Hormonal acne triggers

Hormonal acne – top three triggers for breakouts

Hormonal acne is very common, see the impact of hormones on your skin.

However, there are numerous causes of acne, we know acne is multifactorial. But hormonal acne is very common and often associated with PCOS or post-pill acne. Some key things you may not that would indicate hormonal acne include:

  • You will see acne along with the lower third of the face, the back, shoulders and neck
  • Your acne will also be cyclic in nature, flaring up and clearing at certain times of your menstrual cycle.
  • The oral contraceptive pill will also improve your acne.

So if you are suffering from hormonal acne. These are the top triggers I see.

1. Insulin Resistance.

Think coffee on an empty stomach, sugary sweet snacks, processed food and low protein and fibre with main meals. Eating to support blood sugar. Stabilising and supporting healthy blood sugar levels, reduce overall inflammation. Inflammation disrupts the communication between our hormones. Insulin resistance also encourages the ovaries to make more androgens. 

As above coffee can impact insulin levels. I am not saying you can’t have a coffee! I won’t suck that much fun out of your life.

However, starting the day on a long black is a big no-no. Coffee can disrupt insulin levels for 5 hours after consumption. Hello, inflammation. Having a coffee during a meal will mitigate this impact.

2. Consuming a lot of dairy products.

This can be a sensitive topic, love their milk! Yes, milk is high in protein and a source of calcium. The issue is the type of dairy, butter vs ice cream vs organic Greek yoghurt – are all going to have a different impact on the body.

A large study showed any dairy, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, was associated with an increased OR for acne in individuals aged 7–30 years

When it comes to dairy it can be a tolerance thing, a little butter and some feta is well tolerated but daily exposure to poor quality dairy can increase inflammation and here is how.

  • Milk-derived amino acids promote insulin secretion and induce hepatic insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) synthesis.
  • IGF-1 has been suggested as a driver of acne as it stimulates follicular epithelial growth and keratinization.
  • IGF-1 gene polymorphism has been shown to increase susceptibility to acne and IGF-1 plasma levels correlate with acne severity.

What does this actually mean? Sticky cells, not shedding normally causing a build-up around the follicle coupled with inflammation, and subsequent lesions characteristic of acne.

3. Refined Sugar

I am not talking about fruit; fruit has multiple benefits. I am specifically talking about packaged foods high in date syrup, corn syrup, refined sugar, or artificial sweeteners.

Glycaemic load, also called GL, is a similar concept to glycaemic index (GI) and refers to the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. GL also takes into account the number of carbohydrates present in the foods. Refined carbohydrates, for example, white bread, white rice and processed ‘junk’ foods are high-GI foods. They cause blood sugar levels to rise sharply.

  • A high blood sugar level resulting from a high-GL diet increases insulin signalling and the activity of a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor-1 or IGF-1.
  • The end result of increased levels of IGF-1 is an increase in oil (sebum) production in skin cells, where acne develops.
  • Insulin and IGF-1 also increase the production of androgens (such as testosterone) from the adrenal glands and increase how readily available these hormones are.
  • It is well known that androgens play a role in the development of acne.

What next?

If your skin is breaking out and you are sure it’s hormonal acne, yet you are struggling to clear your skin! Let me help, I support women naturally to improve their skin and overall health. Book a discovery call and we can talk through your options to heal your hormonal acne, what acne treatment looks like and what you can expect from working together!



Lindsay Carter Nautropath

Naturopathy is a holistic approach to wellness and health. Lindsay works to support women experiencing PCOS and acne.


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