This post has been a long time coming, months honestly, but it has been something I’ve struggled with for the past few years. Up until I hit 30 I had pretty good skin. I rarely had breakouts, it was a little dry but overall, something I honestly didn’t really think about. I did my normal skincare routine, wore sunscreen, slapped on some tinted moisturizer and called it a day. And then I hit 30. All of a sudden something changed. It wasn’t just a random pimple every once in a while. It was constant breakouts, basically never a day went by when I didn’t have something going on with my skin. I was able to deal with it for the most part until this past winter. My skin just went into a complete and utter tailspin. Breakouts like I’d never had before. They were painful and frequent. There were times I honestly didn’t even want to go out in public because of the way my skin looked, and that made me feel even worse. How could I let my skin dictate my self-worth? I felt ridiculous for allowing it to control me and how I felt about myself. It can be a very lonely experience. I felt very self conscious and embarrassed. And then, I decided to start posting about it. I couldn’t believe how many of you sent messages saying you were dealing with the same thing. It not only made me feel a bit better about my situation but it forced me to do something about it. So I did some research.
What is hormonal acne? Well, it’s basically exactly what it sounds like, acne tied to fluctuating hormones, and it’s especially common in women. It’s estimated that 50 percent of adult women have acne and 95 percent of all people will suffer from acne at some point in their lives. And yet, there is no cure, and there is no clear cut way to treat it. Here’s the thing about acne, everyone has different skin. I can’t tell you how many people sent me messages of “you have to do this” or “this is the only thing that works.” The reality is, what works for me, may not work for you. And that’s what makes it so frustrating and so hard to treat. I didn’t want to go on prescription medication to treat mine, so I tried everything else to see if I could get it under control. If medication works for you or you want to try that route you should 100 percent do it. I am not a doctor and I’m not here to tell you there is only one way, trust me when I say, I know that’s not true. It’s still an ongoing battle. My skin right now, is 1000 times better than it has been in years but it’s still not perfect. I get the occasional breakout, but I finally feel like I have a good grasp on keeping my skin clear and healthy. So I’m breaking it all down for you, this is my holistic approach to treating hormonal acne. And if there is one thing I’ve learned from this experience it’s that I promise you, if you’re struggling with your skin, you are not alone.
First things first, let’s talk about how diet can affect hormonal acne. Once again, this is a case of, everyone is different, the foods that make my skin worse might not have any impact on yours, but there are some common foods that almost any search about hormonal acne will turn up. They are: sugar, dairy products, refined carbs, red meats. I decided to eliminate all of them. As a migraine sufferer since the age of 7, I am no stranger to eliminating foods from my diet, so this wasn’t all that hard for me. I will say as someone who has said on multiple occasions “I will never give up cheese,” that was difficult. After about two weeks of no dairy though, I honestly was shocked that I didn’t miss it at all. I also don’t eat red meat and can’t really eat sugar because of my migraines so the hard part was refined carbs and dairy.
Ultimately I found that dairy was a major factor in contributing to my hormonal acne. Refined carbs and processed sugar were up there too, so I drastically reduced my consumption, but I have eliminated dairy completely. I didn’t eliminate eggs but the esthetician I met with today recommended eliminating them for 30 days to see what happens so I’m going to do that. At the same time I started incorporating some key foods that I think have helped my skin including: fresh cold pressed juice (with carrots, oranges, leafy greens-I have this juicer and love it) and smoothies with dark berries (blueberries are a superfood especially for skin). I have one cup of coffee per day, drink kombucha daily (probiotics) and spearmint tea at night. I did not eliminate alcohol but I drink sparingly and make sure I am hydrating if I am drinking. Staying hydrated is important and drinking plenty of water is great, but you don’t have to be extreme about it, just drink enough, stay hydrated and you should be fine.
If I’m being honest, the jury is still out on whether these things actually help my skin, but I did stop taking them for about a week and then had a breakout so I started taking them again. I think of these as more of a complimentary thing to what for me are most important, diet and skincare routine. Here’s what I’ve been taking daily (not all of these are for skin but wanted to include everything). I also want to mention I went off the pill a few months ago. I did notice my skin leveled out a bit after going off, but I didn’t go off birth control for my skin. After being on it for 15+ years I just felt I wanted to give my body a break and stop messing with my natural cycle and hormones (I have a blog post coming on that experience as well).
–Hum Nutrition Red Carpet, Daily Cleanse and Hair Sweet Hair -I don’t buy directly from Hum because I don’t like that you have to sign up for a monthly membership which you can only cancel by calling their 800 number.
