We’ve all heard it. But, did you know that it has a key role in hormonal acne?
Testosterone is an androgen. Androgens are male steroid sex hormones. But, don’t let the name fool you. They are present in men and women. In women, androgens are meant to be converted into female hormones called estrogens. In men, there are higher amounts for things like muscle growth, voice deepening, body hair, etc. A big difference between the sexes is that women are sensitive to extra amounts of testosterone because they can’t use it for normal functioning like men can. Because it can’t sit around, it has to go somewhere.
Hormones, amongst other things, travel through the body via the bloodstream. (**Testosterone in the bloodstream creates more sebum. Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands that are found in the hair follicles. The more sebum you produce, the more of a chance you have for blockage, which increases your chance for a breakout.**) When the hormones are traveling in the bloodstream, they get delivered right to the skin cells, where there are androgen receptor cells. The extra hormones bind to the androgen receptors in the skin cells and stay in the cells until they are excreted… through the pores. Pores are blocked in three ways: by too much oil production, dirt and other debris from the surface, or bacteria. When you combine the oil and the bacteria together, you get acne.
What you can do about it:
- Drink water! We all know we should drink more water. But when referring to the skin, water allows us to flush out toxins through areas other than the skin.
- Eat fiber. For two reasons. 1: It will help your bowels to stay regular, allowing the toxins in your body to get flushed, rather than re-circulating through the blood. 2: Fiber, (specifically soluble fiber,) yields a more gradual rise in blood sugar, rather than a spike, as it slows down carb digestion and sugar absorption, which leads into…
- Eat low glycemic foods. Have you heard of the glycemic index?This is a ranking of how carbs affect blood glucose levels in the two to three hours after eating. The lower the number, the slower the food is absorbed, which allows you to stay satisfied longer, metabolize fat more efficiently, and keep blood sugar levels steady by limiting the release of insulin. Regulating your blood sugar will help with your skin, as well as many other things. High blood sugar ramps up hormone production, which puts more testosterone in the blood than there needs to be, so the body has to get rid of it. Since the skin is the largest organ, it makes sense that it is through the skin. Water will also help flush out the extra blood sugar through your urine.
- If you are breaking a sweat, make sure you wash your face as soon as you can. Hormones are fat soluble, (can dissolve in fats and oils,) which means they’re stored in our body fat. So, think about this.. when you exercise, you break down your body fat, so the stored hormones in there will be released into the blood. And then will travel to the skin. So, just beware.
- Use alpha hydroxy acids, such as lactic and glycolic acid, which are plant acids usually from citrus fruits. These can help get rid of the dead skin cells which can clog your pores and can even help with acne scarring, so look for AHA in your products!
- Drink spearmint tea! It has an anti-androgenic effect, which means it reduces testosterone and will reduce sebum production.
- Stay clean. It may seem extreme, but you may want to wash your pillowcases every 3 days when you’re PMS’ing. Think about it.. you’re pressing your face against your pillow for hours every night and you don’t want too much buildup of oil and dirt. Also, be careful of using fabric softeners and dryer sheets, as they will leave behind a waxy residue that can clog your pores. Lastly, be sure to wash your hands before washing your face and use a clean towel every time you dry off your skin.
- Look into probiotics– either in non-dairy yogurt, pill form, fermented foods, or in… kombucha which is a raw fermented black tea that you can find at any grocery store! Probiotics can help regulate bacteria and reduce sebum levels.
- Supplement with spirulina and chlorella, pictured to the right. Spirulina is blue-green algae and is one of nature’s most nutrient dense foods, along with being anti-inflammatory. Chlorella is also an algae super food. It cleanses the liver and the chlorophyll in it keeps hormone inflammation low. Take these two supplements together on an empty stomach in the morning and then throughout the day. (4 doses of 4 grams for Spirulina and 2-4 does of 10-15 grams of Chlorella.)
- Reduce stress. We all know stress is bad, but when talking about acne, stress will increase DHEA-S levels. DHEA-S is another hormone that is produced in the adrenal glands and stimulates oil. Yoga is great for stress and PMS’ing.. and basically everything 😉 Breathe in, breathe out, and flow through it.
- If you are super curious about your hormone levels, get blood work done! You may need to see your primary care doctor or gyno first to get the referral. But, you can get tested to find out your testosterone and DHEA-S levels. You can also find out about your estrogen, which reduces oil production, and your progesterone, which blocks estrogen activity. These hormones get really confusing though, because too much estrogen and not enough progesterone going into your period leads to PMS. Also, people can experience cystic acne from both too little and too much estrogen. So, wtf right? It’s so easy to get confused. If I were you, for acne purposes, I would focus on your testosterone and DHEA-S levels and just be curious on your ratio of progesterone to estrogen.
- Combine evening primrose oil with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fish oil. The powerful combination together will improve absorption to treat hormonal acne. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid, which means that our body can’t make it, that is found in Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) that strengthens the skin, lessens the loss of moisture, and helps overall skin appearance. EPO can be taken topically or internally. Consider starting with 500 mg of EPO a day and working your way up to 1000mg or more.
- Think of further ways to decrease inflammation:
- Green tea– aim for 3 cups a day.
- Tea tree oil– disinfects and unblocks pores; mix 1 part tea tree oil to 9 parts water, apply to a cotton ball, and then onto the skin
- Eat plant based foods high in anti-oxidants, specifically: gogi berries, pecans, prunes, blackberries, cilantro, kidney beans, artichokes, and dark chocolate!
- Look for more Omega 3 Fatty Acids in salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds & mackerel
- Limit dairy. There are substances in milk that the body converts to testosterone. These substances communicate to the body to produce insulin-growth factor which also increases your body’s testosterone, so that’s a double whammy. Also consider limiting sugar, refined carbs and red meats as well.
There you have it! A lot of info.. but a lot of good info.
I’ll never forget the day I saw my dermatologist for my acne and she said it was just my age and that my diet wouldn’t have an affect on it at all. She said there was nothing I could do. Excuse me… what? She prescribed me a daily antibiotic (!cringe!) for my skin and sent me on my way. No. It does not have to be like that. You have the power to create change in your skin. That is crucial to remember.
Start with implementing just a couple of these tips two weeks prior to the first day of your next period. Then, on your next PMS cycle, add in a couple more. The more you add into your routine, the more of a beautiful difference you will notice in your skin. And the transformative difference in your health will just be an added bonus 😉
Resources: avogel.co.uk, aad.org, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, journalssc.com
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Thanks for reading!!! I truly hope you feel that you can use what you’ve read. Feel free to reach out to me for anything at all 🙂 I love talking about all things skin. Much love ♡