipment. As a result, the iodine gets into the milk itself.
According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology consuming dairy – specifically, low fat/skim milk — is much higher in teenagers who have acne. Both Goat and Sheep milk are believed to be the safer options.
Increase alkaline foods and decrease acidic foods– meat-based proteins coffee, alcohol, sugar and processed grains – all foods that are a big part of the typical American diet—are acid-forming in the system. This leads to a condition called acidosis. Over-acidification is known as acidosis.
The main symptom of acidosis is fatigue.
Other symptoms include: loss of enthusiasm for life, loss of sex drive, poor sleep quality, depression and tiring quickly both mentally and physically. Advanced stage symptoms of acidosis include: sensitivity to cold, low blood pressure, hypo or hyperthyroid and low blood sugar.
These symptoms are caused because the main minerals that are required to nourish the nervous system, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are the very same minerals that the body uses to neutralize acids!
Studies show that alkaline foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains help neutralize these acids Just by eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in replace of meat, sugar and other processed foods you will not believe how amazing you feel in just a few days!
3. Stress Reduction- yes, it does affect our hormones!
These days, starting from kindergarten, the pressure is on. We all experience it and try our best to reduce it.
And if you’ve notices extra pimples during times of stress, you’re not alone. Research shows there’s a definite link between stress and acne breakouts.
Simply put, stress activates the adrenal glands to produce extra androgen hormones which eventually results in inflamed acne breakouts in acne-prone skin. These extra hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin and trigger a breakout.
The stress-hormone connection is more of a problem for women than it is for men because they produce most of their male hormones (androgens) in their adrenal glands. Men, on the other hand, produce most of their male hormones in the testes and only a very small amount in the adrenal glands.
Men’s primary hormone is testosterone is even when they do get stressed and the body produces extra, it does not have as big of an impact as it does for women. Since women produce about one tenth of the amount of testosterone as men, a sudden surge of additional testosterone can have a significant impact on the body—and the skin.
What’s more, stress also causes high levels of acidity. Eating more alkaline foods neutralize these acids while also reducing cortisol levels.
To protect our adrenal glands from this surge of androgens (testosterone), we have to protect them! The Adrenal Stress Formula is one of the easiest ways to prevent that spike of androgens from affecting our skin and triggering a stress breakout.