In part 1 of this acne series, we explored what we understand about acne, what could be causing it, and gave easy tips on what you can do today to begin your journey to clear skin. In Part 2, we will be further exploring hormones and how they affect our skin, as well as what you can do today to help prevent break outs caused by hormones.
Hormones are integral to almost all functions in our body. They regulate everything from our heart beat, to how we feel emotionally, to how our body heals itself. Hormones are also related to acne! The main way hormones affect our skin is that they affect our sebaceous glands, keratin production, and skin cell production. Depending on the hormones, they can influence our sebaceous glands to overproduce or underproduce sebum, and also cause our shedding skin cells to "stick" and clog pores (caused by hyperkeratinization).
So how to help prevent hormone-induced break outs? First, lets take a look at what might cause our hormones to fluctuate and how those hormones affect our skin.
Our sebaceous glands have been shown to possibly respond to changes in hormones due to stress. Specifically here we are talking about androgens. High levels of androgens have been found to result is excess sebum production.
For those of us who get a period, our monthly cycle affects the balance between estrogen and progesterone within our bodies. Progesterone can lead to increased sebum production and has been linked to period-related break outs. Estrogen, on the other hand, has been shown to be able to reduce sebum production. When we get our period, the levels of progesterone are higher than estrogen, which is why some of us get break outs at this time of month.
If you are a believer of a holistic way of approaching health, then mentioning the fact that diet can affect your skin will not come to a surprise. Studies have shown that different factors of your diet can be related to acne. Eating a diet too rich in omega 6 fatty acids (or not enough omega 3s) or a diet rich in processed carbohydrates and dairy have both been associated with a rise in acne. One possible explanation for this is how diets high in omega 6 fatty acids, processed carbohydrates and dairy can affect your body's inflammatory response as well as insulin production. Insulin can affect our skin by increasing sebum production and androgen levels. A deficiency in zinc has also been associated with acne - zinc can lower the effect hormones have on our skin.
Other ways our diet affects our skin is through proper hydration, antioxidant intake, as well as providing your cells with the nutrients they need to be healthy. Gut health also affects our skin's microbiome, but more on that in part 3 of this series.
It is possible for our genetics to predetermine a hormone imbalance within our bodies. In this case, acne is usually caused by high androgen levels, or sebaceous glands that are extra sensitive to androgens.
When we grow up, our body's hormones are working extra hard to help our body grow into adulthood. This can sometimes lead to acne, especially in teen boys. The hormones related to teen acne are adrenocortical hormones.
So how to help prevent break outs as a result of hormones? If you believe your diet is related to your acne, adjusting your diet accordingly could be a great start. Try cutting back on processed foods, processed carbohydrates, grain-fed meat, oils high in omega-6 and dairy. Start integrating more vegetables, fruits, legumes, and anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and green tea. You may also want to try eating more foods high in zinc. If you think stress might be causing your break outs, learning some stress relieving techniques, finding more time for self care, or integrating aromatherapy into your daily routine could help. Unfortunately, some hormone fluctuations we cannot change through diet or lifestyle, such as the ones related to having a period. But the good news is that whichever way you believe hormones are affecting your skin, it is possible to use appropriate topical measures to help prevent those break outs!
Understanding that many hormones related to acne have been shown to increase sebum production and also make the chances of pores getting clogged by dead skin cells more prevalent, a great place to start would be to use topical products that help keep pores clear and also help regulate sebum production! So what does that translate to as far as changes to your skincare ritual?
- Gentle Daily Exfoliation // We're not talking about masks here, but instead very gentle exfoliating products that can be used on a daily basis such as a toner with willow bark extract or a moisturizer or facial oil with sugar extract. These will help keep pores clear on a daily basis.
- Exfoliating Masks // Use either an exfoliating mask or a clay mask 3-4 times a week. Masks will deep clean in a way that the gentle daily exfoliating products can't. Make sure not to use masks that dry the skin out or irritate the skin in any way.
- Use topical products that contain balancing ingredients // Using a toner, serum and/or facial oil that contains ingredients shown to help balance sebum production can be helpful. Look for products that contain sea buckthorn fruit oil or green tea. We recommend this toner with green tea, this facial oil with sea buckthorn, and this facial oil with green tea.
Important: This article is meant as an informative guide, and is not intended to help cure any disease.