If you’re reading this article, the chances are you’ve already experienced what it feels like to have acne, or, you know someone who’s been dealing with it.
Acne is a very common skin condition that many of us will face at some point in our lives.
Apart from a short phase of forehead spots during the beginning of puberty, I’d never really experienced acne. A few whiteheads here and there, and they’d disappear in a couple of days. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I had past my mid-twenties, that I then began to experience a particular form of acne…hormonal acne to be specific.
It was strange, and sudden. I really didn’t understand what was going on, and where all of these spots had decided to show up from. I had perfected my usual skincare routine and knew just what my skin needed in order to thrive, but for this, I simply wasn’t prepared.
I started to empathise more with frequent acne sufferers and what they must have to go through on a daily basis. I felt overwhelmed, when I would count the amount of spots I had in just one small area of my face. I felt as though my skin looked clogged and unhealthy. The most painful part for me however, was the constant scarring that each spot left behind after it had gone. I’ve struggled with hyperpigmentation for most of my life and it seemed that just as I had started to clear some of that up, I was back to square one.
Let’s be clear, this article is not to make anyone feel worse about the way their skin looks, or to make people feel ashamed of their acne. It was a big deal for me personally because I hadn’t dealt with it before and, oh yes, I am the owner of a skincare brand! Hardly the best way to promote my products.
After doing my research and observing patterns, I realised that my acne was linked to my hormones (add stress and sleep deprivation to the mix too).
What is Hormonal Acne and how does it start?
Acne can generally show up in different forms such as cysts, whiteheads, blackheads and can show up in different areas such as the chest and back area, along with the face. Hormonal acne is exactly what it sounds like – spots that are triggered by what’s happening internally with your hormones. Common hormonal triggers include; puberty, menstrual cycles, menopause, birth control and pregnancy.
A common sign of hormonal acne is the formation or spots/cysts around the lower part of the face, on the cheeks and around the jaw area.
How to Stop Hormonal Acne
I wish there were a ‘one size fits all’ answer for this, but there isn’t. For every person who deals with this kind of acne, there is a different route cause that needs to be identified. In my personal experience of dealing with hormonal acne, I suspect that there were changes happening in my body that were affecting my hormones and I was also dealing with health issues that could have been directly or indirectly impacting my hormonal balance. Solving or taming acne is going to look different for each of us, but here are a few steps that you can take, which helped my skin to cope and heal from hormonal acne:
1. Don’t strip your skin of moisture
When you’re experiencing acne, you can be tempted to remove oils from your skincare routine because you’re scared that they may make things worse. I chose to keep my products that contained oils. Acne is fuelled by bacteria and inflammation. Oils aren’t necessarily the issue and as long as you’re using the right kinds of oils that are light in texture, they probably won’t clog your pores. Excessively stripping the skin of moisture can lead to a compromised skin barrier. When your skin is damaged in this way, it can affect your natural pH levels, aiding in the formation of more bacteria, which directly influences acne. I stuck to using the Jierra Beauty Superior Complexion Antioxidant Serum every night to maintain my skin health. Plant-based oils are a great way to maintain your skin barrier.
2. Don’t be afraid to double-cleanse
Ever since I first found out about double-cleansing, I’ve never looked back. Yes, a double-cleanse is effectively cleansing your face twice. You only need to do this for your night time skincare, to take off all the build-up from the day’s activities. I swear by starting off with an oil-based cleanser, like a cleansing balm or cleansing oil first, followed by a regular cleanser in the form of cream or gel. Again, there’s no need to shy away from oils. The science behind this is that oil binds to oil, allowing the skin to be more effectively cleansed when trying to remove sweat, makeup, sunscreen and any other kind of build-up. Once again, I recommend natural, plant-based oils to use on your skin.
3. Keep your skin hydrated
When skin is dehydrated, two very common side-effects can happen; your skin starts to over-produce oil to compensate for the current dehydration, which can at times be overwhelming, and secondly, your skin can become inflamed, which doesn’t help if you’re dealing with acne. I made sure that I used hydrating serums daily, products that contained hyaluronic acid and glycerine, as well as using very light lotions that were majority water-based.
Tip – When reading an ingredients list on a product, each ingredient is listed in descending order in terms of percentage. If a lotion or serum’s first listed ingredient is water or ‘aqua’, then that product will be more hydrating than an anhydrous product like petroleum, mineral oil, or shea butter. None of these ingredients hydrate and they are likely to clog your pores if too much is used.
4. Exfoliate your skin, with caution
‘Acids’ can sound like a scary word if you don’t know a lot about skincare, however, there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to using acids as part of your skincare routine. The key is to use the right kind of acids, and not to overdo it. Using acids too frequently and in high quantities can really stress out your skin and make things worse. A lot of people are also unaware that the acids used in skincare are sometimes naturally derived from fruits and plants.
During my excessive breakouts I reached for lactobionic acid (PHA for short) and mandelic acid, both are really good if your skin type is sensitive or you’re new to acids because they’re more gentle. I also tried using glycolic acid too, which can help, as well as using a gentle, salicylic acid face wash daily (which my skin was able to tolerate). Salicylic acid is a great choice for acne-prone skin as it helps with the removal of dead skin and unclogging pores.
On the days where I didn’t want to use a chemical exfoliant, I reached for my Jierra Beauty, Serene Green Clay Mask, which offers a very mild exfoliation. What I like about it the most is its soothing properties to calm my skin. It includes ingredients such as green tea and organic spirulina, both known for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to help with acne. The natural clays also work as cleansing agents to leave my skin feeling revived and refreshed.
5. Consume a hormone balancing diet
After observing many symptoms, having lots of medical tests and doing my own research, I concluded that I needed to make certain diet changes in order to balance my hormones. These changes have been very personal but in a nutshell, I’ve been pursuing as many greens as possible, and an array of other colourful fruits and vegetables which surprisingly help your body with its production of necessary hormones. Where possible I consume whole foods and gut-friendly foods like kefir, natural yoghurt, sourdough bread and miso. Where I can, I buy organic. You can assume the basics when it comes to your skin, avoid excessive sugar and greasy processed foods.
Please always remember to consult with your doctor and nutritionist before making any radical changes to your diet.
Through being consistent and gentle with my skin, I’ve recently been able to get back on track to how my skin would normally be. The steps that I implemented helped me to manage my acne, as oppose to controlling it.
If you’re struggling from an ongoing and extreme case of acne, there are more practices and products that you can implement that I haven’t mentioned here, but ultimately, it would be a good idea to consider finding a dermatologist who can help you further.