You can use all the spot treatments, face masks and serums in the world, but if you don't address the internal imbalances, your acne will never fully clear.
There are many different causes of acne including nutrient deficiencies, poor gut health, stress and hormonally driven acne.
The location of your breakouts can often indicate the different organs involved. It is common for the area around the mouth, chin and jawline to be affected by hormonal acne, (rooted in your endocrine system), however it can occur all over the face and even on the chest and back in some women.
You may also notice your skin is worse mid way through your cycle, around ovulation, and the week leading up to the start of your period. This is often due to surges of oestrogen and/or testosterone when your body releases an egg during the ovulatory phase and is preparing the uterine lining during the luteal phase.
If your acne doesn't seem to occur cyclically and is constant this could still be due to a hormone imbalance, however it is more likely to be driven by some of the other factors mentioned above.
I wish I could tell you that eating a healthy, balanced diet would be enough to provide all the nutrients you need for clear skin and balanced hormones, but sadly that isn't the case.
Due to our modern lifestyles, high stress levels, soil depletion and hormone disrupting chemicals in our environment we just aren't getting the nutrition we need from our food.
For that reason I believe everyone should be taking high quality supplements that are relevant for their health needs. Obviously if you are dealing with chronic, complex conditions, you are going to need more than someone who has minor health complaints.
Have you been dealing with hormonal acne for years?...
You may have thought it was just something temporary at first. Maybe the stressful project at work or the week of eating a bit too much sugar?
Is it slowly getting worse and nothing seems to be helping? You have tried all of the fancy topical products and maybe some supplements, to no avail?....
Don't worry, I'm sharing with you 5 foundational supplements you need to be taking if you deal with hormonal acne!
I know how overwhelming it can be when trying to figure out which supplements you need and why.
So lets dive in!...
The connection between the gut and the skin is strong!
Conditions such as acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis have all been linked to poor gut health and issues such as intestinal permeability, inflammation of the gut, malabsorption and overgrowths of bacteria/yeast/parasites!
We are designed to have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria- we give them a home and they provide us with benefits such as immune regulation, absorption of nutrients and the production of short chain fatty acids (energy).
Our gut is home to our microbiome (gut bacteria), which can weigh between 3-5 pounds in total! Because we are now living in overly sanitised environments (developed countries), we aren't being exposed to a lot of microbes that help to keep our immune system strong and resilient. Not forgetting our exposure to antibiotics and pesticides that can also destroy bacterial species.
Taking a probiotic supplement, or fermented foods daily (if you can tolerate them) is a great way to better absorb the skin-friendly nutrients from our food and also keep any 'bad bugs' in check.
If you find that your breakouts or any digestive symptoms get worse and don't start to improve within a week or two, I recommend you work with a healthcare practitioner, as this is a big indicator that the specific probiotic strains may not be working for you or you are dealing with a hidden gut infection.
I personally cannot tolerate fermented foods due to a histamine intolerance. This was actually a huge driver of my cystic acne and my skin improved tremendously when I changed my diet and took specific histamine lowering probiotic supplements. You can read about that here.
2. Methylated B Complex
Methylated B vitamins differ from the type you can pick up from the average pharmacy or supermarket, as they are a more bio-available form, that your body can absorb and use more efficiently.
B vitamins help to improve hormonal acne by helping the body to process and detoxify excess / used hormones through the liver.
We also need B vitamins to support the nervous system and promote a healthy stress response. High cortisol and adrenal stress can contribute to androgen (male hormone) production in women with PCOS and also increase sebum production, both of which can drive acne.
Instead of taking individual B vitamins (eg B1, B9, B12), it is much better to take a complex, to help prevent any nutrient imbalances occurring.
It is important to know that high amounts of both Biotin (B7) and Cobalamin (B12) can worsen acne in certain people, myself included. I first noticed this when I tried taking a hair, skin and nails formula that contained high levels of biotin (a nutrient that many people swear by) and I developed deep, cystic pimples on my cheeks! On days when I consume foods rich in B12, for example organ meats and duck eggs, I don't take my B complex that day to avoid my skin breaking out from excess vitamin B12.
