In this post, we explore common causes and natural remedies to treat female hormonal acne and promote clear skin. Living and dealing with acne is no easy feat. Depending on the extremity of the case, it can be a hinderance emotionally and socially. In the article Female Hormonal Acne Almost Ruined My Life and How I Cure it Naturally, I document my battle with female hormonal acne. Unfortunately for acne sufferers, there are many different variables that can lead to the onset of this skin disease making treatment a challenge. It can take several bouts of trial and error and time to see results.
Conventional acne treatments
There’s only one medically documented cure for acne and it is the controversial drug Accutane, which is well known for its wide list of side effects, the most severe being the strong potential to cause birth defects.
If you’re a woman of child bearing age, you will not be allowed to start the drug without signing several waivers confirming that you are not pregnant or intend to get pregnant while on the medication. In addition users of Accutane are put on strict medical watch due to serious problems that can arise.
The larger problem with Accutane is that it targets the symptom and not the problem. Accutane primarily works by ‘aging’ the oil glands which is usually overactive in young women. When our oil glands are overactive, our skin produces too much oil which leads to clogged pores and ultimately acne.
Understanding the root cause of female hormone acne
When using a holistic approach to fighting acne, the goal is to understand what are factors contributing to overactive oil glands and what can we do to manage it. Acne is more than a skin disease. It is a reflection of what is going on internally. It is your body’s way of telling you that there is in imbalance that needs to be addressed.
In most cases, especially with younger women, the cause of acne can be linked to issues with hormonal imbalance and that is one of the more difficult types of acne to treat or eliminate. Acne in this case is merely a symptom of a serious internal health issue and usually requires a completely lifestyle overhaul. There’s no magic pill. This hormonal imbalance if left untreated is what can lead to more challenging female conditions down the line such as infertility, endometriosis, heart disease and even ovarian cancer.
Oftentimes we invest in topical skin care treatments or antibiotics that simply manage the outer layer. This is usually ineffective. Birth control is often prescribed to young women to manage their acne. I recently published an article on why I don’t think that taking birth control to manage hormonal acne is a good idea.
Hormonal acne can actually be a good thing, if you like to see things in the positive light like myself. This is because you are receiving a signal from your body that, ‘hey! Something’s not right here.’ It’s an indication that your body needs help and should not be ignored.
The problem with most acne treatments, is that they are solely designed to manage the acne itself and basically put a bandaid over the issue. Which is why I believe the acne fight is mostly internal. This requires learning and understanding. It also takes time and patience. Our bodies and our internal systems are quite complex.
The good news is that once we identify where there is an imbalance, it will not only make it easier to manage and even treat hormonal acne but it will also help in promoting whole body health. It is a good idea to start the process soon and get the acne under control before it leads to scarring. That is another battle and entirely different beast to tackle.
How do you know if your acne is hormonal?
In younger women it can be a bit easier to identify and this is because this is the stage in life where hormones are all over the place. In many cases, the acne is severe and cystic and can be very embarrassing.
In adult women, hormonal acne typically surfaces around the mouth, chin, and jawline. For some women, it usually occurs or worsen before the onset of their period and/or when she’s ovulating.
Often times they are related a common hormonal disorder in women known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome also referred to as PCOS.
What happens in the body to cause hormonal acne in women?
Causes of hormonal acne
The influence of hormones on acne in women is through activation of glands in the skin that produces oil to lubricate the skin. These glands are called sebocytes. The oils are produced for very good reason and that is to wash out dead skin cells and remove excess bacteria out of our pores. Tiny amounts of oil in pores really help keep them clean, more flexible and keeps our skin youthful and fresh.
The sebocytes are triggered off by the male hormone known as testosterone. Yes ladies, we do produce males hormones. Every woman produces small amounts of testosterone in the ovaries and it functions in a similar way as it would in a male, the differentiating factor is that men typically produce higher volumes of this hormone than we do.
A woman would also typically possesses much lower skin oil production and body hair formation than the majority of men. The problem arises when a woman produces higher than normal levels of these male hormones and the glands make too much oil that clog the pores.
Th surplus of oil or sebum that settles down on the skin causes blockage to the hair follicles and pores. This gives rise to plugs which inhibit the regular drainage of oil and causes dead skin cells to become trapped. Bacteria in the skin would then feed on the excess sebum which leads to infection in deeper layers of the skin that manifests itself as a pimple.
As a result of this blockage, traditionally doctors, dermatologists and beauty professionals will often claim that excess sebum is the cause of acne. While technically it is true, in reality, it is not the root cause but only an aftermath of a bigger problem.
