If you’re struggling with cystic acne, adult acne, and hormonal breakouts, this article is for you. If you’ve been following along for a while, you know about my battles with acne breakout after breakout. If you’re new to my blog (welcome!!), let me fill you in on my skin story. I struggled with acne and persistent breakouts into my mid-twenties. I was constantly searching for “the cure”-spending hundreds of dollars on it just to get let down again. It wasn’t until after I emptied my bank account and met my husband (a functional health doctor) that everything changed. I finally realized that what was going on internally was the key to healing what was happening externally. I realized that the food I was putting in my body was negatively impacting my gut health, hormone levels, and blood sugar levels, which in turn was wreaking havoc on my skin. Once I changed my diet from fast food and soda to nourishing foods, my skin began to clear up-for good. In this article, I will share the hormonal acne diet for healing your skin. Let’s dive in.
What Causes Hormonal Breakouts and Severe Acne?
Hormonal acne symptoms
Hormonal fluctuations are normal throughout a woman’s cycle. So when that time of the month rolls around, and you’ve got pimples popping up, hormones are definitely at play-but they’re not the main character. The root of your hormonal imbalance is. And getting to the root, requires us to dig a little deeper. Here are five main causes of hormonal acne.
- Androgen imbalances: acne can happen when androgen (sex hormones, think testosterone) levels are elevated thanks to stress, adrenal fatigue, and dysregulated blood sugar.
- Estrogen imbalances: breakouts before your period can be estrogen-related. Healthy estrogen levels are needed to keep androgen levels stable. Too low or too high can cause acne breakouts.
- Liver stagnation: the liver is responsible for metabolizing hormones like estrogen; if your liver function is sluggish (especially phase 2 liver detoxification), you can experience hormone imbalances (excess estrogen) and hormonal acne.
- Poor lymphatic drainage: your lymph is another major detox system. If you experience poor circulation and lymph flow to your pelvis, progesterone levels suffer, causing hormonal imbalances and acne.
- Emotional stress and adrenal fatigue: HPA axis dysregulation or stress system dysregulation causes the hormonal system to go haywire. Stress and negative thought patterns can worsen hormonal acne symptoms. So when I say to speak kind words to yourself, I mean it.
5 Pillars of the Hormonal Acne Diet
Using food and herbs to support healthy skin is a fabulous way to get to the root of the issue and holistically heal.
Before we dive into the specific pillars, let’s just summarize the basics:
- Fruits and vegetables: low intake of veggies and fruits has been linked to a higher risk for acne. Increase your intake of hydrating but low glycemic fruits and vegetables like melons, berries, apples, celery, carrots, and cucumbers.
- Healthy Fats: as you’ll learn, blood sugar balance is essential for healthy skin. Include healthy fat in every single meal.
- Ditch dairy: conventional dairy contains hormones and growth factors that contribute to hormone imbalance and hormonal breakouts. Most people have a difficult time digesting dairy, and your skin will show it.
- Avoid processed carbs and refined sugar: these foods can worsen acne. Cut out white flours and foods with added sugar for a month and see how your skin reacts.
1 – Blood Sugar Balance
To heal acne, your diet should prioritize healthy blood sugar levels. Stable insulin levels and balanced blood sugar will help curb cravings, reduce stress, regulate the nervous system, and stabilize androgen levels. The key here is to focus on healthy fats, fiber, complex carbs, and protein in every meal. Eat a consistent 3-4 meals per day and never skip breakfast (black coffee does not count as breakfast!).
A hormonal acne diet focusing on blood sugar regulation requires eliminating or avoiding highly processed, high-sugar foods. Think white flours, desserts, and almost anything in a package with more than 5 whole-food ingredients.
Healthy fats with omega 3 fatty acids like avocado, coconut, and nut butter can help take a meal from blood sugar rollercoaster to smooth sailing blood sugar. Here are the best foods to help keep blood sugar levels stable:
- Avocado (fruit, oil)
- Coconut (milk, cream, oil)
- Nuts and nut butters (almond, walnut, cashew)
- Seeds and seed butter (sesame, chia, tahini, sunflower)
- Sweet potatoes
- Wild caught fish
For more guidance:
- Episode 111: 2 Major Ways Blood Sugar Affects Hormones
- Episode 92: Blood Sugar, Acne, and Adrenal Fatigue
- How to Do A Sugar Detox for Skin
- Episode 75: The Best Sugar Alternatives
- The Relationship Between Your Blood Sugar Levels and Menstrual Cycle Problems
2 – Hormone Nourishment
Nourishing your hormones for healthy levels is essential when it comes to healing your skin. I want to echo the foods mentioned above because anything that helps balance blood sugar also helps balance hormones.
