15 Tips for Skin Health and Hormone Balance
From the foods we eat, to our stress levels, to the products we use daily, there are many factors that contribute to hormone balance and skin health! The great news is that by getting to the root of skin disturbances and implementing various lifestyle adjustments, you will be able to support holistic healing, and prevent chronic skin issues from continuing to occur.
But it starts with understanding how hormone imbalances connect to skin disturbances and what can be done naturally to rebalance!
What is the hormone connection to skin disturbances?
ESTROGEN dominance occurs when our estrogen levels become too high in relation to progesterone, and can be the catalyst for a slew of unpleasant side effects including skin troubles - because of the body's inability to clear excess estrogen and properly detoxify. Eating cruciferous vegetables like kale, cauliflower and broccoli which contain a compound called DIM (Diindolylmethane), can help lower the body’s “estrogen burden” by boosting the metabolism and clearance of accumulations. Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) like soy, hemp and flaxseed have their own natural estrogenic properties that when consumed act as benign estrogens in the body to help boost and balance your own hormone levels. That said, you want to be mindful about eating too much soy and always choose organic & whole food based forms when you do. Tip: sprinkle a tablespoon of flax seeds into your smoothie or try these seed cycling balls 2 ways (made by our in-house health coach, Jess Suchan) as a hormone balancing midday snack (see both recipes below)! Upgrade your energy balls & shop Jess's latte blends here with code BALANCE10 for 10% off. Want to learn more about seed cycling for hormone balance and healthier skin? Watch our IGTV here!
TESTOSTERONE stimulates sebum-production (which protects your skin with natural oils), but overproduction of testosterone can cause acne.
Tip: If you're dealing with breakouts or cystic acne, try removing dairy for a few weeks and then slowly add it back in, using a food journal to track any skin disturbances that you experience as a result. If you notice that your breakouts are less frequent, this may be a sign that dairy is a contributing factor. Most dairy products are made with pregnant cows milk which contain hormones that can throw your own levels out of whack...in fact estimates of at least 11 different xeno "fake" hormones have been identified in the milk of hormone injected cows. You can check out the Instagram post we did on that here! Organic milk is a better option as these dairy cows will not be given rBGH or routine antibiotics, however dairy can still create inflammation in the body so we recommend enjoying it as a treat and experimenting with some of the great non-dairy alternatives like Miyoko’s, Kite Hill & Misha’s Kind Foods!
CORTISOL is the stress hormone released from your adrenal glands that - among other things, regulates blood glucose and insulin levels 24/7. When cortisol levels spike, sebum production becomes elevated often resulting in acne.
High cortisol levels also lead to sugar cravings and eating a diet high in sugar and processed carbs is a recipe for inflammation and skin breakouts that become hard to control.
In addition to reducing sugar (and foods that turn into sugar in the body), identifying and reducing chronic stressors (physical, emotional, metnatl) has to be a top priority. A few of our go-to’s: Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 breathing technique, Down Dog Yoga app, Shine App, getting outside for a walk in nature, signing up for a virtual painting or cooking class, giving & receiving a massage, journaling and meditation. Utilize the "power of no" in order to recommit to yourself and your goals! In addition, we recommend herbal tinctures like Mary Ruth Organics Ginseng Vitality Herbal Blend and HUM Nutrition's Uber Energy which contain adaptogenic herbs known to help balance hormones and reduce stress (use code 165CB1 for $10 off your first purchase).
Natural Suggestions for Improving Skin & Balancing Hormones
#1 - Test your hormones!
The best way to find out if a hidden hormone imbalance is at the root of your acne or skin breakouts? Get your hormones tested!
Learn more about our at-home saliva collection kit + all natural rebalancing packages here! (We test Estrogen, Progesterone, DHEA, Testosterone and Cortisol - 4 x over the course of one day and provide custom plans for rebalancing, based on test results).
#2 - Avoid Xenoestrogens
Our skin is our largest organ so we must be intentional about how we treat it! What gets absorbed through your skin can affect your gut microbiome, your hormones and your quality of life. You may have heard us talk about “xeno-estrogens” (i.e. estrogen mimickers found in cosmetics, skincare, cleaning supplies, cooking tools, household products, etc); when your body is flooded with these fake estrogens, your natural estrogen has to compete for space which can lead to estrogen dominance symptoms, and increased risk for cancers!
Studies have shown that on average, 60% of the chemicals in cosmetics end up in our bloodstream! The absorption rate of the skin on our face is 5-10 times higher than other parts of the body, so face products are a great place to start to switch to safer variations! Think: face wash, toner, foundation and concealer. There are also more estrogen receptors on our face than other parts of the body (such as arms or legs), which is why we can see a decrease in skin elasticity and an increase in wrinkling skin when estrogen levels are lower (due to a lack of protein and/or good fats in the diet, prolonged use of the birth control pill, or chronic stress).