Look for a B complex containing at least 25mg of B1 - B6 and 200µg (micrograms) of folate (B9) and methylcobalamin (B12). If folic acid is listed, put it back! That means it is not methylated and many of us are unable to process this synthetic version of folate.
3. Fish Oil
The ratio of fatty acids in our body is very important in determining inflammation levels. Too much omega 6 (pro-inflammatory) relative to omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) can drive both inflammatory skin conditions like acne and hormone imbalances - a double whammy!
Although we can get some omega 3 fatty acids from plant sources, such as chia and flax seeds, the conversion rate from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to EPA and DHA is very poor. It is a much better option to get your omega 3's from wild, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies and trout, as these directly provide the beneficial fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Consuming oily fish 2-3 times per week is a great start, however if you are dealing with acne breakouts, other inflammatory conditions, a hormonal imbalance or you just hate fish, then consider supplementing with fish oil.
Purity is so important when it comes to choosing your supplement. The cheaper your fish oil supplement is, the more likely it's going to be rancid, oxidised and full of harmful compounds like dioxins (linked to Endometriosis!) and heavy metals. Check the product is made using wild, sustainably sourced fish and has been batch tested for purity.
Aim for 1-3 grams of fish oil per day, containing good levels of EPA and DHA.
I see signs of zinc deficiency quite commonly with my clients. This is due to many reasons including long term hormonal birth control use, stress, high sugar intake and vegetarian/vegan diets. This mineral is important for thyroid health, immunity and the growth and repair of tissues, especially skin.
Zinc can also help women with PCOS block the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme which converts testosterone to the more potent form dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is 3x more potent than testosterone and can lead to the common symptoms of PCOS including oily skin, cystic acne, hair thinning, hirsutism and infertility.
Foods that contain zinc include grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, organ meats, poultry, oysters and nuts/seeds. With many people moving away from consuming red meat, and foods like liver, for ethical or environmental reasons, they are at higher risk for zinc depletion.
Aim for a supplement containing 25-50 grams of zinc per day. If you take zinc for over 3 months or you require higher amounts (as directed by a health practitioner), make sure you also supplement with copper to prevent any imbalances developing between these two nutrients.
5. Vitamin D3
Did you know that vitamin D is actually considered a hormone? It is needed for proper immune function and is highly anti-inflammatory.
Obviously, it is best to obtain your vitamin D from natural sunlight, however in the winter months and in countries such as the UK, we just cannot get the exposure we need.
I recommend you get your vitamin D levels checked first before supplementing, as vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient meaning that it stores in the liver and can be toxic when too high. You can get tested through your GP or privately through Better You (UK), which is a finger prick test you can do at home.
Apart from it's anti-inflammatory effects, vitamin D can benefit the skin by improving insulin sensitivity and improving glucose uptake. Elevated blood glucose and insulin levels in the blood stream can drive hormonal acne and these markers are commonly raised in women with PCOS.
A safe, general dose for vitamin D is 1,000-2,000 IU, however you will need to test first before taking higher, therapeutic doses. Make sure your supplement contains vitamin D3, not D2, which is a less bioavailable form. Taking it with a meal containing healthy fat is also recommended, to improve absorption.
You have probably heard me say it a hundred times, but I need to say it again...
You cant out supplement a poor diet and lifestyle!
Address your sleep, stress levels, nutrition and exercise (aka, the foundations of health!) FIRST and see if your skin improves. You are likely going to see some positive changes, however if you still find yourself dealing with hormonal acne, then definitely give the supplements a go!
If you are taking the supplements but you're still stressed out your mind, not sleeping and eating junk food, then they just aren't going to work.
Watch my FREE 90 minute 'PCOS Acne Masterclass' by clicking here.
Have you booked your free 30 minute Hormone Troubleshooting call with me yet? If not, you can arrange one by clicking here. During this call we will dive into your health issues in more detail and you will leave the call knowing the next steps to take in order to rebalance your hormones and improve your symptoms naturally.
*This post was written for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any health conditions. Please speak to your health practitioner if you are taking medication or if you are dealing with a chronic health condition.*