Hormonal Acne: 3 Essential Nutrients that Fight Skin Inflammation

Hormonal Acne: 3 Essential Nutrients that Fight Skin Inflammation

Struggling with acne or skin inflammation and unsure of the root cause or how to treat it effectively? Inflammatory skin conditions, such as hormonal acne, can be attributed to a wide variety of root causes. In order to be treated effectively, we need to first understand the main drivers of these conditions, and then work to heal from the inside out. 

Hormonal acne can be stubborn and painful! It’s typically present along the jawline, chin, neck and cheeks and is often cystic in nature, meaning the breakouts are typically deep, red, and tender. 

Hormonal acne can be driven by low estrogen levels as well as increased androgen levels, which are those “male” sex hormones like DHEA and testosterone. Blood sugar dysregulation and elevated insulin levels are also significant drivers of hormonal acne. This happens by triggering a stress response and the release of cortisol, our main stress hormone. In turn, this promotes an increase in androgens.

We can determine these root causes through advanced lab testing, and can implement nutrition and lifestyle strategies to resolve hormonal acne at its core. Let’s dive into some essential nutrients that we can include in our diet right now to help fight skin inflammation.


1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that are considered essential, meaning our body cannot make them, and we must get them through diet or supplementation. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of each of our cell membranes and are critical for brain, eye, and heart health. Omega-3s also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and have been shown to be effective in helping fight skin inflammation and treating inflammatory skin conditions such as acne.

We get omega-3s from fish, such as salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel, as well as walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and avocado. It may also be beneficial to supplement with an omega-3 fish oil supplement, particularly if you are dealing with high levels of inflammation or if you find it difficult to include these food sources into your diet.


2. Fiber

Consuming fiber helps slow the speed that glucose enters our bloodstream helping to prevent a spike in insulin, which is our blood sugar regulating hormone. As mentioned, elevated insulin levels increase androgen production in the body, which can increase sebum production and contribute to clogged pores and acne development. Blood sugar balance itself can also cause inflammation by increasing cortisol levels.

By consuming fiber, we can help keep glucose and insulin levels under control. By consuming prebiotic fibers in particular, we also are feeding our gut microbiome. Gut health and skin health are very intimately connected, with our skin being an outward reflection of our internal environment. 

In addition to feeding our beneficial gut bacteria, fiber helps promote bowel regularity. Having a complete bowel movement at least once per day is the final step in our body’s natural detoxification process and our way of eliminating toxins, excess hormones, and other waste products. If we aren’t eliminating regularly and these toxins or hormones are recirculated, this can increase the toxic burden on the liver, trigger inflammation, and exacerbate hormonal acne.

The key is fiber diversity. We get a variety of fibers in the diet by consuming a wide variety of plant foods. Berries, avocados, dark leafy greens, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are all great sources of fiber. Garlic, onions, asparagus, artichokes, and beans are especially good sources of prebiotic fibers. When choosing starches to balance out your plate, go for fiber-rich starch sources, such as quinoa, squash, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and other root vegetables.


3. Flavonoids & Antioxidants

Flavonoids encompass a variety of families of phytochemicals, or plant-based compounds, that are found in fruits, vegetables, teas, herbs, and spices. These classes of phytochemicals include flavonols, isoflavones, and anthocyanins, to name a few.

Flavonoids have powerful antioxidant properties, scavenging free radicals to decrease oxidative stress in the body and protect cells against damage. These antioxidant flavonoids also have antiinflammatory effects, beneficial for skin health! 

Flavonoids have also been shown to be beneficial for improved fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity, in addition to lowering inflammation. They’ve also been shown to increase antioxidant enzyme activity in the liver, helping to promote detoxification of excess hormones and waste products.

We can find these powerhouse nutrients in green tea, dark berries, citrus fruits, garlic, dark leafy greens, olive oil, cocoa, and herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. 


Get to the Root of Your Skin Troubles!

It’s important to distinguish hormonal acne from other inflammatory skin conditions such as fungal acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis, which can be done through advanced lab testing. If you’re struggling with hormonal acne or other inflammatory skin conditions, working with a practitioner 1:1 can provide personalized guidance and support to identify your root causes, and help heal your skin from the inside out.


Written by Romana Brennan, MS, RD

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