Hormonal Acne Decoded

If you’re like me, you’ve had regular recurrences of acne since you were a young teen. I thought by the time I turned 20 my breakouts would magically disappear. Lo and behold, my 20th birthday came and the acne hung around.

I used to really beat myself up about how my skin looked. My monologue was something like: “Why are you breaking out so much? You live such a balanced life – shouldn’t it reflect on your skin? You should be doing something different. What’s wrong with you?” Granted, there is wisdom in noting discomfort and making a change. Like when your stomach hurts after you eat a particular food you probably shouldn’t eat that food, or your skin gets red after using a particular ingredient you probably shouldn’t use that ingredient. Hormonal acne has a different shade to it – it’s mediated by what’s going on internally. The idea that what’s happening emotionally plays a big part in what’s happening on the surface of my skin was a revelation. I began to treat myself more kindly, took note of what situations made me feel upset and which ones felt nourishing. Once I embraced the idea that I could be healthy and radiant, and still experience breakouts from time to time, my skin started to clear up, and perhaps more importantly, I felt much more at peace with myself.

During this journey of coming to peace with my breakouts, I found it really helpful to understand what exactly was going on with the hormones in my body to lead to breakouts. Let me shed some light!

Hormonal influence on acne:

  • Androgens are sex hormones present in both men and women, most commonly associated with male development. In women, androgens are produced in the adrenal glands and ovaries – low levels of these hormones help our bodies carry out normal physiology. Androgen overproduction in women is one of the causes of chronic acne, as it can lead to an increase in oil production and raise inflammation levels.
  • Estrogen, the sex hormone that’s more dominant in women, can help minimize inflammation and is known to decrease the occurrence of acne. This is why so many women on the pill notice clearer skin.

Simply put – an imbalance of sex hormones in the body can lead to inflammation and excessive oil production, and cause acne to flare regularly. So what do you do about it? To help manage breakouts from the inside out: 

  • Treat yourself to massages, go to yoga classes, get beautiful essential oils that make you feel happy and calm, take walks, hang out with your close friends, the list goes on and on! Whatever works for you – do it!
  • Avoid unnecessary stress like hanging out with people you don’t really like or doing things that make you feel bad. It sounds so simple, but so many of us don’t take the time to really learn what feels good and what feels painful. Some pain is unavoidable and helps us to grow, but some pain (like the kind that comes from going to a workout class you absolutely hate) can absolutely be avoided. Excessive stress raises cortisol levels, which messes with the sex hormone balance. 
  • Avoid processed sugar, refined wheat, and pasteurized dairy – they can all cause an excess of inflammation and heat in the body.

The closing message I want to send you (and that I tell myself when I’m in that terrible monologue) is that it’s okay to have acne. It doesn’t make you ugly or bad. You’re beautiful – you deserve to let yourself feel it!

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