Why Everything You Think You Know About Hormonal Acne is Wrong

Why Everything You Think You Know About Hormonal Acne is Wrong

We know what it's like to have a drawer full of anti-acne products. You were lured in by an infomercial or your best friend's suggestions, hoping this might be the miracle product you've been waiting for. 

You thought you'd leave acne behind when you left your teens, but it's been an off and on struggle for years. You find a skin care product that works for a few weeks, but then the acne returns.

For some of us, those "teen breakouts" never went away. And facial acne is a common symptom for individuals with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

You've tried everything to clear up your acne.

You've washed your face umpteen times a day. Then you stopped washing your face. 

You gave up greasy foods. You missed french fries, but you still had breakouts. 

Many of us were told that we can blame acne on our hormones. We're all familiar with getting a "PMS pimple." Sometimes a blackhead or a breakout is the first sign that our period is just around the corner.

Hormonal acne

Hormonal disruptions do cause acne, but there's more to the story than estrogen.

When most of us hear the word, "hormone," we immediately think of the female sex hormone, estrogen. It takes center stage every month because it's one of the hormones that is responsible for menstruation. 

And there's testosterone, the male sex hormone. But our sex hormones aren't the only hormones that work hard each and every day to keep our bodies healthy and balanced. 

For those of us who forgot what we learned in Biology 101, a hormone refresher may be in order. 

Hormones are often misunderstood. We either take them for granted, or we blame them for our ill health. In other words, we only think about our hormones when they aren't working properly.

One way to think about hormones is that they are chemical messengers that tell your body to do or make something. In the evening, melatonin tells your body that it's time to go to bed. Cortisol is a stress hormone that tells your body something bad is about to go down. And insulin regulates our blood sugar levels, so the food we eat continues to give us energy throughout the day.

Hormones are vital to our body's functions. And, hormones affect not just our reproductive capabilities, but also our metabolism, our moods throughout the month, and surprisingly, even our skin. 

So while "hormonal acne" is an accurate term, it doesn't just describe the female sex hormones. Insulin can also cause acne. 

Insulin and acne

Insulin plays an important role in your body's everyday functions.

If you're a little surprised that a hormone made in the pancreas and used to metabolize food affects your skin, we understand. To understand how insulin is connected to acne, we have to first understand exactly how insulin works.

Any time we eat food or drink a beverage, any carbohydrates break down into glucose. Glucose then enters the bloodstream. In response to the surge of glucose, our bodies release insulin. 

The insulin then has an important job to do. It gets to work helping our bodies use and store the glucose for energy. But not everyone's body uses insulin efficiently. 

Insulin resistance occurs when the body doesn't respond well to insulin, and the body has difficulty taking up any glucose in the blood. The pancreas then has to produce more and more insulin to get the job done.  

When we think about problems with insulin, our minds automatically go to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces either no insulin or very little insulin. And in Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't use insulin efficiently and then insulin resistance occurs.

What does this all have to do with breakouts?

Diabetes isn't the only medical condition where insulin plays a role. Insulin resistance is also common in individuals who have PCOS. And as such, there's been some research that looked at whether controlling insulin resistance would improve PCOS symptoms, including acne.

One study found that in women with PCOS, taking Metformin lessened the severity of their acne. Metformin is a drug that is widely used to help control blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. This study shows a direct correlation between improved blood sugar levels and improved skin.

Another medical paper detailed several studies where dermatologists successfully used Metformin to treat a variety of skin ailments, including acne, acanthosis nigricans, and hyperpigmentary disorders.

skin hormones

Interesting, but I don't have PCOS or diabetes.

While these studies focused on women with PCOS, the role of insulin is the same for everybody. Our bodies all work the same way, and use insulin to convert and store glucose for energy. 

The takeaway here applies to everyone. Uncontrolled blood sugars = uncontrolled acne.

Unfortunately, our modern diets are detrimental to our insulin levels, and in turn, our skin. Processed foods are often high in simple carbohydrates, but low in or even lacking fiber and protein. When we eat these foods, our bodies experience a glucose rush and a surge of insulin, without receiving much in the way of nutrients.   

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are more common than you think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 adults without a diabetes diagnosis are walking around with higher than normal blood sugar levels. And the vast majority of these people, over 80%, aren't even aware that their blood sugar levels are out of whack.

So while your acne may be due to hormonal disturbances, it's just not the hormones you think. 

If you're just trying to fix your skin by focusing on topical solutions, that won't be enough.

Trying to fix acne with a cream or ointment is like trying to put out a fire with a squirt gun. You may be able to control your acne from getting worse. You may even have brief episodes of clear skin. But what a topical treatment can't do is tackle the root cause of your acne, which is too much insulin. 

acne solutions

But a healthy lifestyle can be easier said than done.

