min read
June 20, 2024

A Functional Medicine Approach to Treating Hormonal Acne

As a functional medicine practitioner, I've seen countless patients who struggle with persistent acne well into their adult years. And while acne can have various causes, one of the most common culprits is imbalanced hormones. Your hormones may be wreaking havoc on your skin, causing those pesky pimples to stick around. But why does this happen?

Hormonal acne occurs when your body's hormone levels fluctuate, causing an overproduction of sebum (the oil that clogs your pores) and inflammation. This can happen at any age, but is especially common during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. And for some unlucky individuals, hormonal acne can persist well beyond these phases of life.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution, and it may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you, but by addressing the root cause of your hormonal acne and making some lifestyle changes, you can greatly improve the appearance and health of your skin.

What is Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne is a type of acne that is caused by an excess of sebum - the oil produced by our skin's glands - which can lead to a variety of skin problems.

If you're dealing with this pesky condition, you may notice a few telltale signs.

  • Blackheads, for instance, are small, dark bumps that are caused by clogged hair follicles that are open to the surface of your skin.
  • Cysts are another type of acne that can occur with hormonal imbalances - these are inflammatory pimples that are filled with pus and can be quite painful.
  • Pimples, on the other hand, are red, swollen oil glands that are a common sight for those with hormonal acne
  • Whiteheads are small, closed bumps that are caused by clogged hair follicles and skin pores.

But what sets hormonal acne apart from other types of acne? Well, for starters, hormonal acne tends to occur on specific areas of the body, including the face, back, chest, neck, and shoulders. Additionally, this type of acne is often a result of hormonal imbalances, which can lead to an overproduction of sebum and an increased likelihood of clogged pores and breakouts.

What causes Hormonal Acne?

Acne is a frustrating skin condition that affects people of all ages and can be caused by a wide range of triggers. But when it comes to hormonal acne, the main culprit is, you guessed it - hormones. So, what exactly causes hormonal acne?

  1. Hormonal imbalances of estrogen and progesterone

This have been shown to play a significant role in the formation of hormonal acne. This is particularly evident during pregnancy and menopause when fluctuations in these hormones can trigger acne formation. Studies have also shown that low levels of estrogen during menopause can lead to acne, as estrogen helps to keep sebum levels in check.

  1. Testosterone

Testosterone is responsible for the production of sebum, and when testosterone levels are high, so is sebum production. This increase in sebum production leads to clogged pores and an increased likelihood of developing acne. This is why hormonal acne is more common during puberty when testosterone levels rise, and in certain hormone imbalance-related health problems like PCOS that increase testosterone levels.

  1. Clogged pores

Clogged pores are a common factor in all types of acne, including hormonal acne. When sebum production is high, the excess oil can trap bacteria and dead skin cells in our pores, leading to inflammation and acne. That's why it's important to keep our skin clean and exfoliated to minimize the amount of bacteria and dead skin cells on our skin that can contribute to acne.

To effectively manage hormonal acne, it's essential to balance hormone levels. However, other factors can worsen acne breakouts, including stress, humidity, picking at acne, poor diet, and menopause. Managing these triggers is essential in mitigating the frequency of hormonal acne breakouts.

How to treat Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne can be a frustrating and stubborn skin condition to deal with. While addressing the root cause is key, there are natural remedies that can help get rid of hormonal acne:

  1. One of the most important steps is daily cleansing with gentle, natural products. This can reduce inflammation, bacteria, and the production of oil.
  2. Rebalancing hormones can help mitigate the occurrence of breakouts. This is done through running lab tests to determine hormone levels, making dietary adjustments, and incorporating lifestyle changes such as supplements and stress management techniques.
  3. Certain supplements have been shown to help improve the appearance and occurrence of hormonal acne, such as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and diindolylmethane (DIM). NAC is a powerful antioxidant that can promote cellular health and help fend off oxidative stress, which has been shown to play a role in acne. DIM, found in cruciferous vegetables, can help metabolize excess estrogen, making it helpful for those with estrogen dominance or other hormone imbalances.

By taking a holistic approach and incorporating natural remedies, you can help get rid of hormonal acne and achieve clear, healthy skin.