A couple posts ago, I gave you a ridiculously long list of opinions about how to treat acne naturally.
Now, if you feel as lost as ever after reading it, I really can’t blame ya! You might be wondering what I thought about the list. Was there a nugget of gold that I picked out of that?
Most of it was all stuff that I had heard before and lots of it I have talked about on the blog. Obviously some great advice – try eliminating or cutting way back on dairy; gluten; sugar, ditch commercial products, etc. Everyone’s different and this stuff is all good advice that may work like a million dollars for you.
To me, the one thing that stood out the most out of the entire list as something eye-catchingly interesting was this:
“I have had success with my female clients who have acne with a protocol of three months on vitex herb (chastetree berry, also known as “Agnus Castus” in some parts of the world), for balancing hormones, tincture of milk thistle for the liver, and burdock root to cleanse blood. It has worked wonders.”
What’s Adult Hormonal Acne?
Well, essentially everyone’s acne is hormonal, so this title is quite misleading. In all cases hormones are what tell the body to create acne. And if they are doing that, and you have acne, it means that your hormones are not doing the right things.
Acne isn’t, like, a normal thing that just happens for no reason. Hormones that do the right things don’t give you disease. And hormones don’t just do the wrong things just for the heck of it, they do it because of some other reason. Something is influencing them to mess up their jobs and give you acne.
However, there is a lot of different things that can mess up your hormones, and a lot of different hormonal imbalances that can result.
It appears like basically all and every hormone imbalance can cause acne, and unfortunately, I really don’t have them all exactly straightened out in order to explain them, or how to treat them specifically. It’s rather mindboggling, so I apologize. The best thing you can do if you want to know about your specific hormone issues, is to get a saliva hormone test done and talk to a natural therapist about an appropriate course of action for you.
So, having said that – there is a specific type of hormonal acne in adult women that is very, very, veeerrry common, and while all acne is technically hormonal, this one has been dubbed and is often referred to specifically as “Hormonal Acne”.
This acne usually occurs around the mouth, chin, and jawline in adult women (often can be cystic), and tends to appear or gets worse before menstruation and/or during ovulation. It’s usually accompanied by other PMS symptoms, and irregular periods.
This type of acne is usually caused by something called estrogen dominance, where your estrogen and progesterone are not in balance, usually due to having high ‘bad estrogens’ (which we accumulate from the environment from things like plastic). The protocol I’m about to describe might also work with hormonal PCOS acne as I sometimes see that ladies with PCOS use the same supplements, but I’m not 100% sure of the details quite yet (until then, check out this amazing ebook on PCOS, because this lady DOES know her stuff when it comes to that).
Also, this protocol should work for those who have acne due to coming off birth control pills (and if you are still on birth control but want to be off it, consider combining this protocol with weaning off it to lessen the chance of acne afterwards).
Clean Up Your Diet & Lifestyle First and Foremost
With all acne, the first line of defence is to fix up your diet if you eat a lot of processed foods, get better sleep, lower your stress, and exercise. Switch to a gentle and natural skin care routine too, A generally unhealthy lifestyle is the biggest reason that anyone’s hormones are going to be out of whack and produce acne (no matter what kind of acne you have).
For some people though – especially adult, female women with this type of acne – is that the diet and lifestyle improvements manage to make a huuuuge difference, but they can’t seem to get all the way to being clear, even though they feel like they’ve done everything.
This has been my problem… over the last couple of years since getting rid of my severe acne, I have managed to maintain 90% clear skin, but I have still struggled with mild, cyclical acne breakouts around my chin that come and go. They have driven me up the wall and crazy, because nothing has seemed to work, and I’ve tried tons of stuff. Lol – you probably know this because I’ve whined about it a ton on my blog!
My usual reaction to the anxiety of having this continued acne was to want to control my diet even further, or just be really strict about it. Which never did anything to improve my skin, but controlling my diet was a way for me to control my unpleasant feelings about the whole situation. Of course, in the end that only makes things worse by causing stress.
So anyway… thanks in big part to Fran Kerr and Alexis Smart (the lady who posted about vitex, burdock, and milk thistle), my own experience, and a few other smatterings of info that have come on my radar lately, I’ve come to a few realizations that can really help the ladies out there struggling with the hormonal acne.
1) Use a Supplement – Either DIM, Vitex, or Both
It seems like hormonal acne just needs a little helper to get things back on track, and that can be either of these two supplements or taking them both. DIM (Diindolymethane) works by helping your liver to detoxify ‘bad estrogens’ from your body and promote good estrogen.
Vitex works on your pituitary gland, and helps it regulate its own hormone production, which can get your progesterone and good estrogens back in balance (warning: most people do just fine on Vitex, but for some people with certain body chemistries, Vitex can have quite a few side effects. Make sure to do your own thorough research on the herb before deciding to take it. Also click here to read follow up post: Vitex Q & A).
