Many of us are plagued by hormonal acne. It can be the occasional breakout, perhaps caused by fluctuations in our hormone levels during our menstrual cycles or perimenopause. Or it can be a more regular issue. It affects adults as well as teenagers, and you might have breakouts no matter what age you are.
I had terrible acne as a teenager. I went on the pill in my later teens, which helped in the short term, but it wasn’t until I became ill with M.E. for 18 months at age 21 that I began to make the changes to my lifestyle that cleared up my skin properly. Prioritising my wellness and taking a holistic approach to my health made all the difference to my skin, as well as the rest of my body.
This 360 approach to treating hormonal acne is one I share with skincare expert and herbalist, Ula Blocksage, so I was thrilled to welcome her as a guest recently on my podcast.
Ula is also the creator of a natural luxury skincare range, d’still Beauty. She shared some fantastic advice on treating hormonal acne naturally through lifestyle changes and support from trained professionals.
The full podcast episode is available here if you’d like to catch up. And I’ve summarised the main points from our chat in this post, so you have a quick reference for the future.
What Is Hormonal Acne?
Before we discuss Ula’s tips for reducing hormonal acne, I want to make sure we are all on the same page with what it is.
Most acne is linked to hormones in some way. For example, fluctuations in our insulin levels can affect our sebum production. Sebum is a natural oil secreted by our skin and hair. When our insulin levels are high, it stimulates sebum production. This can lead to acne breakouts, especially if we haven’t been exfoliating regularly.
Although these forms of acne are linked to hormones, they aren’t usually what we are referring to when we talk about hormonal acne.
Hormonal acne typically occurs in the lower face. Of course, there are always exceptions, and some people may find it appears all over their face, back, and chest.
In severe cases like this, it is always worth getting tests to check if you might have polycystic ovary syndrome, as this kind of acne can be a symptom.
Reducing Hormonal Acne Naturally
Something that Ula emphasised when we spoke was the importance of uncovering the root cause of your acne breakouts. Skincare treatments or supplements may help with the symptoms, but they won’t tackle the real problem.
When you know what type of acne you have and what is causing it, you can put together a targeted plan to address the issue.
Figuring out the underlying cause of your acne will require some tests. But if you prefer not to go to your GP or a dermatologist, you can instead work with a functional medicine practitioner or nutritional therapist.
These professionals often specialise in hormonal health and can order the tests you will need. They’ll take a holistic approach to diagnosis, looking at your gut health, any intolerances, testing for candida, and also examining your lifestyle.
They’ll then work with you to develop a personalised plan to address your acne and tackle the root causes.
If your acne isn’t too serious, or you want to start making changes while you wait for an appointment with a professional, there are also some adjustments you can make to your lifestyle which can have a noticeable effect.
There’s a growing understanding of the importance of a decent night’s sleep for our health and wellness, including our skin. Sleep is when our bodies rejuvenate and repair themselves, so getting enough is essential to reducing acne and balancing our hormones.
Although everyone varies in how much sleep they need, the average requirement is a consistent eight hours every night.
We know that exercise is vital to our physical and mental health. But sweating is also surprisingly beneficial for our skin. Sweat actually hydrates our skin, strange though it sounds. And it can help to purge our skin of bacteria, dirt, and oils too.
You should, however, wash your face straight after exercising. If the sweat is left to dry, it can clog your pores.
Our diets can have a powerful effect on our skin’s health. Food intolerances can also trigger acne breakouts. If you think your diet might be one of the causes of your acne, speak to a functional medicine practitioner or a nutritional therapist. They can help you identify any issues and make changes.
If you are prone to breakouts, it is especially important to change your pillowcase regularly. This prevents the oil from your hair from transferring onto the skin of your face.
Another good tip is to clean your phone well every day since it can transfer dirt and bacteria onto your skin too. You could also try to use it hands-free as much as possible.
And hard though it can be, trying not to touch your face too much is another way to minimise the amount of dirt and irritation to your skin. It’s why I always remind you to wash your hands before beginning a face yoga routine.
Times of high stress often trigger acne breakouts. Of course, you are never going to have a completely stress-free life. But it is possible to learn to manage your stress and how you perceive it.
Stress management looks different for everyone. Finding those non-negotiable wellness practices and making them a part of your daily routine is an essential step. For me, that includes breathing exercises, gratitude, time in nature, meditation, and, of course, yoga and face yoga.
Ula had a similar list, although wild swimming was high up on hers. I’ve heard about the benefits of this practice from several people just lately. The immersion in cold water forces you to focus on the present moment and your breathing. It can be beneficial for managing anxiety.
I’m not that close to the sea, and the local rivers aren’t the cleanest, so I haven’t quite embraced wild swimming yet! But I’ve been adding a blast of cold water to the end of my shower, which can bring some of the same benefits.
Although it is vital to understand the root cause of your acne, skincare can help reduce the symptoms, giving a boost to your mental health and self-esteem.
First, understand what is in your skincare products. Read through the ingredients list and research any you don’t recognise, so you can make an informed decision about whether you want them on your skin.
Although things are improving, many mainstream skincare products still contain synthetic chemicals and endocrine disruptors that can throw off your hormones and trigger hormonal acne.
Once you have products you are happy with, develop a strong and consistent skincare routine. Remember that your skin refreshes itself in a roughly 28-day cycle, so give new products at least this long before you decide whether they are helping or not.
A good skincare routine includes:
- Two rounds of cleansing. One to remove dirt and the other to treat the skin.
- An exfoliant or mask treatment at least twice a week to keep your pores unblocked.
- A hydrating and nourishing non-comedogenic leave-on product, such as a serum or face oil.
A lot of people with acne steer clear of oil-based products. But when you cleanse your face, you remove your natural sebum. If you don’t replace it with something, your skin begins to overproduce sebum to compensate.
Tip for Inner Peace
At the end of our chat, I asked Ula for her top tip for maintaining inner peace. She mentioned she is a fan of the work of Eckhart Tolle, who talks about the importance of being present in the moment. Ula finds breathing exercises help her accept things as they are and manage her anxiety.
The essential takeaway from this post is that you don’t need to suffer on with skin issues. There are plenty of people who can help you uncover the root cause of your acne and help you take a holistic approach to treat it.
If you would like a more detailed guide to face yoga and which moves might most suited to you, look at the Sessions page on my website. Here you can book an online one-to-one with a trained face yoga teacher who can talk you through your individual needs. You can arrange a one-off consultation or a series of sessions.