Around the age of 24 I stopped the contraceptive pill which I was taking on and off for almost 10 years. My hormones went absolutely mental (can you blame them?) resulting in skin deep hormonal cysts all around my chin and jaw. I won’t bore you too much with all the different things I have tried in the following years (you can read more about it here), In this post I want to share things which after so many trial and errors I believe have helped to put my hormones back in their original balance. Looking back I can now see how my body was just screaming for help, my hormones were all over the place after so many years of messing about with them with the contraceptive pill and my diet and lifestyle were definitely not supporting them.
Please note that this is purely my personal experience, hormonal issues and skin issue are so infinitely complexed that is virtually impossible that one protocol will work for everyone. A lot of the improvements I made are purely down to try things myself and experimenting with my diet and lifestyle. I wish I could give you the magic formula but sadly there isn’t one. What has worked for me might not necessarily work you ( I know we have heard it so many times but it’s so true!)
It took me years to figure out a lifestyle that support my hormones, wellness and beauty and I am still learning every single day! Looking after yourself to feel your best in a way that works for you is definitely a journeys as our body change with us as we go through different phases in life. There are no quick fixes or short cut when it comes to balance your hormones, it definitely took me lots of time, patience and self love to get where I am today.
So let’s start!
DIET: The first change that I made to my diet was to cut out dairy products. There are a lot of research that link dairy consumption to acne. Dairy cows are treated with artificial hormones that affect their milk supply, researchers suggest that those hormones may throw your hormones off balance when you consume milk products. This could trigger acne. There is also the theory that the growth hormones already in milk naturally aggravate acne no matter what. I personally saw a huge improvement when I finally ditched my beloved parmesan, my skin was still breaking out from time to time but my spots were fewer and not as inflamed as they used to be. You definitely need to give it some time before you can see any improvement, I kept a food dairy for about 2-3 months and that really helped to identify other triggers like refined sugar.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which rapidly raises blood sugar levels. When blood sugars rise, insulin levels also rise to help shuttle the blood sugars out of the bloodstream and into your cells.Insulin makes androgen hormones more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This contributes to acne development by making skin cells grow more quickly and by boosting sebum production.
Cutting out refined sugar from diet and reducing the amount of sugar in general I was consuming (maple syrup, honey, dried fruit, confectionery products etc…) was definitely game changing. Also thanks to my food dairy I could really see that my spots were much worse when I went on the occasional sugar binge. Being very careful with my sugar intake definitely served me in that period of my life when I was trying to clear my skin, I am now much more relaxed and flexible and I definitely don’t deny myself the occasional vegan donuts, croissants etc..
On the other hand I gradually started to increase significantly my intake of vegetables, especially leafy greens which are jammed packed with vitamin A, essential for collagen production.
Making sure that my diet is abundant with vegetables is essential to keep my skin clear. I am sure I don’t need to tell you that vegetables are loaded with vitamis, antioxidants and minerals which are essentially the best beauty food out there.
Another focus of mine was to increase my intake of healthy fats like avocado, nuts & seeds. I particular pay attention to those high in omega 3 like chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds. Not only they form part of the skin structure but they also have anti-inflammatory properties. High levels of omega-3 have been shown to plump up the look of the skin as well as the quality, by reducing inflammation as well as supplying the building blocks for healthy skin cells. In addition, omega-3 suppresses a hormone produced by the liver called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which can in turn reduce spots and blemishes.
GUT HEALTH: The gut includes everything from the mouth all the way through to the anus – it’s responsible for absorbing nutrients, housing both helpful and harmful bacteria and excreting waste. Making improvements to the digestive system has been scientifically shown to improve skin health, immune function, mood, and energy levels. The first step in healing your gut and skin is to make sure that your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs through a diet including a variety of coloured plant foods. Fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of nutrients, and should make up the foundation of your diet. Other foods to include are whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts & seeds. To give my digestive system the best chances to work efficiently I also incorporated a daily probiotic into my routine. Overall I knew I had to cut out the processed/junk food from diet and I try my very best (hey, we are all human) to focus on whole, unrefined plant-based food as much as possible. That was probably one of the main reason why I eventually transitioned to a plantbased diet.