–Evening Primrose Oil
–Vital Proteins Marine Collagen (I can only take marine collagen, I tried the collage peptides-beef, and it gave me headaches and stomachaches).
Skincare (What Not to Do)
I tried a lot of different products, a lot. Ultimately it came down to not only the products I was using but my overall routine and methods that had a major impact on my skin. First I want to talk about some of the don’ts because I was doing a lot of them. Again, everyone’s skin is different but I think most of these things will apply across the board.
Don’t Do This
– Over-exfoliate. When I was breaking out really bad my instinct was to exfoliate because my pores must be clogged and that’s why I’m breaking out right? Not quite. In fact, over-exfoliating was making my skin WAY worse. It wasn’t until I had a skin consult with True Botanicals who explained to me that by over-exfoliating I was not only drying out my skin but damaging it’s ability to repair and protect itself, and making it even more exposed to bacteria and prone to breakouts.
– Use too many products. In my desperate attempt to clear my skin I was trying a ton of different products and it was actually making my skin way worse. It can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to notice anything when using a new product, so try and stay as consistent as possible with what you use.
– Use Hot Water/Cleanse Too Much. Not only was I over-exfoliating I was also cleansing too much. My instinct was to keep my skin clean but once again I was stripping my skin of it’s natural oils and messing with it’s pH levels. Using hot water when you wash your face can also really mess up your pH levels and dry it out.
– Clog Your Pores With Makeup. This is tricky, I know, the last thing I wanted to do when my skin was at my worst was go anywhere without makeup (and I never even wore makeup until recently!). Now that my skin is in a good place I pretty much just don’t wear make-up at all unless I’m shooting or going out for an event/dinner/etc. I really love RMS Beauty because it’s very lightweight and all natural. Just try to minimize wearing make-up when you can and always, always, always wash it off at night.
My Skincare Routine
Finallyyyyyy. Let’s talk products. I met with an esthetician today who recommended using lactic acid only once a day instead of twice, so I might try that for a few weeks. I also scheduled a new treatment called Vivace. It’s essentially microneedling with radio frequency so it treats fine lines and firms skin but also can help with brown spots and active acne breakouts. Honestly it is really expensive ($800/treatment) but after the first three treatments (every 4-6 weeks) maintenance is every year/year and a half. Unlike traditional micro-needling there is also basically no downtime. For me it’s a great alternative to Botox which I am not interested in, so I will keep you guys posted on what I think. The esthetician mentioned I won’t really see results until after the third treatment because essentially it is stimulating the skin to produce collagen so it will be a few months. I also get monthly facials from my cousin Emily and we alternate between a regular facial and microdermabrasion.
After realizing I was cleansing and exfoliating too much I cut down to exfoliating 1-2x/week and cleansing once a day (products below). In the morning I use toner and occasionally if I feel like I need it will rinse with cold water. I also use a hydrating mask 1-2x/week.
-Cleanse. I use both Farmaesthetics Herbal Cleanser and True Botanicals Clear Hydrating Cleanser. I honestly can’t say I like one more than the other. I use the Farmaesthetics when I exfoliate (below).
-Exfoliate. I use Farmaesthetics Rose Face Polish and Sweet Milk & Lavender to exfoliate. Depending on how my skin is feeling I might use each once per week. I mix with the herbal cleanser and massage gently on my skin, leaving it on for a few minutes.
-Tone. In the mornings I use Indie Lee or Fresh Beauty Rose Hydrating Toner. I do this instead of a cleanser. I also loved the True Botanicals Clear Nutrient Toner I just ran out and want to use what I have before I purchase again.
-Lactic Acid. I probably don’t need to be using both of these and eventually I may eliminate one but for now I am using both, one in the morning and one at night. I use Sunday Riley Good Genes in the morning after serum and before sunscreen. At night after cleansing and before serum/face oil I use P50 1970.
-Moisturizer/Serum. I actually don’t really use moisturizer anymore (that will probably change in the winter). Right now I use Sunday Riley C.E.O Serum in the morning after toner (and before Good Genes) and at night after P50. If my skin needs it I will use the True Botanicals Clear Pure Radiance Face Oil at night as the last step.
-Masks. I try to do a hydrating mask once or twice a week. For sheet masks I like this one from Karuna. I also love the Farmaesthetics Herbal Hydration Complex and Erno Laszlo Hyra-Therapy Skin Vitality Mask.
-Sunscreen. Seriously this is probably most important. Especially if you are using products to treat acne which can make you even more sun sensitive. I usually wear Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen and I saw Coola just came out with a new sunscreen that I’m going to try.