Hormonal acne is the most common skin condition in both men and women. Acne is caused by an overproduction of sebum. Sebum is an oil that prevents the skin from drying out. When excess sebum is produced, it combines with dead skin cells to clog your pores and create those dreaded pimples.
Research into how different hormones affect acne is still ongoing. However, many scientists have confidence in the fact that androgens play a key role. Androgens are a group of hormones that can cause the sebaceous glands in the skin to produce more sebum.
What causes hormonal acne
People with hormonal acne may notice that they are more prone to rashes:
- before or during a period
- during or after pregnancy
- after starting or stopping the contraceptive pills
- during perimenopause or menopause
Very often it appears to be difficult to distinguish hormonal acne from other types of acne. However, for some people, the timing of their rashes can be an indication.
Hormonal acne can be caused by many different internal and/or environmental factors. These include:
- Upsurges in testosterone throughout puberty or as a result certain medications, such as progesterone-only birth control and
- Microbial infection (Tanghetti, 2013)
- Inheritances (Di Landro et al., 2012)
- Chronic emotional tension (Jovic at el., 2017)
There is mixed evidence for a link between diet and acne. However, some people may find it helpful to eat foods with a low glycemic index (GI) or avoid certain foods, such as cow’s milk.
The hormonal anti-acne diet can vary from person to person, depending on individual triggers and nutritional needs.
In this article, we’ll look at what hormonal acne is, some foods that can trigger it, and some dietary changes a person may try.
Too habitually food regimen is held responsible for the deteriorating hormonal acne. Is this in fact accurate?
How can what we eat help control this skin nightmare?
Unfortunately, we’re still not 100% sure what is the cause of hormonal acne. There are large gaps in current research and more research is needed. So, I’m not comfortable with defining diet as a direct cause of hormonal acne, but I’m here to help you clarify things you might read in the media.
Dairy products and hormonal acne
Over the years, there has been a lot of speculation about the effect of dairy products on acne development. Many studies have been done, however, the results are based on participants remembering their diet from years earlier.
Not sure about you, but most people have a hard time telling me what they ate yesterday or last week with accuracy.
These data are not reliable enough to suggest eliminating dairy products completely from the diet, as the benefits of high-quality protein, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B2 in the diet outweigh the possible negatives.
However, if you’ve found that eliminating dairy from your diet works for you, then go for it! Just remember that dairy-free diets are often not adequate for calcium, so please speak to a dietician to discuss alternative calcium sources or supplements.
There may also be a link between cow’s milk and acne. However, studies examining this have produced mixed results.
A 2016 review cites a handful of studies supporting a weak link between dairy consumption and acne. What’s more, a 2018 review of nine studies – including 71,819 participants – found that people who drank milk were 16% more likely to have acne than those who didn’t drink milk.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), although cow’s milk may be a trigger for some, there is currently no evidence to suggest that other dairy products, such as cheese or yogurt, cause it. ‘acne.
Whey protein and acne
Whey protein is one of the proteins in milk. In 2013, a study with 30 participants found that using whey protein as a protein supplement led to the development of acne. However, this sample size was very small and the results are not reliable enough to discourage the use of whey protein powders to combat acne.
My best advice: try to eat whole proteins like lean meats, fish, and eggs, and don’t rely on protein supplements all the time!
Sugar and acne
Recently, there has been talked of high glycemic index (GI) diets in the acne city. High GI carbohydrate foods are the ones that release glucose rapidly and cause blood sugar levels to spike and drop even faster. These products include refined sugar, soft drinks, lollipops, chocolate, jasmine rice, white bread, and more.
German et al. (2016) found that if participants ate more high GI foods, this led to a reduction in circulating adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is a hormone with anti-inflammatory properties, which means that it works by reducing the effects of some factors that cause inflammation. They found that acne sufferers had lower blood levels of adiponectin, and they concluded that a low GI diet was superior to a high GI diet in acne sufferers.
Huang et al. (2019) also found that if people drank soft drinks daily, the risk of developing acne increased. They lead to excess amounts of refined sugar in these drinks – a high GI option.
Numerous studies suggest that modern Western diets can increase the likelihood of acne, potentially due to the amount of high-glycemic foods they often contain.
The GI is a way of measuring how fast foods raise blood sugar levels in the body. Modern Western diets often contain high glycemic index foods that have a significant effect on blood sugar levels. This could explain why acne is common in countries like the United States but less common elsewhere.
For example, a 2016 review highlights several studies that examined the prevalence of acne among indigenous peoples in northern Canada, the Kitava Islands, and rural villages in Brazil, South Africa, and Kenya.
These studies found that acne prevalence was low in these locations and attributed it to participants’ traditional low-GI diets. The study in Canada found that when participants started eating Western foods like soda, dairy, and processed foods, acne rates went up.
Some high-glycemic foods include:
- sweets and candies
- sugary baked goods
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread
- sugary cereals
So… try to avoid refined sugar, over-processed foods, and those high GI foods if you want acne control.
Eat a rainbow every day!
The best advice I can give to those who want to control acne is to eat a nutritious and balanced diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat, fish, eggs, and meat alternatives. A diet like this helps fight inflammation because these whole foods contain antioxidants.
