Whiteheads, blackheads and cystic acne- I’ve had it all. Often all at the same time. I use to long for the day I would finally be grown up, not so I could get my dream job, buy a house, or travel the world, but so my acne would finally disappear. Well, I’m 27 and I’m still waiting for that day.
Throughout my teenage years, I tried nearly every product at my local drug and department stores. Many of them did absolutely nothing. The rest turned my face and neck into an angry, red and flaky mess. Not exactly the look I was going for.
After exhausting all of the over the-counter options available, I went to the dermatologist. I was told that I had hormonal acne, which may or may not clear up as I got older, and was prescribed an oral antibiotic that required me to hide from the sun like a vampire. If that wasn’t unpleasant enough, I developed horrible GI side effects from the medication after a few months that I’m still dealing with 5 years later. Unwilling to put up with irritated skin and constant stomach pain, I bought long-wear, full-coverage foundation and tried to deal with it.
But a few years ago when I started to clean up my diet in an effort to eliminate stomach issues, I noticed that my skin finally started to improve! It’s only gotten better since I began to use more natural skincare products too. My hormonal acne is now the most “under control” that it’s been in years. I’m no longer embarrassed to go out in public without makeup (not that I should have been anyways, but that’s a different issue entirely). I still have some breakouts around that time of the month (as if it wasn’t fun enough already) but I’m largely acne-free the rest of the time.
While I’m no skincare expert, I’ve compiled all of the tips and tricks I’ve used over the past few years to treat adult hormonal acne naturally. Some of them address hormonal issues, while some are just general principles of good skin care. At any rate, I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me!
From the Inside
Eliminate food allergies and/or sensitivities.
While there is little definitive scientific research yet on this point, it stands to reason that consuming foods that you are allergic or sensitive to triggers an inflammatory response. This inflammation can be expressed in many ways, one of which is through your skin. If you have the time and money, if may be worth it to get an allergy test. A proper elimination diet can also help you identify these foods on your own. Once you find out what foods don’t work for you, avoid them!
Minimize other “trigger” foods.
Along the same lines as food allergies, I’ve also noticed that there are other foods that cause me to have breakouts, even though I’m not allergic to them. Unfortunately, one of these is chocolate. While I’m not willing to totally give up chocolate, I’m strategic about when I eat it (not before photos, trips, important social events, etc.)
Significantly decrease sugar and other simple carbohydrates.
Research has shown that consuming a diet with a high concentration of carbohydrates (especially low-quality ones like sugar and other refined carbohydrates) is associated with acne. These foods also contribute to inflammation, as discussed above. Not only do they cause inflammation, but they also cause the formation of advanced-glycation end products. These, appropriately abbreviated AGEs, can cause the skin to lose its plumpness and elasticity over time. No bueno.
Consume plenty of protein and healthy fats.
A diet full of high-quality protein and healthy fats will help to balance your hormones and provide your body the building blocks it needs to produce healthy skin cells. While I’m not strict about it, I’m currently using a paleo approach to my nutrition and my skin seems to like it!
Decrease stress as much as reasonably possible.
While scientists don’t yet know exactly how, they do know that stress can cause acne flare-ups. Do your best to minimize stress as much as possible for clearer skin.
Exercise can help to reduce acne breakouts by relieving stress and increasing blood flow to the skin to promote healing. Sweating also helps the body to excrete what would otherwise build up in the skin. Also, make sure to remove your makeup before you workout so your skin can breathe. (Full disclosure- I’m not the best with this but I’m working on it!) Wash it afterwards with some cool water to remove any sweat and toxins.
From the Outside
Switch to natural skincare products.
This has made a HUGE difference for me! When I started to educate myself on natural skincare, I found that the chemicals in many popular drugstore products coat the skin so it can’t breathe, strip the skin of its natural protective oils and bacteria (which are supposed to be there), and are simply too harsh and irritating. I’ve really like Desert Essence’s Tea Tree Face Wash and anything from Acure Organics. Both are affordable too!
Don’t be afraid of oil! I used to think that putting oil on my already oily face would just make things worse. When I finally gave face oils a shot, I was amazed with the results! I think that my face was trying to overproduce oil to compensate for the dryness caused by over-cleansing and under-moisturizing. I’m currently using Tarte’s Maracuja Oil. Desert Essence’s jojoba oil is another one of my favorites.
I gently remove dead skin cells and gunk that could clog my pores every evening with a cotton washcloth and my usual cleanser. A few times per week, I use a spinbrush (I got mine from Ulta) with my normal cleanser to exfoliate a bit more… seriously. 😛
Switch to natural makeup.
I’m still in the process of switching to all natural makeup products because I don’t want to be wasteful and throw out the ones I have. I can say, however, that my skin looks a bit better with each “conventional” product I take out and each natural product I add in.
I’m the worst about this, but I always regret it when I do. If you have a really nasty breakout that you absolutely can’t keep your hands off of, sanitize the area with an alcohol pad, gently squeeze between 2 Q tips, then sanitize the area again. It’s best to do this before bed so it can heal and you’re not tempted to slap makeup on top of an open wound.
Keep it clean.
Please never go to bed with makeup on! We all know this is a recipe for clogged pores.
Make sure to change your washcloth each time you wash your face. If not, you’re just rubbing yesterday’s makeup into your face while trying to do the exact opposite.
Change your pillowcase at least weekly. Your face spends a long time touching your pillowcase so keep it clean.
Don’t rest your face on your hands! I used to get tons of breakouts around my chin. When I was complaining to a friend, she pointed out that I sat in class for hours a day with my face resting on my hand. I didn’t even notice I was doing this! The acne on my chin and neck started to clear up after I cut it out.
Be consistent with your routine.
Use the information I’ve laid out above to create a realistic skin care routine that works for you. If it has too many steps and it’ll never get done. Good is better than perfect in this case.
Whew, there you have it! Everything I’ve incorporated into my life to treat adult hormonal acne. I still have some VERY minor acne throughout the month and a couple breakouts the week before my cycle, but this routine has helped so much! I know this is a LOT of tips, so pick what you think will work for you and test it out! When you feel like you’ve got that under control, add a few more steps into your routine. Remember, stressing about it will not make your skin any better!
P.S.- While I’m now dealing with some minor acne due to an entirely different issue, this routine has worked for me consistently over the past few years so I felt it was still worth posting!