Hormonal acne is exactly what it sounds like - acne caused by hormonal imbalances and changes. Hormonal acne is prevalent in women who go through hormonal fluctuations during menstruation and menopause. The standard treatment of hormonal acne includes prescription birth control pills, oral antibiotics, spironolactone, or Accutane prescribed by dermatologists. People looking for natural treatment of hormonal acne should look for treatment creams with salicylic acid (willow tree), tea tree oil, and green tea extract combined with oral DIM cruciferous supplements to improve hormonal balance.
What does hormonal acne look like?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, adult-onset acne is becoming more common in women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Hormonal acne typically appears on the chin, jawline, neck, and lower cheek area. It often displays red, inflamed breakouts and even deep cysts that can cause discomfort and tenderness. Rather than being surface-level blemishes, pimples caused by internal imbalances often appear as hard bumps under the skin. Hormonal acne can range from mild to severe but is often categorized by larger outbreaks.
What causes hormonal acne, and why am I experiencing it?
Hormone imbalances are the primary cause of hormonal acne flare-ups. Hormonal acne can be triggered by menstrual cycles, menopause, and even your birth control pills and hormones coated IUDs. Using the wrong skincare, eating the wrong foods, and stress can affect our hormones and cause more acne.
Androgen hormones are referred to as "male hormones," but they are present in males and females. The most well-known androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT.) Research has shown that there are androgen receptors in the base of the oil gland that lines pores, so if there are high testosterone levels in the body, they are more likely to bind to these receptors. More oil means more acne-causing bacteria; more acne-causing bacteria means more blockages and breakouts.
How does hormonal acne affect women?
For women, hormone levels fluctuate throughout their monthly cycle. Estrogen is what some dermatologists call "the happy skin hormone" - it helps the complexion stay young, clear, and firm. Balanced levels of estrogen typically mean glowing skin! However, this pesky hormone peaks during the second week of a woman's cycle, during ovulation, and dips just before their period begins. During this dip, a progesterone surge happens, which causes many women to experience breakouts. Women in perimenopause or past menopause may also experience hormonal acne symptoms since estrogen tends to diminish with age.
What are the best natural oral treatments for hormonal acne, according to dermatologists?
Low levels of critical nutrients can affect your body's production of hormones and make your cells more sensitive to androgens. By putting good things into your body, you'll get the good stuff out of it - AKA healthier skin and a glowing complexion. Your body cannot produce essential minerals on its own, so you must be getting enough of these key nutrients in your food or oral supplements.
Though there are several different treatments available to combat this condition, treating adult acne calls for a different approach and a customized management plan versus adolescent acne. Harsh acne treatments designed for other forms of breakouts are not what you should be reaching for. Instead, dermatologists suggest a more holistic approach to healing hormonal acne. Many natural ingredients can help clear blemishes, visibility, reduce signs of inflammation and redness, and reduce excess oil production.
DIM supplements - the best natural treatment for hormonal acne
DIM stands for diindolylmethane, the food-based compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage. In these vegetables, it's in the form of Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C). I3C is known to stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the digestive system, support hormonal balance, and regulate healthy estrogen metabolism by balancing the ratio of "good" and "bad" estrogen. By making your cells become less sensitive to androgens and helping eliminate the excess of bad estrogen metabolites, it's thought that DIM can change the way hormones behave in our systems, reducing the production of acne-causing sebum. DIM is an excellent addition for women that look to natural supplement to support topical acne treatment. It is believed to a good natural alternative to support acne treatment in women with PCO and cystic acne that are not interested in taking oral contraceptives, accutane, or spironolactone.
Vitamin B5 - the most important vitamin for people with acne
Vitamin B5 can enhance skin healing and help reduce stress. B5 has also been shown to help moisturize the skin and enhance its natural barrier function.
Antioxidant vitamins: Vitamins A and E
Vitamin A is a skin, healing powerhouse. It helps control oil production, promote new cell growth, protect against free radicals, and decrease inflammation. Topical retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, is one of the best topical treatments for women with adult and hormonal acne.
Vitamin E is also often used as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The fat-soluble properties of vitamin E allow quick absorption into the skin, leading to faster healing times. It also helps promote collagen production to keep the skin plump and moisturized.
