Pretty much as soon as I turned 14 I began to struggle with acne, and it’s been on-and-off this way up until now.
I’m 26 so I’m all too familiar with the pain, shame and struggle associated with having acne. It seems as soon as I’ve found something that works to manage acne and my skin begins to heal from its scars, it comes back again. Acne has made me feel ugly, worthless, alone and depressed, and I know there are millions and millions of people who know this feeling. It really, truly sucks, put simply.
To manage my acne, I’ve tried literally every topical solution and acne medication available, including Accutane (which for the most part worked well, up until I went off the pill in 2015, which brought me back to square one). From countless trips to the GP, dermatologist and endocrinologist, I know my acne is hormonal. But I’ve found ways to manage my hormonal acne pretty well as naturally as possible (more on this below).
My skin now is mostly good – does anyone feel extremely anxious just uttering those words for fear it will return in spite? My skin is rarely 100% clear, but I’ve come to realise that it probably won’t for a while, and I’m happy with my skin overall at the moment. My skin certainly isn’t bad enough to warrant doing another round of Accutane, and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to do that to my body again.
So, through trial and error, I have found a few lifestyle and product-related ways to help manage my hormonal acne, and I’d like to share them with you. Mostly because I hope these ways might help you too, but also to help you realise you’re not alone in this.
Though I can’t say these are the be-all and end-all acne solutions, as everyone is different and reacts in dissimilar ways, they absolutely make a difference for me.
Let’s get started. Here are 5 ways I manage hormonal acne as naturally as possible.
How to manage hormonal acne
1. Have a simple yet effective skincare routine
I’ll be the first to admit I have not treated my skin kindly over the years. In anger and sadness, I have over-applied harsh chemicals, products and treatments as a way to punish my skin and clear acne. It took me some time to realise that when it comes to skincare, less is more. Trust me. If you’ve got a cupboard packed full of skincare and acne products, I urge you to pare everything back. Treat your skin gently, don’t strip it of its acid mantle and think of your skin as it is: an organ. Would you treat your brain or heart so roughly? Essentially, we want to work with our skin, not against it.
Anyway, enough lecturing. This is my current skincare routine:
AM: cleanse with gel cleanser (my favourite at the moment is Swisse’s Olive Leaf Cleanser), apply The Ordinary hyaluronic acid and Natio Daily SPF 50+ Face Moisturiser. I then follow with make-up if I want – let me know if you’d like another post about my make-up routine).
PM: double cleanse with gel cleanser, apply hyaluronic acid, apply Epiduo (this requires a prescription) to pimples/affected area if necessary, and apply eye cream (I love The Beauty Chef’s Beauty Fix Balm). I then finish with a hydrating moisturiser (currently using Youth To The People’s Superfood Cream).
Extras: once a fortnight I do a AHA/BHA treatment at home using The Ordinary’s AHA + BHA Peeling Solution for just a few minutes. This is a strong product so be careful and work your way up. Every 6 weeks I also get microdermabrasion to remove dead skin cells, exfoliate my skin, improve the texture and reduce scars.
2. Eat a healthy, whole food plant-based diet
I used to think (and many doctors told me) diet has no link to acne. I don’t think that true. If your diet is low in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, your skin will reflect this.
When I eat lots of low-starch veggies (leafy greens, salad veggies), lean protein (tofu, legumes), moderate healthy fats (nuts, avocado, hemp seeds) and moderate whole grains (spelt, rye, barley), I notice my overall skin tone and texture is better. When I eat lots of foods high in refined sugars, flours and fats, I notice my skin just doesn’t deal as well. Spots appear and that glowiness just isn’t there. I wish it were otherwise sometimes, but for me a healthy vegan diet is super important (for many reasons and managing acne is one of them).
3. Exercise regularly
Exercise is another big factor for managing hormonal acne. If I don’t exercise, I notice this in my mood, skin and energy levels. But I’m also mindful of not overdoing when it comes to exercise as this can put too much stress on the body, and thus negatively impact hormones (thanks, cortisol) and my skin. For this reason I do yoga and barre around three times a week, and I walk and cycle whenever I can/feel like it.
4. Rest well and manage stress
Speaking of cortisol, to make sure I’m not putting too much stress on my body, I make sure I sleep at least 8 hours a night, have rest days from exercise and manage stress levels (reading books, going to the beach, exercising and talking to a therapist are my go-to ways to do this). If I’m overly stressed or exercise too much, it shows in my skin through breakouts. Fun.
5. Take supplements and herbs
It’s important to note when it comes to supplements, it’s best to get nutrients from whole foods. But many people need a little help, including me, which is why I take acne and hormone-related supplements and herbs.
Not all people believe in the power of herbs and naturopathy (I didn’t), but the time I saw a herbalist to help me with my skin was the time my acne actually improved after I went off the pill. It was like magic. I now see my herbalist every 3 months to check in and adjust my herbs accordingly. In the last year I’ve also been taking The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder (recommended to me by a friend), which contains antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and probiotics designed to improve gut health and enhance the skin from the inside out. Seriously, it works like magic. Just look at the reviews.
Those are my 5 ways to manage hormonal acne. Let me know your tips and ways in the comments below!
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