Have you ever gone to bed on the eve of your period with flawless, blemish-free skin, only to wake up with a face full of pimples? If so, you’re not alone – about half of those who bleed will experience hormonal acne at some point during their reproductive years. And when hormones go haywire in the premenstruum (the phase just before menstruation), our skin can go a bit wild, too. Luckily, there are steps we can take to stop hormonal acne at its source, naturally – from eating hormone-balancing foods to using plant-based topical treatments. All you have to do is stick to a routine that suits you, and you’ll be on your way to glowing skin even on your heavy flow days.
Hormones, your skin, and you
As we discussed in our blog post, ‘The 4 seasons of menstruation (and how to make the most of the weather)’, the premenstruum (day 20 through 28 of a 28-day cycle) is like the ‘highway to hell’ in that the hormone progesterone dominates. Energy levels plummet, emotional sensitivity increases and – you guessed it – hormonal acne begins to make an appearance. Fluctuations in hormones, especially progesterone, cause an increase in oil production and overall skin inflammation, creating a perfect storm that usually ends in one big breakout. If you’re under the age of 18, it’s not uncommon to see acne pop up in your T-zone (the forehead and nose), but if you’re a bit older, you’ll usually see pimples in the lower half of your face.
If you suffer from acne, you’ve likely tried the usual suspects: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and maybe even antibiotics or vitamin A derivatives. But what if we told you there were natural ways to minimise acne, and that they’re backed by science? If your acne is distressing to you, by all means, visit your GP or a dermatologist – but nature offers quite a few skin-clearing treatments that are worth trying, too.
- Zinc supplements. Zinc is one of the most well-studied natural treatments for acne, and it’s shown promising results. Many people who suffer from acne have been found to have low zinc levels in the blood (a common problem amongst vegetarians and vegans), which can contribute to acne. Taking a zinc supplement, found at your local chemist or health food store, can help rebalance your hormones and reduce inflammation in the skin.
- Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil, used in Australia for its healing properties, has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have shown that it’s comparable in effectiveness to the popular acne treatment, benzoyl peroxide, but with fewer side effects. To get the most from tea tree oil, try diluting it and using it as a spot acne treatment, as it may be too strong to use on larger areas of the face.
- Witch hazel. Our American in-house copywriter and her family have used witch hazel for generations – the North American shrub is touted for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and skin-calming properties. While little research has been done to examine witch hazel’s effectiveness in treating acne, early studies do show that it can help reduce redness, inflammation and any acne-related pain. (And our copywriter swears by it.)
- Vitamin C. While not an acne treatment per se, vitamin C is the skin brightening treatment du jour. If acne has made your skin look ruddy or dull, try reaching for a cleanser, toner or moisturiser laced with vitamin C to restore your skin’s glowy appearance.
- Healthy diet. It probably comes as no surprise that healthy skin starts with a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. A nutritionally balanced diet full of leafy greens, lots of water and plenty of Omega 3 fish oils can help keep hormones (and skin) in balance. Omega 3s are especially important as they’re known to reduce inflammation, but if you don’t eat fish, try reaching for a vegan Omega 3 supplement instead.
At &SISTERS HQ, natural remedies are a key part of our daily skincare routine, and they help us keep hormonal breakouts to a minimum. But if your hormonal acne is causing you major distress, it’s always a good idea to pop in for a chat with your GP.