Once upon a time, it took me an hour and a half to get ready in the morning. This marathon primping session had nothing to do with wardrobe choices or hair products. And the extended prep took place years before I was a busy mom—so it wasn’t due to lost pacifiers or repeated diaper changes. No, the lengthy lead time that preceded any endeavor out of the house revolved around camouflaging one major problem: my skin.
Before I got my hormonal health under control, my face, chest, and back were covered in cystic hormonal acne. I couldn’t bring myself to step foot outside without my camouflage—layers of heavy, caked-on makeup to cover the painful, unsightly pimples. I didn’t know what was going on. I was in my early 20s and dealing with what I thought was a teenage problem. It wasn’t until years later that I understood that acne doesn’t have an age limit—it’s an equal-opportunity issue that has little to do with age and everything to do with hormones.
Trying everything to cure my acne, and facing disappointment
To say I was desperate was an understatement. I was willing to try anything and everything to make my acne disappear. I tried a long course of antibiotics that not only left my teeth permanently tinged with a slight yellow color but destroyed my gut microbiome so badly that I spent my entire freshman year of college with viruses, yeast infections, and flu-like symptoms. I tried to heal my skin from the outside in with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and even Retin-A, but nothing worked.
Knowing what I know now, it’s no surprise the products were a disappointment. The problem wasn’t superficial: It was stemming from a hormonal imbalance, the most common cause of adult women’s acne. The reason this hormonal turmoil plays out on the face is a combination of two health problems: a damaged and depleted gut microbiome and a deficiency in key micronutrients for skin health. This combo leads to the hormonal imbalance that ultimately causes acne.
5 supplements that help heal hormonal acne naturally
Once I figured out how to eat and live to support my hormones, as I explain in my book WomanCode, my skin not only cleared up, but it’s remained beautifully clear ever since. While I’m a firm believer in using food as the gentlest, most natural way to give your body what it wants, I know that supplements can be a great way to speed up the healing and recovery process and can help get you back on track quickly. Once your skin is more under control, you can maintain your gorgeous glow with the right foods.
Here are my five favorite supplements for dealing with hormonal acne:
For anyone desperate to see quick results, I recommend omega-3s: The difference can often be seen within days. Taking fish or flaxseed oil can help lead to clearer, softer, smoother skin as well as stronger hair and nails.
A healthy microbiome is essential for so many reasons, but research suggests that taking probiotics can also help heal skin problems including acne and rosacea. If you’ve been on the Pill or antibiotics for any length of time, probiotics could be key to getting your skin back on track.
Many women are deficient in this important element, causing the pores to become easily irritated by bacteria and the skin to look rough and red. A large-scale scientific study concluded that zinc supplementation is effective in treating acne. In addition to the supplement, I also recommend having a little bit of grass-fed liver—which is rich in copper and vitamin A—every week as part of a meal or as a snack. The copper balances out the zinc in your body, and your liver relies on vitamin A to clear excess hormones from your system. A well-functioning liver boosts your absorption of all vitamins and minerals and prevents deficiencies and hormone imbalances from developing in the first place.
If you’re low in magnesium, you can experience skin inflammation. Taking a supplement that combines magnesium with calcium can help lower the amount of C-reactive proteins in your body, which are the main cause of this inflammation. Adding calcium will help enhance your ability to regenerate skin cells.
B vitamins provide the energy your skin cells need to regenerate and renew. B6 prevents skin inflammation and overproduction of sebum (the oil your skin produces), so taking a good B-complex every day that includes a high level of B6 will help target hormonal or premenstrual acne.
Once you have the right information about how your hormonal system really works, you can start making health choices that work for you and get you back to the glowing, gorgeous skin you deserve.