Most of us have experienced hormonal acne at some point in our lives – be it in our teens, during pregnancy, and/or in our 30’s due to an inexplicable shift in our hormones (most likely linked to stress). So today I wanted to share some insight on what causes hormonal acne and some natural tips- related to your DIET- to help minimize and even prevent those pesky pimples!
First some BASICS on Hormonal Acne:
Hormonal acne usually appears on the lower half of our face, primarily the jawline, chin and a bit on the cheeks or around the mouth. And like any pimples, its related to excess oil, clogged pores and bacteria. But also, our HORMONES affect our oil production and even how easily your pores get clogged.
Hormonal acne is related to excess androgens (a.k.a. “male hormones”, most commonly testosterone), which are present in both ladies and men. And these high levels of androgens are linked to INSULIN levels (and insulin metabolism) as well as elevated levels of LH (luteinizing hormone), as LH basically tells our ovaries (or testicles in case of men) to release androgens. And of course, LH and Insulin are closely linked, too.
So THE KEY to preventing and healing hormonal acne is focusing on a diet (and lifestyle) that helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. This will help you achieve ideal levels of glucose and insulin, which will help stabilize your LH and your level of androgens to help eliminate your hormonal acne (and ultimately will help with all of your hormone related issues!)
So today, I'm focusing on the DIET part that will help you stabilize/lower your excess androgens and overcome your hormonal pimples. (And stay tuned for my upcoming blog on other lifestyle factors that will also make a HUGE difference).
Here are 8 DIET TIPS TO HELP WITH HORMONAL ACNE:
1. MINIMIZE SUGAR & SIMPLE CARBS, and essentially all high-glycemic foods. These foods break down quickly in the body, triggering an insulin spike and raising blood sugar levels. They trigger hormonal fluctuations and inflammation—both of which encourage acne. Basically, AVOID: all processed sugary foods and juices, all refined wheat products (cereals, cookies, cakes, breaded things, even plain white bread), and LIMIT white rice and white potatoes.
2. EAT COMPLEX CARBS FILLED WITH FIBER. Every day, aim to have a serving of sweet root vegetables like sweet potato, yams, carrots, squash, and/or whole grains (preferably gluten-free ones) like quinoa and oats. I find that eliminating all carbs can worsen the problem, so aim for eating some HEALTHY carbs like these I mentioned (small amount once a day may be enough; depends on your activity level, age, etc.). Note: if you have an autoimmune disease, gut issues, or sensitivity to grains, avoid the whole grains and opt for sweet root vegetables as your fiber-rich carbs.
3. EAT “CLEAN” PROTEIN with each meal to help maintain your blood sugar stable. Focus on lean protein, which can be both plant-based (ex. lentils and other legumes, nuts, seeds, organic soy, blue-green algae, etc.) and animal protein, preferably organic/wild such as organic cage-free eggs, free-range chicken, wild fish and wild/organic seafood.
4. EAT HEALTHY FATS (in particular those with high quantities of OMEGA-3 fatty acids) as they are essential to lower inflammation and lower androgens. EAT PLENTY OF: flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, wild salmon, sardines, and consider taking an Omega-3 supplement.
5. EAT FOODS THAT AID IN LIVER DETOXIFICATION as they help your liver to remove excess hormones. EAT PLENTY: dandelion root, cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, arugula, cabbage, brussels sprouts), cilantro and parsley, beets, and all dark leafy greens. Also, try adding superfood greens (or this one) - made with antioxidant-rich foods like chlorella - to your morning smoothies.
6. ELIMINATE OR REDUCE DAIRY especially cow’s milk dairy. Cow’s milk in particular tends to spike blood sugar, which can increase inflammation (leading to pimples). It also increases insulin levels, which as we discussed, encourages the production of skin oils (sebum). Plus, a lot of the commercial milk contains other hormones that disrupts your hormonal balance (and again, can trigger production of sebum).
7. ELIMINATE OR REDUCE GLUTEN. Gluten has also been linked to inflammation in the gut which is linked to hormonal imbalances and hormonal acne. Try cutting back on all wheat products (including wheat pasta, cous-cous and barley) and trying more gluten-free grains like brown or wild rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth. You can also use flours and pastas from these grains to replace your usual wheat flours/pastas.
8. HEAL YOUR GUT. Your gut is extremely linked to your hormones, so having a healthy gut is essential. My #1 tip would be to start taking probiotics as they help reduce inflammation in the gut, which can help reduce hormonal acne. Take a supplement and eat: organic yogurt and kefir (can be dairy-free), sauerkraut and kimchi, organic miso and tempeh, microalgae, and kombucha tea.
If you (or your kids) are currently suffering from hormonal pimples, try applying these tips ASAP and you'll start seeing a difference. Just be patient because it can take a few weeks for what we eat to show up on our skin. Also, stay tuned for my lifestyle and skincare tips that are also crucial!
Love and Hormone Balancing Foods,