Ideally, our food and adequate rest would be all we need to stay healthy. But we are living in today's world, not that of a couple of generations ago. We acknowledge that foods that are rich in fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates are out of the reach of many people.

Not everyone has the space or free time to grow their own fruits and vegetables. And for some of us, not having access to a car limits our food choices. We lack control over when and where we can purchase food.  

When you have to rely on a friend or an expensive taxi to take you to the grocery store, you may only go once or twice a month. That often means loading up on preservative-laden, heavily processed foods that won't spoil. In other words, foods that can contribute to insulin resistance. The rest of the time, you have to rely on convenience stores and corner markets that often sell overpriced junk food.

Ways you can help your body have healthy blood sugar levels and clearer skin. 

As with anything health-related, genetics do play a role. You might want to talk to your doctor about screening for insulin resistance. 

And there are plenty of things we can do, each and every day, to have healthier insulin levels and clearer skin.

Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. All too often, we put ourselves last on our to-do list. How many times have we skipped lunch at work because we had a deadline to meet? Or, reached for a donut because we were "too busy" to sit down and have a proper meal? 

But we pay for it at the end of the day, when we feel tired, worn out, and foggy. Skipping meals affects more than just our moods and energy levels. Studies have shown that irregular meals contribute to insulin resistance.

Make time for breakfast. We've all been hearing this since we were kids: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yadda, yadda. And yet, how often do we try to pass off a large latte as a balanced breakfast?

But skipping breakfast does more than throw your blood sugar out of whack in the morning. If you wait until lunch to eat something, your blood sugar can spike after both lunch and dinner. From your pancreas's point of view, there is no way you can make up for a missed breakfast, no matter how healthily you eat the rest of the day. 

Breakfast to balance hormones

Drink plenty of water. This is age-old advice that bears repeating. You already know that if you are chronically dehydrated, your skin will be dull and itchy. (Raise your hand if you have combination skin that is both acne-prone and dry.) But less water in your body also means a higher blood sugar concentration.

Salty foods, caffeine, and alcohol are all dehydrating. If you indulge every now and then, you'll want to drink extra water to compensate. In fact, it's wise to drink enough water so that you never feel thirsty. 

Focus on lower glycemic foods. Foods are assigned both a glycemic index and a glycemic load. The glycemic index is how quickly a food will affect your blood sugar levels. The glycemic load is how much a food will affect your blood sugar. Both numbers will help you make better food choices, but the glycemic load is the more important of the two. Foods and beverages with a lower glycemic load have less impact on your blood sugar levels, and are a better choice to help combat insulin resistance. And another plus: foods that have lower glycemic loads can help manage period pain.

Whole foods

Realize that skin products will only do so much. Struggling with acne can leave us reaching for every skin care on the market. Just walk through the health and beauty aisles of any store, and you face an overwhelming amount of products. A good skin care routine will certainly help make your skin look its best. But topical products literally only work "skin deep." There is only so much that a mask, cream, ointment, or toner can do if our bodies continue to battle insulin resistance.

Introducing "The Daily," an insulin-friendly acne supplement that can help clear up your skin. 

Even if you are privileged enough to be diligent about self-care and eating right, you are bound to have "off" days. Most of us need a little boost to be our healthiest. That's where a high quality supplement can help improve your insulin levels—and your skin.

The Daily inner balance outer glow

You're probably already familiar with our PMS & Period Support capsules. The ingredients in this supplement help improve bloating, cramps, and your mood before and during your period. 

And now, we have an acne supplement called The Daily, which helps support healthy blood sugar levels. The Daily contains magnesium, berberine, zinc, and grape seed extract. 

Magnesium is needed by your body to support muscle and nerve function, and produce energy. This vital mineral also works with insulin receptors to help your body store blood sugar

Berberine is a naturally occurring plant compound. Those familiar with Chinese medicine may recognize the name, as berberine is used to help control blood sugar. Researchers are still learning exactly how berberine works, but one study has shown that it decreases insulin resistance.

Zinc is a mineral that has long been studied and used as a treatment for acne. But what you may not know is that zinc is insulin's BFF. Our bodies require this mineral to create, store, and release insulin

Grapes are a powerhouse of nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. But many of us probably haven't given much thought to grape seeds. Grape seed extract has been shown to improve glycemia, which is the presence of glucose in the blood. 

At Semaine Health, we're excited to offer The Daily. This acne supplement will help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and actually treat the root cause of your hormonal acne.


Unlinked (Non-Peer Reviewed) Sources


"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 adults..."


"If you wait until lunch to eat something…"  and "But less water in your body…"



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