Hormonal acne, also known as Acne Vulgaris is tied to fluctuations in your hormone levels. Although typically associated with hormonal fluctuations during puberty, hormonal acne affects adult women of all ages. Hormonal acne takes the form of whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts. During puberty, hormonal acne appears in the T-zone which includes the forehead, nose, and chin area. Hormonal acne in adults most commonly appears on the lower half of the face including the bottom half of the cheeks and jawline. Menstruation, menopause, or increased androgen levels may increase the production of sebum in the pores, leading to the production of acne-causing bacteria, and overall skin inflammation.
While diet is not the singular cause of hormonal acne it can certainly affect the skin. Foods that are high on the Glycemic Index cause blood sugar levels to rise and insulin to spike. Excess insulin (the hormone responsible for storing extra sugar as fat) in your blood causes the skin’s oil glands to produce more sebum, leading to acne. Our diet affects the production of hormones and their signaling pathways so an understanding of which foods help keep hormone levels balanced is key.
Foods That Help Clear Hormonal Acne
To help keep hormones balanced & skin clear, Dr. Zenovia recommends incorporating the following foods into your daily diet:
Probiotics: Probiotics are live cultures of good bacteria. They can be found in certain foods or taken in pill form as a supplement. Probiotics help restore a healthy balance in the gut, reduce inflammation, help balance hormones, and improve overall skin health.
Healthy Fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids are the building blocks of our skin’s cell membranes. Our bodies don’t make these essential fatty acids on their own- we can only get them from the foods we consume. Essential fatty acids help produce the skin’s natural oil barrier and help regulate acne-causing hormones including testosterone and androgen.
Mediterranean-Style Foods: A Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil. This diet helps reduce inflammation in the body, stabilize the skin’s oil production, and contains foods with a naturally low score on the glycemic index.
Foods to Omit & Avoid for Hormonal Acne
Refined Carbohydrates & Sugar: Refined carbohydrates and sugar-sweetened foods are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, rapidly raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin levels rise to help the blood sugars out of your bloodstream and into your cells. Insulin makes androgen hormones more active which contributes to the production of more sebum and acne.
Dairy: Since milk has a high sugar content, consumption of dairy may cause inflammation leading to skin breakouts and irritation. Milk also contains the hormone IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor-1 which works similarly to insulin. A regular level of IGF-1 is essential to cell health and hormonal balance but an increased level of IGF-1 can increase sebum production- leading to acne breakouts. To find out if dairy is the cause of your acne, eliminate all foods containing dairy for at least a month. Watching how your skin reacts to this diet change will provide you with a good indication of how your skin reacts to dairy. For breakouts caused by dairy, a spot treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid can help treat acne. Zenovia Skincare 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Spot Treatment is clinically proven to target and clear stubborn hormonal acne and helps prevent the development of new acne blemishes and blackheads for a spot-free, radiant complexion.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes & Skin Treatments For Hormonal Acne
While diet can have a huge effect on your skin’s health, it's important to approach the treatment of hormonal acne from a 360-degree perspective. Taking supplements, reducing stress, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, and maintaining an effective skincare regimen can have a huge impact on acne-prone skin.
Supplements: Low vitamin D levels have been linked to acne. Your healthcare provider can determine if you are deficient in vitamin D and recommend an appropriate dosage. Other supplements that can improve acne include zinc, B vitamins, and fish oil.
Relaxation: Stress has been shown to contribute to acne development. The hormones released while stressed can increase sebum production and inflammation. Stress can also slow down the skin’s repair process. Regularly practicing relaxation and stress-reducing techniques can improve acne over time. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and deep breathing exercises are great ways to reduce cortisol levels.
Sleep Hygiene: Our skin works to repair itself while we sleep. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night can directly improve the appearance of your skin. To improve your sleep hygiene, try to go to bed at the same time each night. Removing electronic devices that emit blue light a few hours before going to sleep will also help improve your sleep quality.
Topical Skincare: Topicals containing active ingredients such as Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, and Retinol can increase cellular turnover and reduce bacteria and inflammation. Zenovia Skincare’s Clear Complexion Collection includes 5 breakthrough products for a complete acne-fighting regimen. Infused with Dr. Zenovia’s proprietary, skin-balancing REG-ulate360 Complex™, this dermatologist-developed regimen is clinically proven to calm acne-prone skin, while eradicating blemishes, balancing sebum production, and helping to reduce the appearance of acne scarring and uneven texture.
In-Office Skin Consultation: If you have hormonal acne, but are unsure of the cause(s), a board-certified dermatologist will be able to help evaluate your skin’s issues and determine a correct treatment plan. A dermatologist may recommend an oral medication to stimulate hormones internally. These medications help stabilize the androgen influence at the follicle level. Dr. Zenovia reminds her patients that while you will grow out of your acne, scarring can last a lifetime. The goal is to treat hormonal acne before scars form.