You’ve probably experienced acne at some point in your teenage years.
But outside of those years into your 20s, 30s, or even 40s, acne can be confusing, frustrating, embarrassing, and even painful.
In general, acne can be caused by a poor diet, lack of sleep, high stress, or overactive oil glands. For most of us, acne is annoying more than anything, but it is typically a sign that something bigger is going on inside your body.
Root causes of acne:
- Hormonal imbalances (PCOS, thyroid issues, estrogen dominance)
- Gut dysbiosis, issues with elimination
- Nutrient deficiencies (especially zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium)
- Oral contraceptive use
- Issues with liver detoxification
Hormones and Acne
Many women experience acne during ovulation, pregnancy, and perimenopause/menopause due to changing hormone levels. But men experience acne as well! Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all play a role in skin health for both men and women.
Testosterone has a direct effect on something called the sebaceous glands of the skin – the glands responsible for producing oils (sebum). When testosterone levels are high, sebum production increases, leading to excessively oily skin, acne, or breakouts.
For women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), this is a common symptom, as androgens like testosterone can be elevated in relation to other hormones.
In Chinese medicine, there is a term called face mapping – which suggests that certain areas of the face indicate certain organ imbalances.
Image: Lauren Sharkey – https://www.healthline.com/health/face-mapping#chinese-face-mapping
- Forehead: Typically indicative of issues with the digestive system. This might include things like IBS, lack of sleep, increased stress, or nutrient deficiencies.
- Temples & sides of face: Relates to the kidneys and bladder, or sometimes the liver. Acne in these areas could be a sign of infection, or issues with medications.
- Eyebrows: Connected to the liver, and may be a sign that you need some help with detoxification. In traditional chinese medicine, issues with the liver have also been connected to negative emotions like anger, frustration, irritability, and resentment.
- Under the eyes: Puffiness, bags, or dark circles may indicate stress, or dehydration.
- Nose: Blackheads, redness, or excessive oil is related to the heart, and may signify cholesterol or blood pressure issues.
- Cheeks: Acne on the cheeks indicate stomach or spleen issues (digestion), or respiratory problems. Red cheeks point to stomach inflammation, and breakouts could be a sign of allergies or sinus issues.
- Mouth: Indicates issues with the stomach and colon
- Chin & jawline: Hormonal or reproductive system imbalances. May be due to stress, PCOS, and/or estrogen dominance.
Our top tips for breaking the acne cycle
Now that you know what causes acne you might be wondering – how do you get rid of it?
Although the best way to combat recurring acne is to work with a practitioner, there are some things you can do today to start clearing your skin and gaining your confidence back.
1. Avoid sugar, dairy, and gluten-containing foods: These foods are inflammatory, and can put stress on your liver, leading to hormonal imbalances
2. Keep blood sugar levels stable: Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to excess androgens (like testosterone) which can increase sebum (oil) production. Add in fat, fibre, and protein to every meal/snack.
3. Drink lots of water: This will help hydrate the body and promote elimination of toxins
1. Reduce stress: stress throws all of your hormones out of whack, and can cause major blood sugar imbalances.
2. Get lots of sleep: aim for around 7-9 hours every night to regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, and support your metabolism.
The best place to start getting rid of acne naturally is to address it using nutrition, supplement, and lifestyle modifications.
Dr. Kristin Spark, ND offers comprehensive hormone testing and personalized hormone balancing protocols with accountability and ongoing support to help reduce acne and get you feeling your best.