Of all the factors that contribute to acne, hormones including testosterone, estrogen and cortisol play a huge role. Dr. Shamsah Amersi (hormone specialist OB-GYN) says "hormones are like a symphony, if one hormone is off balance, you will feel it through the entire body". Excess testosterone is a very common issue with adult acne. In high levels, it causes too much sebum production, which clogs pores and feeds acne causing c.acnes bacteria.
If you’re breaking out around the jawline, have pre-existing conditions like PCOS, or otherwise suspect hormones are part of your acne puzzle, it might be a good idea to consult your doctor and get bloodwork done.
There are many ways our hormones can get off balance, including stress, lack of sleep, diet, menstrual cycle, type of birth control, or conditions like PCOS. Don’t worry - with awareness and some lifestyle tweaks, it’s possible to manage many hormonal acne triggers.
Mind your blood sugar, fend off excess androgen.
Blood sugar spikes are not good for acne. Let’s look at the physiology - when our blood sugar (glucose in the bloodstream) spikes, insulin levels also go up. Higher insulin can increase androgen hormones, specifically testosterone. This causes more sebum production, which can clog your pores and feed c.acnes bacteria. Blood sugar spikes can also increase inflammation. All exacerbating acne. What can you do to minimize blood sugar spikes? Here are some tips.
- Don’t drink caffeine on an empty stomach.
- When you eat carbs and sugar, find a fiber, protein or healthy fat companion. For example, if you reach for chocolate (or an apple), try to have a few almonds first.
- Start your meals with a salad or vegetables. The fiber can help slow down the glucose absorption in your bloodstream.
- Going out for Italian food? Drink 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before your starchy meal. It helps maintain lower insulin and blood sugar levels.
- A short walk after a meal is a great way to support steady glucose and insulin levels.
Check your birth control.
Although birth control is widely prescribed as a way to control acne, some birth controls high in androgen potency and low in estrogen might be triggering your acne. Talk to your doctor if a form of birth control that’s high in estrogen and lower in androgen might be right for you.
Keep your cortisol in check.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. With stress, our cortisol hormone rises which can lead to increased sebum production. While living a stress-free life is as possible as riding a unicorn to work, we can adopt activities like meditation, deep breathing and downtime. Aim to be as cool as a cucumber, at least some of the time.