Updated: Jul 21
Skincare is about more than the products you use. You can spend thousands of dollars on skin and body care products that are tailored just for you, and religiously stick to your routine and still struggle with chronic breakouts. This post is all about looking at what's going on inside your body and the different ways you can set yourself up to have healthy, glowing skin.
As a reminder, I am a licensed Master Esthetician, not a trained medical professional or nutritionist. The contents of my posts are meant for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. My posts are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here or on our website. Individual results may vary depending on skin type, sensitivity, age, and skincare history, as well as how a product is applied and which recommendations are taken.
You are what you eat
Before we talk about hormones, I want to cover this fundamental topic first that we've heard a million times, but it never hurts to be reminded. It's the obvious, if you eat a healthy diet that's low in sugars, carbohydrates, and trans fats, you'll be more likely to sport a healthy, glowing complexion. A diet leaning more toward snack foods, sugary sodas and lattes, fast foods, and complex carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc...) can cause breakouts due to the low nutrition and high trans fat content. Eat clean, nutrient dense foods to fuel your body, give you energy, replenish minerals and vitamins, and your skin (and body) will benefit greatly.
What goes in must come out
Let's talk about hormones, natural and otherwise. One of the biggest culprits of chronic mystery acne is an excess of hormones. Hormonal acne can show up just about anywhere on your body and will stay there regardless of your many efforts to try to make it go away unless you address the root cause. When you have a build up of natural or un-natural hormones clogging up your system, you can end up with all kinds of issues that can cause you to break out. Poor sleep, anxiety, and excessive sebum production are a few of these. So, maintaining healthy hormone levels and taking action to clear out the excess is the key to keeping hormonal acne at bay. Hormones exist inside us naturally, created by our endocrine system, and we also obtain them through our foods, beverages, personal care products, cleaners, clothes, tap water, and more.
A quick REFRESHER on the endocrine system:
Our endocrine system is made up of a network of glands and organs that
produce hormones needed for every function in our body. Our hormones control mood, stress, digestion, metabolism, sleep, growth, reproduction, response to
injury, organ function, our immune system, and blood sugar - to name a few.
Needless to say, we couldn't live without our endocrine system.
In addition to the hormones our bodies create naturally, external hormones exist in many substances. Any time an external hormone is introduced into our body, it disrupts our natural system - these substances are known as endocrine disruptors, or EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals). They're commonly found in plastics (even non-BPA plastics), pesticides and herbicides, soy products, meat products, skin and body care products, and household cleaners. They also exist in clothing, mattresses, house paint, carpets, and electronics. It has become literally impossible to avoid exposure to endocrine disruptors, so it's important to stay aware of where they're coming from and try to lessen exposure where you can.
There are many ways to balance your hormones and keep your body's systems running properly. Most importantly, you should do a deep dive into your surroundings, your daily routine, and the products you use on a regular basis and learn about the different types of endocrine disruptors that show up in your daily life.
Here are a few recommendations to get started:
1. Eat organic. Organic produce and packaged foods contain much lower levels of pesticides and herbicides than non-organic options. Pesticides are one of the biggest offenders for causing hormonal disruption to our bodies.
2. Choose purified, filtered water (not from plastic bottles). Even the cleanest tap water contains endocrine disrupting chemicals such as pharmaceutical waste, pesticides, disinfection byproducts, BPA, and fluoride, which is an endocrine disruptor that affects your thyroid gland and can be harmful for people with a compromised thyroid. Buy a water filter for your home and use it for you and your pets for drinking water and cooking water. We love the Berkey Water Filtration System, but there are so many great options to choose from.
3. Use less plastic around your food, and drink out of glass or stainless steel bottles versus plastic bottles - especially those that have been sitting in a warm or sunny location. Store food in glass containers when possible and never put plastic in the microwave, even if the item claims to be microwave safe. Avoid nylon and plastic in items like tea bags and tampons and opt for 100% cotton.
4. For your skin and body essentials, avoid products with parabens, synthetic fragrance, triclosan, BHA, BHT, oxybenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, and octocrylene. Choose a mineral sunscreen, not just for the safety of your body, but also the safety of the ocean and its inhabitants.
In addition to being aware of where we're getting excess hormones from, we can help our bodies regulate and detoxify. Even the hormones we naturally create, if not properly cycled through our bodies, will build up and cause imbalances and breakouts. Our lymphatic system and our liver both work at cleaning out toxins, cellular waste, and hormone buildup. Besides avoiding endocrine disruptors and cutting down on alcohol, sugars, and carbs, there are a few things we can do regularly to help our bodies systems work properly.
You can give your liver a boost by consuming liver cleansing foods, including green tea, grapefruit, cruciferous vegetables, turmeric, olive oil, garlic, and walnuts. You can also include a botanical supplement into your daily routine with herbs such as milk thistle, berberine, burdock, and chicory, which are all known to help the liver process toxins.
To assist the lymphatic system in detoxification, stay properly hydrated, add more movement to your daily routine, and dry brush your skin a few times a week. Dry brushing is the most effective way to help your lymph fluid circulate and you will no doubt see and feel the benefits after just a week or two.
DRY BRUSH LIKE A PRO
*Do this outside of the shower - hence the "dry" in dry brushing.
1. Move the brush lightly over your skin. Lymph fluid is just below the surface of your skin and you don't want to push in too hard, which will only halt the flow even more.
2. Always brush in the direction of your heart. For example: brush from your ankles up to your thighs and from your wrists to your underarms. In addition to aiding in lymphatic flow, dry brushing is a great exfoliation and will leave your skin glowing.
3. You don't have to brush your whole body at once. It's more beneficial if you do, but you'll still benefit greatly if you only brush your arms most of the time and add in your torso and legs every once in a while.
CONSIDER YOUR BIRTH CONTROL
This is the trickiest topic in this post. Birth control is prescribed by your doctor based
on their professional knowledge and experience of what they think will work best for you. But birth control isn't a one-size-fits-all and even your doctor can't know for sure that it's going to be the right choice for you. It's usually a waiting game of many months to years to see if it jives with your system, and if it doesn't, it's back to the drawing board. All the while, your hormones are getting pushed one way or the other potentially causing a myriad of internal issues that can lead to breakouts and acne. If you're struggling with chronic acne and nothing seems to be working, we recommend talking to your doctor about your birth control and have them give you a referral for a natural dermatologist, ideally one with an esthetician on staff. They will work with you to get to the root of the issue and help you balance your skin so you can eventually be acne free, naturally.