I know this is grim but I love a good spot squeeze.
I drive Matt mad following him around the house because I’ve spied a pimple.
If I hang around long enough he finally gives in and lets me have my moment. Joking aside, I still have reoccurring nightmares about acne.
In fact just last night they came back to haunt me, having started HRT recently it’s in the back of my mind as a possible side effect and I’m making sure I have things in place to prevent it returning.
I suffered as a teenager, as soon as puberty hit, my chest and back flared first and my face quickly followed.
It was one of the most soul-destroying things I’ve ever experienced and it had a pretty severe impact on my self-esteem.
Studies have now shown strong links between acne, depression, and even suicide.
As I slowly lost control of my skin health I’d dread waking up and seeing what had appeared that morning. The comments and teasing came thick and fast, soon I was sleeping in my makeup to hide the situation from myself. I even had a fringe cut and wore a scarf constantly so I could wrap it around my chin at every opportunity.
A few times I never even made it to school as I simply couldn’t face seeing anyone.
My mum tried to help, lending me spot creams and making watercress soup (good for skin apparently) before finally booking me in at the doctor’s.
After a few rounds of topical antibiotics and vitamin A cream (which just inflamed my skin), I was given months and months of oral antibiotic treatment and finally the oral contraceptive pill Dianette.
It worked like a dream BUT my digestive health, hormones, and blood circulation have never really recovered from all the above.
Here are some things I wish my mum and I had known before resorting to and relying on long-term medication to sort out my skin.
Quick Acne Facts
- Acne can be linked to your microbiome, the community of organisms that live in you and on you.
- The microbial balance of your skin and gut are the most influential hence the reason antibiotics (topical and oral) may provide short-term relief.
- The products you put on your skin may be influencing the skin microbiome, possibility negatively, destroying the good stuff, and allowing the opportunistic bacteria to dominate.
- Acne also has a hormonal component which is why it commonly occurs at the onset of puberty.
- The sex hormones, especially testosterone, alter skin health leading to excessive oil production that often causes acne.
- Spikes in the hormone insulin can increase testosterone levels so the food you eat will alter the balance of sex hormones.
- Progesterone is more likely associated with cystic acne so hormone cycles and contraception may influence this.
Effective Acne Support: Internal
- Balance your blood sugars by consuming protein at every meal and reducing processed food and drink intake.
- Consider reducing alcohol consumption, frequency and maybe eliminating for a period to get your blood sugar levels balanced.
- Consume adequate zinc and vitamin A, these are vital for good skin health and repair (especially useful to addressing acne scarring too), both may be low in vegetarian diets (food sources include meat, fish, eggs, and dairy) and may require supplementation. Seek professional advice before supplementing.
- Stress management, sleep, and relaxation are imperative, everyone with skin issues knows they worsen with stress. Breathing exercises can have a profound impact on both hormones and inflammation.
- Dietary fats influence skin health: oily fatty fish, algae oils, evening primrose oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds will all influence positively.
- Ensure bowels are moving daily to support the elimination of hormones from the body. Addressing constipation can have a hugely beneficial impact on the skin. Probiotics, more dietary fibre (from wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds), and magnesium citrate supplements are all helpful, first line interventions.
For more persistent and severe acne (and digestive issues) visit a trained herbalist or nutritional therapist for digestive support including probiotics and antimicrobial herbs.
Effective Acne Support: Topical
- Swap to natural skin products, including makeup and allow the skin to breathe when possible (don’t sleep in make-up like me!) EWG Skin Deep app and the Love Lula website are great for finding natural brands.
- A homemade apple cider vinegar (ACV) toner may help restore the skin microbiome. Mix ACV with water on a 1:1 basis for oily skin (so fill a spray bottle with half ACV and half water). Add a few drops of either tea tree or witch hazel and apply to skin with cotton wool 1-2 times daily.
- Look for washing products that support skin health, e.g Chuckling Goat kefir skin products or Hope’s Relief acne products.
- Homemade face masks with silica, bentonite clay, unpasteurised (raw) honey and oats may help improve inflammation and support skin microbiome.
If you have a reluctant teenager who doesn’t want to give up the sweet stuff (I was just the same!) I just want to fast forward to the future and highlight some of the outcomes I experienced relying on medications and not tackling the root cause of my skin issues:
- Panic attacks: mine were likely caused by a combination of antibiotics, skipping breakfast, exam stress, eating too many Galaxy bars, and increased alcohol intake. All sent my blood sugars on a rollercoaster ride exacerbating my predisposition to anxiety.
- Diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome after multiple antibiotics and contraceptive pills. My symptoms included abdominal pain daily, chronic bloating, excess wind, more anxiety, and brain fog
- The anti-androgenic oral contraceptive pill also contributed to low moods, zero libido, and a lack of motivation which lead to weight gain.
IMPORTANT: I’m not saying these medications don’t play a role, however, if taking for prolonged periods your need for a nutritious diet, daily exercise, stress management, and sufficient sleep is likely greater due to the potential impact they have on your microbiome, hormones and mental health.
If you’re looking for some inspiration all the recipes on our website and social media fit the criteria for good skin health.
You can also download our Hormone Hero Nutrition Essentials ebook
It includes everything you need to balance your hormones and improve your skin health.
If you have any questions or need any support don’t hesitate to reach out to us.