SLEEP & STRESS: These 2 normally go hand in hand as when we are under stress we tend to not sleep enough or to sleep really badly. Stress increases the amount of oil your skin produces, which can clog pores and cause breakouts. I saw first hand the terrible effect that stress can have on my skin. I had a period of my life when I was in a job which I hated and which it was causing me so much stress, the result was my skin being constantly inflamed and because I was so stressed I was also eating really badly and not sleeping properly and that made everything even worse! I actually ended up quitting that job because it was literally making my life a living nightmare but there are obviously other less drastic way to manage stress, like yoga, meditation, breathing exercise, spending time in nature etc…
REDUCE CAFFEINE: Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and can be really hard on our adrenal glands and can also disrupt our sleep. So if you are looking to support your hormones try to reduce your caffeine intake an maybe drink more herbal teas instead. I now try to have coffee only 2-3 times a week maximum and I like to consider it more like a treat than a regular habit.
SUPPLEMENTS: These are the supplements which after lots of research I decided to include in my routine, but please do your own research on the matter too!:
Zinc: Zinc has excellent anti inflammatory properties and it help to fight the bacteria that cause acne or breakouts.
Vitamin D ( from October to April): Healthy levels of vitamin D help make sure we’re producing adequate levels of insulin, one of our blood sugar regulating hormones. Since I live in the UK and I follow a plantbased it’s important for me to supplement with Vitamin D regardless of my skin.
Vitex or Agnus Castus: Studies have shown that Vitex is the best herb available that can balance the hormones during the menstrual cycle. If you like me see your spots getting worse before and during your period this supplement can definitely help.
EXERCISE: it helps to promote restful sleep, helps reduce stress. Vigorous exercise can add stress to our body so don’t over do it! I was never a gym kind of girl ( I actually always hate any kind of sport with a passion) but exercise has proven time over time to be extremely beneficial for my skin. When I consistently work out my skin is clearer and my hormones seems to be more in balance. I think the key to make exercise a routine is to find a type of workout that you love, there is really no point in doing something that you hate as you won’t stick to it! I personally love high intensity work out, they are relative short (normally 30-45 minutes) they are fast paced, you sweat like there is no tomorrow and at the end you feel like an olympic champion 😉
SKINCARE & ENVIROMEMTAL TOXINS: lots of products out there that we use on a regular basis contains xenoestrogens which are basically man made chemicals that act like natural estrogens create all sort of havoc with your own hormones. Some example of xenoestrogens are BPA, parabens, pesticides. It was definitely a slow process but I gradually switch mostly a natural skin care/body/hair routine, start using natural cleaning products, buying organic produce as much as possible, not buying plastic water bottle anymore, storing my food in glass containers instead of plastic and in general trying to avoid packaged food as much as possible (although that’s definitely an hard one!).
PATIENCE: This is probably the hardest part. You got to arm yourself with the biggest bag of patience because there aren’t (at least in my personal experience) overnight miracles. I believe when you give your body the best support to heal it will fight its battle to the end. Our bodies want to be healthy, they want to thrive in wellness and sometimes we need to accept that the process will take its time. It took me years to finally relatively balance my hormones (still getting the odd spots here and then) and during this journey I have learned so much about myself and my body more that I ever would have imagined. Our bodies are incredibly beautiful and I firmly believe they know before we do, sometimes we just need to take a step back and simple listen. I have learned to love myself, my skin and my body beyond my physical appearance. I stopped wearing makeup for about 6 months (still wearing it today in very special occasions) to teach myself how to love my skin for what it is , flaws included. It was a frustrating and liberating process at the same time but so worth it! Ultimately my acne taught has been an incredible teacher, it taught me to look after myself, to look after this vessel which wether I like it or not will carry me around for the rest of my life, it taught me to be kinder to myself, to be humble, to practice gratitude and to love myself unconditionally.