Hormonal Acne – Treatment

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Hormonal Acne Treatment

Why is it that we always seem to get the largest pimple of our lives on our wedding day, prom night or right before that important business meeting?  Wouldn’t it be great if there were strategies to prevent this embarrassment from happening in the future?

Acne is a process driven by hormones which occurs on our skin following a few steps inside our bodies:

Increased production of Sebum (oil) which is released from glands attached to hair follicles

Excess Keratin production in hair follicles causing follicular plugging

Increased activity and growth of P. acnes bacteria leading to…

Increased inflammation in the hair follicles and surrounding lower layers of the skin (dermis) (Dreno B, 2003)

All humans have P. acnes bacteria on our skin surface.  These bacteria are promoted to grow when given certain environmental conditions.

  1. Hormones that affect Sebum forming glands
    • Androgens (found in both males and females) are the hormones responsible for causing cell changes in our skin
    • High levels of these hormones cause formation of non-inflammatory pre-acne lesions called Microcomedones
    • These hormones also cause an increase in Sebum (oil) production (Gollnick H, 2003)
  2. Sebum composition
    • Human sebum consists of squalene, esters of glycerol, wax and cholesterol, as well as free cholesterol and fatty acids
    • High levels of sebum production tend to allow bacteria to grow more readily in hair follicles
    • Limiting the amount of cholesterol, triglycerides and free fatty acids can help to reduce the risk of forming acne lesions(Picardo M, 2009)
  3. Inflammation
    • As the bacteria grows, the immune system reacts and sends white blood cells and Inflammation to the site of the bacterial growth, causing the formation of an acne lesion

There are a few things that we can do to prevent the bacteria from colonising and forming acne, specifically at the source of bacterial proliferation.

  1. Cut out Processed foods
    • Traditional indigenous cultures tend to have little acne, but as soon as they adopt a Standard American Diet (SAD) high in processed foods, they tend to see increased levels of acne.
  2. Decrease Sugar Intake
    • Consuming sugar leads to increased levels of Insulin which in turn increases levels of androgens (like Testosterone) in women, as well as increasing overall inflammation which can cause acne
  3. Avoid Saturated and Processed Fats
    • These fats increase levels of arachidonic acid, competing with the good Omega-3 fats which lead to more inflammation and acne.
  4. Decrease Dairy Intake
    • As well as being high in sugar content, milk and dairy (including milk chocolate) often have added growth hormone which can lead to acne and other skin problems
  5. Increase Antioxidants
    • Vitamins A and E are very important for skin health and help to combat oxidative stress and inflammation
    • Eat more Vegetables and Fruits which contain anti-oxidants
  6. The following foods have been linked improvements in acne:
    • Fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red foods (like berries), dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.) and Eggs
  7. Manage Stress Levels
    • Stress increases your cortisol and other hormone levels, disturbing the hormonal balance and depletes certain nutrients which help to control acne
    • Manage your stress levels using meditation, yoga, massage, aromatherapy and exercise.(Hyman, 2015)

Eating a balanced diet low in processed and high sugar foods, high in antioxidants and clean, green foods and ensuring that your stress levels are managed can help to manage hormonal acne breakouts.

Dr. Navaz Habib


Dreno B, P. F. (2003). Epidemiology of Acne. Dermatology, 7-10.

Gollnick H, C. W. (2003). Management of acne: a report from a global alliance to improve outcomes in acne. J Am Acad Dermatol, S1-S37.

Hyman. (2015, May 31). How to Get Rid of Acne, Pimples, and Other Skin Problems. Retrieved from Dr. Mark Hyman: http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/19/how-to-get-rid-of-acne-pimples-and-other-skin-problems/

Picardo M, O. M. (2009). Sebaceous gland lipids. Dermatoendocrinology, 68-71.


I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Hormonal Acne Treatment