2) Do Something For Your Liver
Estrogen dominance and the liver are very closely linked because the liver is where excess estrogen will get detoxified and swept out of the body via the bowel. With an inefficient liver, the excess estrogen will have the chance to recirculate throughout the body.
So as I just said that DIM helps your liver to detoxify bad estrogens, a good liver supplement will also help this process along. Some might suggest doing the liver flush, but… I tried that, and it was a horrible, horrible experience, so I can’t say I really recommend it even though some people do get pretty great results with it. That’s one for you to make up your own mind on! Also – the liver is a big reason that improving your lifestyle will improve hormonal acne – the fewer toxins that it has to sift through, the better it can detoxify the hormones.
Alexis recommends milk thistle for this purpose, but there are other ones too (also, don’t take milk thistle if you have a ragweed allergy). I use a mixed herbal supplement called Thorne SAT Liver Support that I had recommended to me by my Naturopath. Burdock root, that Alexis suggests, is also a supplement that supports the liver and purifies the blood from excess estrogens that are floating around.
3) Knock Out Stress
When you’re stressed, your body creates cortisol, which takes away from the proper function of other body processes, including endrocrine production. This is how chronic stress can lead to acne, since without proper hormonal production, the right hormones don’t get made and it shows up on your face.
I’ve heard many, many women say that their hormonal acne gets so much worse when they’re stressed. Work on lowering that stress, including hidden sources of stress like low self esteem – and also stress and worry over controlling your food (which I will talk about in a second). Body stressors count here too like not eating enough food, following a diet long term that heavily restricts a certain macronutrient, and overexercising.
Anyway, after her comment intrigued me, I emailed Alexis to ask her to elaborate on her protocol and she said this:
“Acne, I have found is usually related to hormonal or digestive issues. When it’s hormonal, I often see more breakouts around the chin and mouth. I usually suggest a capsule form of vitex and take it as directed. I like Gaia brand herbs or I just get any organic cap they have at the healthfood store. I like to use liquid tinctures for the milk thistle and burdock. I love HerbPharm brand. I recommend three times a day for each, away from food. I like to to do ten days on and three days off.”
This Stuff Has Totally Worked For Me. And I’m Totally Stoked About It.
I’m not taking Vitex, but I’ve mentioned in a few other posts that I’ve been taking Estroblock, 3 capsules a day (Read here for follow up post: Estroblock Q & A, which answers many further questions about this awesome, wonderful supplement – including whether you should take the regular or Triple Strength Estroblock, and whether men and teenagers can also take it for acne).
Estroblock is a very powerful form of DIM and one of the best brands of this supplement. I recommend it because I know that it works, and can’t really vouch for the quality or effectiveness of other, cheaper DIM supplements.
I’ve been on it for nearly five months now. About a month ago, I decided to start taking Thorne SAT Liver Support and Burdock Root to really, really cement my results.
Well, it took a couple of months from when I started taking Estroblock to really get consistent, but honestly, my skin has seriously never looked better and this is the longest it’s been consistently and entirely clear for, since… well… since I was on birth control as a teenager. I do still get very small pimples every once in a while, but I know my skin best and they are so small and infrequent and go away so fast that it doesn’t bother me at all – over all, I have been SO happy with it.
Not only that but over the last 6 or 7 months, I’ve totally stopped caring so much about being perfect with my diet and have started relaxing way more (I’d like to give a big shout out to Matt Stone for this)… I mostly eat whole foods still because that’s healthy and that’s what I’m used to, but I go out for dinner more, I eat dairy and gluten and processed foods and sugary desserts with my friends and family (and sometimes at home too), and the best part is that I don’t WORRY about it when I eat things I would have formerly worried about.
I mean, I used to do the 90/10 rule before too, and I’d eat processed foods sometimes, and I’d sometimes eat things that I believed due to all the nutrition stuff that I’ve read that I “shouldn’t” eat, but the big difference here is that this has been the first time that I’ve truly found myself truly, honestly, not worrying about it. It’s the first time there hasn’t been nagging fear at the back of my head.
I haven’t felt this relaxed about food since before my acne got severe, so this lowered stress probably has contributed to the clear skin as well. Plus, I feel like I cleared out some old emotional issues by getting reiki done in the summer (which I’ll do a follow up on in a future post).
Anyway… I’m stoked out of my head and feeling so great about finding something that has really truly worked to get rid of that last bit of acne that just wouldn’t budge. Knock on wood that it sticks, but so far so good. I hope this post helps the other ladies out there suffering with hormonal acne.
Watch Me Talk About Hormonal Acne in Video
Please share your experiences! What do you think of this protocol and have you found something that has made a big difference for your hormonal acne?
[UPDATE] – For an updated, revised, and much more detailed version of this post, please check out my brand new ebook The Love Vitamin’s Guide to Female Hormonal Acne!