Two major causes of excess sebum that lead to female hormonal acne
- Excess male hormones (androgens, testosterone)
- Toxins in the body
Hormonal imbalance, especially excess androgen and testosterone in women is the main culprit behind increased oil production in women. Women with too much of these male hormones typically experience other symptoms such as excessive body hair especially on the face, extra mass of muscle and deeper voices. So what causes this in the first place?
Some factor that can lead to the imbalance include:
- Emotional and physical stress, this can create adrenal stress and elevate cortisol levels.
- Genetics: some women unfortunately were born this way
- Taking birth control pills and other contraceptive can disrupt natural hormones
- Certain medications and even taking the wrong supplements
- Environmental synthetic hormones or even xenoestrogens found in plastic
- Unhealthy food choices
- Toxins and chemicals in foods we consume
- Health conditions such hypothyroidism, PCOS etc.
Getting to the root: How hormonal imbalance is linked with acne
Like the rest of your body, your hormones all work together like a team, each relying on the other and have influence on the other in a variety of ways. It’s like a relay race, if one runner falls behind, it can influence the performance of other runners. They are all equally important.
As mentioned above, the major group of hormones that regulate oil production are males hormones, androgens. The particular androgen that does this regulation is the testosterone. Testosterone is converted to what is known as DHT by a chemical in the body known as 5 Alpha Reductase, and DHT is ultimately what tells the body how much oil to produce.
What this implies is that although the cause of increased sebum production is excess androgens, there may be a number of reasons why you are suffering from excess androgen to start with. It may be that you are deficient in other hormones that normally balance out androgen and the result is excessive production of androgen in your body.
It could be that you are suffering from a hormonal imbalance that boosts the production of the enzyme 5 Alpha Reductase which means that you may have more than normal amount of testosterone being converted to DHT which in turn results in too much oil production and acne.
What this means is that people could have different reasons for their excess androgen. Again any imbalance in other hormones can affect the level of androgen in your body and throw them out of balance.
Each of the types of hormonal imbalance have different causes and possible treatments but generally the following are things that can be done to promote balance.
Guide to manage and treat female hormonal acne naturally
The first step to targeting hormonal acne is to correct the internal imbalance which in general is a good idea because if left untreated could lead to bigger problems such as increased risk of cancer, diabetes and a slew of other major problems.
1) Reduce stress levels
When you’re stressed, your body creates cortisol, which takes away from the proper function of other body processes. This is how chronic stress can lead to acne, and why acne always seem to pop up before a major event.
2) Eat healthy and aim for organic
Diet is a major player and junk food will only worsen the problem. No need adding fuel to the fire.
3) Natural anti-androgens like the following are also very helpful-Green tea extract, saw palmetto, licorice, white peony, spearmint tea, pumpkin seed oil and emu oil.
4) Regular detox and cleansing to cleanse toxins and excess hormones. In the article How, Why & Signs of when to Detox, I outline the benefits of a good detox. Our Feminintea Teatox is a detox herbal blend that can aid the body in cleansing out impurities and build up.
5) Eat plenty of Essential Fatty Acids like Omega 3 fish oil, GLA from evening primrose oil and sunflower seeds. They help to minimize the production of androgens and balance hormones.
6) Ensure your body has vital vitamins like C, B, A, zinc, magnesium and chromium.
7) Herbs and super foods that assist to balance hormones: licorice, holy Basil, Vitex chasteberry, maca, shatavari, burdock, and milk thistle.
8) Manage excess estrogen which can create imbalance:
Supplements like DIM (Diindolymethane) works by helping your liver to detoxify ‘bad estrogens’ from your body and enhance the production of good estrogen.
Vitex works on your pituitary gland, and helps it regulate hormone production, which can normalize your progesterone and good estrogens balance.
We’ve formulated ASANA by Ladiesbalance to incorporate some of these major herbs that have been used for years in women’s hormonal balance and shown to have positive effects in promoting balance. Read more about it HERE.
Our Femininitea Clear Skin blend is formulated to help detox the body and skin and help in fighting and controlling skin blemishes. It can be combined with Femininitea Teatox and Asana by Ladiesbalance.
Reduce excess toxins in the body to fight female hormonal acne
Excess toxins that your body has to get rid of through the skin can lead to unsightly acne. Some of these toxins are a result of:
- Slow digestion, reduced kidney and liver function
- Overgrowth of candida
- Eating of junk and unbalanced food
- Chemicals pollutants in food and environment
- Allergies and food intolerances