In particular, omega 3 fatty acids (yes, still there to save the day!) Have been found to have been linked to improving acne. Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that may have an overall positive effect on the progression of acne (Khayef et al., 2012). Try including fatty fish in your diet or even try a fish oil supplement if fish isn’t your thing!
My Proposed Diet for hormonal acne
While there is no officially approved diet for folks with hormonal acne, some of you may find the following recommendations supportive.
Always discuss any major dietary changes with a doctor or dietician in advance to make sure they are suitable.
Low glycemic index foods
If a person’s diet contains a lot of high-glycemic foods, reducing their intake of high-glycemic foods and eating more low-glycemic foods can have benefits for their skin. Eating low-glycemic foods also has other benefits, such as stabilizing blood sugar.
Some foods to focus on include:
- non-starchy vegetables
- whole grains and cereals
- beans and legumes
- nuts and seeds
- fruits such as apples, berries, and plums. Many protein and fat sources do not have a GI score because they have little to no effect on blood sugar. Incorporating foods such as olive oil, eggs, chicken, and fish into the diet can keep blood sugar levels stable and provide important nutrients for skin health.
Omega-3 fatty acids for hormonal acne
Fatty acids – such as omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 – all contribute to the level of inflammation in your body. For example, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation.
While researchers have not discovered a direct link between omega-3 ingesting and hormonal acne, omega-3s can lesser insulin-like growth factor 1 that affects the levels of androgens.
People can get more omega-3s from:
- oily fish such as wild salmon and mackerel
- fish oil or algae oil supplements
- nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds and walnuts
Antioxidants in hormonal acne diet
Some research shows that people with acne are more likely to have certain antioxidants like selenium. It is unclear whether this directly causes acne.
However, because antioxidants have other important health benefits, it’s a good idea to eat foods that contain them.
These foods include:
- Brazil nuts, fish, seafood, beef, turkey, and organ meats that contain selenium
- red grapes, mulberries, and peanuts that contain resveratrol
- supplementary nutrients high in antioxidants such as leafy vegetables like lettuce and red cabbage, berries such as blueberries and blackberries
People who consume cow’s milk may want to try reducing their intake and opting for other types of milk or milk substitutes to see if this is beneficial for their skin.
Other hygienic routines will benefit against hormonal acne
In addition to making dietary changes, a person may also want to try other acne treatments.
For basic personal care, the AAD recommends:
- wash your face twice a day with a mild pH-balanced cleanser
- wash your face after sweating or wearing equipment that is close to your face, such as a helmet or mask
- switching to mild, non-comedogenic skincare products that do not contain alcohol or abrasive materials that rub the skin
- use clean towels and face wipes and wash clothes that often touch the face
- avoiding touching your face to pick or squeeze pimples
After washing their face, a person may want to try topical acne treatments. Some ingredients to look for include:
- salicylic acid, which reduces inflammation and clears pores
- retinoids, which free the pores and reduce oiliness
- benzoyl peroxide, which combats the bacteria that initiate the development of hormonal acne
You can buy skincare products containing these ingredients without a prescription. Alternatively, a dermatologist may recommend or prescribe medications.
Many acne treatments increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so it’s important to also use a non-irritating sunscreen to help protect your skin from UV radiation throughout the day.
Keeping a journal and trying to take turns taking turns can help people determine if dietary changes and other strategies are helping.
Medications for hormonal acne treatment
In some cases, people with acne can take medication that can improve their symptoms.
- antibiotics such as semisynthetic antibiotic clindamycin hydrochloride, which helps to fight inflamed hormonal acne
- Spironolactone, a hormonal treatment that can block the effects of androgens on the skin
- oral retinoids such as Accutane
- Birth control pills
These drugs can cause side effects and are not suitable for everyone. Ask your physician about the benefits and potential risks of these medicines.
When to contact a doctor
Acne does not cause serious physical harm. However, this can have a significant impact on a person’s self-esteem.
It may be best to speak to a doctor or dermatologist if acne:
- are severe or very painful
- leave scars or lesions on the skin
- do not respond to over-the-counter treatments
- Impair a person’s mental health
Women with acne and accompanying symptoms such as weight gain, irregular periods, hair loss, or excess body hair should also speak to a doctor as this can indicate the presence of PCOS.
Hormonal acne can develop due to a number of factors, including hormones. Specifically, androgenic hormones can increase the skin’s oil production, which can increase the chance of acne.
There are no clear indications about the influence of diet on hormonal acne. However, a person may want to try eating foods with a low GI, foods that contain antioxidants and omega-3s to see if that helps.
If acne persists, the person can see a dermatologist for safe and effective treatment options
Are you suffering from hormonal acne and have you tried all the magic creams and diets with no success? Contact my clinic (267) 284-3085 and make an appointment for a comprehensive holistic assessment. I will examine you and offer you the best natural, personalized and individualized treatment for hormonal acne.
Natural hormonal acne treatment is effective, safe, and affordable. It usually consists of a combination of acupuncture, homeopathy, and even yoga exercises. At the Philadelphia Holistic Clinic, we treat the core of the problem, not the manifestation. Both acupuncture and homeopathic remedies regulate and bring your hormonal balance to normal while yoga exercises improve blood circulation and thus the hair follicles receive more food, oxygen, and white blood cells responsible for fighting infections.