Together, these antioxidant vitamins can help regulate keratinization, a natural exfoliation process, which keeps your pores clear from dead skin build-up. While it's important to get enough of these essential vitamins in your diet, topical treatments seem to work best for acne treatment.
Essential minerals: Zinc and selenium
Zinc is essential for the optimal function of organs, cell growth, and metabolism. It is also a potent anti-androgen. Studies have shown that people with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc compared to those with clearer skin. Taking zinc orally may reduce acne and help prevent future breakouts by leveling hormonal imbalances.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that is one of the 32 nutrients deemed essential for overall health. It increases the body's overall antioxidant levels, reduces inflammation, and fights free radicals that contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Selenium also protects other skin-supporting antioxidants such as vitamins A and E to minimize acne scarring and lesions.
You can find Vitamin B5, vitamin A, vitamin E together with zinc and selenium in MDacne's skin, clearing vitamins and minerals.
Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil is rich in Omega 6 essential fatty acids, including GLA, which helps keep the skin well-nourished and calms oil production. It promotes an even skin tone and can reduce the appearance of redness. One study found that taking this supplement for 12 weeks improved overall skin clarity and elasticity.
What are the best natural topical treatments for hormonal acne, according to dermatologists?
Using the wrong skincare products and makeup is a common trigger for adult acne and makes breakouts worse. There are naturally derived skincare ingredients beneficial for women struggling with hormonal acne.
Salicylic acid (willow tree bark)
Salicylic acid is a natural medical ingredient that was initially sourced from the willow tree bark. People looking for natural acne treatment can sagely use salicylic acid cleansers and treatment creams. As one of the best over the counter acne treatments, it penetrates deep in the sebaceous glands, reduces oil production, and removes dead skin cells.
Niacinamide (topical vitamin B3)
Using the wrong moisturizers or sunscreen can clog the skin pores and cause more blackheads, whiteheads, and inflamed acne pimples. Using oil-free moisturizers with niacinamide (topical vitamin B3) can help reduce skin redness and keep the skin hydrated and glowing.
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
Tea tree oil, a natural substance made from the Tea Tree leaves, has antiseptic properties that help reduce acne bacteria on the skin. It may also have some anti-inflammatory effects reducing redness. Laboratory studies have shown that it's able to destroy multiple types of skin bacteria and fungi. A few studies have shown the beneficial effect of acne in 5-15% concentrations. It seems that the leave-on topical solutions of tea tree oil work the best. You can find tea tree oil in MDacne's retinol treatment creams.
Green tea extract (Camellia Sinensis)
Green tea is a popular ingredient in topical and oral natural remedies. Green tea contains plant-based compounds called catechins. Catechins have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. One study has shown that green tea polyphenols may help reduce excessive sebum production in the skin sebaceous glands. Two other studies confirmed this result that showed oil reduction within 60 days of participants using green tea extract on their skin. You can find green tea in many MDacne treatment products, including MDacne's hydrating cleanser and the oil-free active sunscreen.
What else can you do when you have hormonal acne?
Follow a low glycemic diet, low dairy diet.
Research suggests that dietary factors such as insulin levels and glycemic index may be tied with acne breakouts and blemishes. Eating foods with a high glycemic index (GI) will quickly raise your blood sugar, causing a spike in insulin. This spike will trigger several hormonal reactions that will likely increase sebum production, leading to pimples and other skin woes. Foods with a high GI include processed foods like:
- Sugary soft drinks
- White bread
- Cakes and pastries
Stress causes an increase in cortisol - also called the stress hormone. Cortisol affects the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum - leading to more acne breakouts.
Incorporate probiotics into your daily diet
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving gut health. When undigested foods leak through your gut and into your bloodstream, it can cause disease-causing inflammation and hormone imbalances. Optimizing gut health is a key way to keep hormone levels healthy and synthesize and regulate hormones and neurotransmitters; the microbiome aids in regulating estrogen levels. Foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, and tempeh are great probiotics sources!
- Indole-3-carbinol: a plant hormone combating cancer
- Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris
- Selenium: its role as an antioxidant in human health
- Systemic evening primrose oil improves the biophysical skin parameters of healthy adults.
- Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris
- Adult acne
- Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne
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