• Nicole McCarter, ND

Hormonal Acne: What You Need to Know for Clearer Skin

Updated: Apr 10



Acne can be frustrating and take a toll on your self-esteem and emotional well being. It’s not uncommon for a patient to share with me that their acne is affecting their social life and causing depression and anxiety. I get it, I’ve been there. I’ve personally struggled with high testosterone that resulted in acne. It sucks.

But acne isn’t just painful and unsightly; it’s your body showing you that something is imbalanced.

There are many different causes of acne. Today I’m going to focus on hormonal acne.

Timing: How do you know if you have hormonal acne?

For women, if your breakouts happen around the time of ovulation (mid-cycle) or before or during your period, they are hormonal. Essentially, if you notice your breakouts are cyclical, the cause is likely hormonal.

Testing: How to know for sure?

You can also get your hormones tested. For women, I recommend luteal phase hormone testing. For a 28 day cycle, this means testing your hormones on days 19-22 (day 1 is the first day of your period). Hormone testing for men can be done at any time. You can check your hormones with a blood test, or I recommend using a urine test called the DUTCH test. I use the DUTCH test rather than a blood test when I want to look at stress hormones (Cortisol & DHEA), as well as how my patient is detoxing their hormones. This additional information is super helpful when it comes to treating hormonal acne.

Common hormone imbalances that cause acne

  • High testosterone

  • High DHT (dihydrotestosterone)

  • High DHEA

  • High Cortisol

  • High estrogen

  • Low progesterone

Treatments: What to do about it?

If you see a conventional doctor about your hormonal acne, they’ll likely have one of two solutions for you, and that is antibiotics or Birth Control Pills. Frustratingly, whenever a woman has hormonal symptoms ranging from acne and PMS to irregular cycles, the conventional treatment is birth control. Sure, it might help mask the symptoms, but it’s not treating the cause.

Nutrition

Don’t underestimate the power of food. Dietary changes can do wonders for your hormones, skin and overall health. What you’re putting on your plate should always be a top priority.

When it comes to nutrition and your skin, there are three key areas to focus: hormone balance, detoxification, and nutrients for healthy skin. I’ve written extensively about each of these topics.

Learn more about


  • foods that balance hormones here

  • eating for healthy skin here

  • eating to improve detoxing here


Additionally, eat lots of fiber! Aim for at least 25 grams per day. Dietary fiber tackles hormonal acne in several ways. It helps keep your blood sugar stable, regulates bowel movements and aids hormone detox.

Avoid sugar, dairy, processed food, fried food, and meat unless it’s pasture-raised and hormone-free.

Supplements

These are supplements that are broadly beneficial for hormonal acne. I use targeted supplements with my patients, depending on the exact hormone imbalance found when we do their hormone testing.

Magnesium: My favorite type of magnesium is Magnesium Glycinate. It’s easy on digestion and calming. I take it every night before bed. The therapeutic dose is 250-500 mg per day.

Probiotics: If you’ve spent any time on my website, you’ll see that I primarily treat hormone imbalances, skin problems and digestive issues. These may sound like three totally separate systems; however, there is considerable overlap. If your digestion isn’t healthy, it will significantly impact your hormones and your skin.

Zinc: Zinc is involved in wound healing, is anti-inflammatory, supports the immune system and prevents the conversion of testosterone to it’s more aggressive counterpart DHT (dihydrotestosterone). The therapeutic dose is 15-30 mg. Long term zinc supplementation can cause copper deficiency so

B Vitamins: B vitamins are essential for supporting our stress response and detoxification. Specifically, vitamin B5 reduces sebum production and aids skin repair. Make sure your B complex has the methyl (aka active) forms of B12 and folate. These are Methylcobalamin (b12) methyl folate (folate).

Inositol: Once considered part of the B vitamins inositol is a nutrient like sugar that support hormonal health by improving liver function and blood sugar regulation. I use inositol for hormonal ace and PCOS. The therapeutic dose is 2-4 grams per day.

Omega-3: The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are essential nutrients. They reduce inflammation and promote healthy cell communication. Take 1-2 grams per day.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A decreases sebum (aka oil) production, suppress high testosterone and improves the overall health of your skin. The therapeutic dose is 10,000 IU per day with food. Cod liver oil is a type of omega-3 fish oil that has vitamin A so you can kill two birds with one stone by supplementing with cod liver oil.

Stay hopeful and proactive with your health. You can heal your skin and your hormones!

3200 Middlefield Road Suite D

Palo Alto, CA 94306

(650) 485-2758

Tel: 650.485.2758

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