Nourishing foods and their essential nutrients are the building blocks of healthy hormone levels. Prioritizing the foods that support hormone levels will do wonders for your hormonal acne breakouts. Try crowding out the bad inflammatory foods by adding in a bunch of these good foods.
- Adaptogens like nettles, reishi, schisandra, and ashwagandha (found in our Beauty Collagen Complex)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flax seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Cruciferous veggies (think broccoli, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, and leafy greens)
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Wild salmon
- Bell peppers
- Slow carbs like buckwheat, oats, wild rice
3 – Gut Health
I wrote a whole article on how I cured my hormonal acne by focusing on gut health. Because I know how important it is, and what a huge needle mover a healthy gut can be for skin, I’m going to touch on it here.
Your gut and skin communicate with each other on a cellular level. One of the most vital indicators of your gut health is your skin health and vice versa. Research shows that people with skin issues have a higher incidence of IBS and GI diseases. If your detox pathways are sluggish, your skin is the next organ that tries to flush toxins out: welcome cystic acne and hormonal breakouts.
But what exactly is the relationship between your gut and hormonal acne? Well, to understand this we need to understand the relationship between your gut and hormones.
Hormones like GABA and serotonin are largely manufactured in the gut. When gut health is ary, an imbalance in these happy hormones happens. When an imbalance in these happy hormones is out of whack, we can experience more stress and a dysregulated nervous system. As you’ve learned, stress and a dysregulated HPA axis is at the root of hormonal acne.
But emotional stress isn’t the only thing that negatively impacts gut health and hormone balance. Other stressors like inflammation from environmental toxins are also at play here. This includes conventional dairy, conventional gluten, and sugary food. Whether we want to believe it or not, these are the biggest culprits of food allergies and sensitivities. They also have a major impact on the integrity of your gut lining. A compromised gut leads to acne on the forehead, chin, and jawline, according to Chinese Face Mapping.
The key here is to eliminate gluten, conventional dairy, and highly-processed foods. Focus on gut-loving foods like fermented foods, leafy greens, and collagen. I love our Beauty Complex Collagen specifically for this reason. Not only does it contain clinically-proven collagen, but it also has stress-relieving adaptogens to help combat any stressors that come your way.
4 – Hydration
Water does wonders for your detox pathways and skin complexion. It’s essential for organs (hello, your skin is your body’s largest organ!) and hormone function. You should drink at least half of your weight in ounces of water daily. And I don’t mean just any old plain water. Most water is filled with antibiotics (which destroy your gut) and other nasty toxins. Not to mention lacking majorly in essential minerals. It’s important to drink pure water.
If you have trouble drinking water (been there), then I recommend our Hydration Superfood Energy. It’s packed with superfoods for gentle detox and electrolytes for deep cellular hydration. And it’s a delicious strawberry kiwi flavor, making it so easy to get your water in.
5 – Supplementation
Supplementing your already stellar hormone and blood sugar balancing diet is an incredible way to maximize skin healing. Herbs like burdock root, nettles, dandelion, yellow dock, Oregon grape root, and spearmint (great for combating excess androgen levels and blood sugar dysregulation) are all fabulous options for nourishment. Ashwagandha and reishi are some of my favorites for relieving stress, which we know only causes and worsens skin issues! You can drink these as tea to help support liver and hormone function. You can also take them in a tincture form if that suits your lifestyle better.
Another must-have supplement is collagen. Collagen is the most abundant source of protein in the human body and contains 19 different amino acids. Think of collagen as the building blocks of our body (blood vessels, bones, tendons, muscles, digestive system).
Supplementing with collagen helps to strengthen the gut integrity and gut lining and in inturn supporting hormones and skin health. Our Beauty Collagen Complex goes beyond that with stress-fighting adaptogens and collagen-boosting ingredients for 3-10x times the results. Yup, this crave-worthy vanilla honey powder is clinically proven.
I hope this article has helped you understand the best hormonal acne diet for clear skin. If you have any questions, please reach out! Let me know in the comments below which pillar you are excited to start prioritizing! Check out our superfoods line here to get all of these foods and more in your daily diet.