If you suffer from acne or breakouts, chances are it is your hormones causing the problems. While this is not the case in 100% of cases, hormones are the most common cause for acne that I see in clinic. As women, we are very lucky to have a bunch of hormones that fluctuate on a monthly basis and can change our skin environment. OK so maybe ‘lucky’ isn’t the right word, however your hormone profile could be contributing to poor skin health. Hormones can change how much oil is in your skin, how much sebum is produced in the skin’s pores and how open or closed your pores are. Breakouts along the neck, jawline, mouth and back are much more likely to be of hormonal origin, but can also be on the rest of the face and chest.
Here is a rundown of what we need to consider when it comes to hormones and your skin:
Could you have low oestrogen?
When in adequate amounts, oestrogen can lower sebum production in the skin which means you are less likely to have blocked pores and pimples. If you have low levels of oestrogen however, sebum level is increased and pores become more blocked, leading to breakouts. Oestrogen is the same hormone responsible for giving your skin a ‘glow’ during pregnancy- often leading to clearer skin.
Could you have high androgen hormones?
Androgens are our male hormones and high levels are linked to hormonal breakouts of acne on the face and back as it can encourage our skin’s gland cells to produce more sebum.
Are your progesterone levels low?
All of our menstrual hormones work together, and when your progesterone level is low it gives your androgen levels a chance to become more active. So, you might not have high androgens as such, but low progesterone will enhance the activity of the androgen you have… this is why I see hormone balance as being like a big jigsaw puzzle- each hormone has to fit in with how your other hormones are working and when examined in isolation, single hormone testing is not very useful.
Are you ovulating regularly and do you have a regular menstrual cycle?
A normal menstrual cycle length is considered to be between 26-32 days. However, if you are seeing variations longer than this it will mean that you are not regularly ovulating, and therefore your hormonal profile will not be ideal. Longer cycles often mean a lower oestrogen level and high androgens- therefore you skin will be much worse!
Have you recently come off the pill?
Unfortunately a lot of women are put on the pill to address acne, and it works due to the synthetic oestrogens found in the pill. However it is now widely known that there are serious health effects from being on the pill, such as blood clotting, increased cancer risk, vitamin deficiencies and increased risk of heart disease. It is not a good long term solution for skin health. Often when a woman decides to stop the pill, she ends up in the same acne prone position in which she started before the pill! It will then take a few months for your own hormonal rhythm to recommence- I usually suggest 6 months- and for some, your skin will be worse in this time.
Could you have PCOS?
PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a condition that is characterized by many of the above hormonal profiles- high androgens, low oestrogen and suboptimal progesterone. Other symptoms include irregular and long menstrual cycles, lack of ovulation, insulin resistance, easy weight gain or abnormal hair growth. This condition is very effectively treated with naturopathic principles.
Acne and breakouts can cause many more issues than the acne itself as it can affect happiness, self confidence and self-esteem. It may also be a sign of a deeper hormonal imbalance that needs addressing. Naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer the area of hormonal balancing and is a much better long term approach than the pill when it comes to acne and breakouts.
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