Fortunately: once you stop using toxic skincare products, these chemicals leave your system fairly quickly (which means that it's never too late to make the switch)! Make sure to download the Skin Deep app by Environmental Working Group, which is an online guide that provides safety ratings for more than 78,000 cosmetics and other personal care products and more than 2,500 brands! Search for the brands you use most frequently and choose the ones that are rated the highest to swap out first. Also check out DetoxMeTuesday.com as a great resource for finding cleaner alternatives that actually work!
#3- Incorporate Omega 3’s
Omega 3 is the essential fatty acid that our body cannot produce on its own, and is therefore found in foods like wild-caught salmon, fish oils, nuts, seeds and through supplementation. Omega 3’s lower high cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, support brain health, joints, heart, and eyes, and reduce inflammation in the body linked with acne, oily skin and breakouts. Studies of women with PCOS and high androgens linked with skin breakouts showed higher omega 6’s (abundant in safflower, sunflower and corn oils), so its important to supplement w/ the correct balance of omega 3’s and omega 6’s. We love Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega 3 because it's made from cold-water fish with GLA and oleic acid (omega-9) from cold-pressed borage seed oil & has a fresh lemon taste. We also love that they have a potent, non-GMO vegan Algae Omega supplement too!
If you're not consuming enough of these healthy fats, your skin is likely to be dry, itchy, and prone to breakouts!
#4 - Incorporate Zinc
A deficiency of zinc is associated with breakouts and acne, so make sure your daily eating routine includes foods that contain zinc, such as grass-fed beef, chickpeas, green beans, sesame and pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, garlic, oysters, crab and lobster, steel-cut oats, a square of dark chocolate (we love @beautybarchocolate) and/or cashews -- which also support a healthy digestive tract and improve skin health.
As Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Real Nutrition NYC explains in this article, zinc works with other vitamins and minerals to help treat skin lesions, and when taken orally, it can decrease the severity of acne and early signs of maturing skin (lines, wrinkles, spots, etc.). If applied topically via products containing zinc oxide, the mineral has been shown "to protect the skin and aid in wound healing and regeneration." This is why, she explains, zinc oxide is so often found in high-performing sunscreens, as it can reflect the sun and creates a barrier between the skin and any damaging UV rays!
#5 - Reduce Sugar / Low Glycemic Food Plan
Too much sugar increases insulin and insulin-like growth hormone (IGF-1), both of which are inflammatory and can increase androgens like testosterone and DHEA linked with oily skin and breakouts!
A great way to reduce sugar and balance blood sugar levels is to consider a lower glycemic way of eating. The low-GI food plan has been shown to reduce androgens by up to 20 percent and lower levels of insulin growth factor (IGF-1) known to be inflammatory and to affect 2 to 3 important aspects of acne: the growth of skin cells, skin-cell production of androgens, and rate of oil production. Foods with a Glycemic Load (GL) below 10 are rated as low-GL foods and have little impact on your blood sugar; GL foods between 10 and 20 have a moderate impact on blood sugar, and foods above 20 are high GL foods that are known to cause blood sugar spikes.
Aim to consume sugar in moderation (focusing on more natural sources like fruit, organic honey, and maple syrup) and become more aware of the places it sneaks into your daily routine (i.e. sodas, juices, salad dressings, crackers, snack foods, etc). The World Health Organization recommends no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day for women so it can be eye-opening to total up a single day and see where you might be able to make a few swaps or changes!
Read more about this diet HERE.
#6 - Fiber
Fiber-rich foods like dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal cleanse the colon and promote good gut bacteria that helps prevent breakouts and get rid of acne.
Fiber combined with the low GI-eating plan is vital to slowing the absorption of sugars from the GI tract into the bloodstream (thus reducing insulin spikes, inflammation, breakouts and sugar cravings!). Some of the best ways to make sure we retain the good fiber is to steam or lightly sauté vegetables, eat the whole fruit instead of fruit juice and potatoes with the skin on for maximum fiber intake.
If you have trouble getting enough in, we recommend adding a tasty fiber beverage like this one by Bellway but always recommend aiming for whole food sources first!
#7- Eat More Protein
Organic hormone-free sources like grass-fed beef, organic chicken, wild-caught fish and pasture raised eggs help stabilize blood sugars - which is a major must in the fight against acne.
Protein smoothies are also a great way to start the day, but keep the high-glycemic banana or pineapple add-ins to a minimum & focus on more antioxidant rich berries! Adding a tablespoon of Daily Turmeric to your smoothie is a smart way to benefit from its awesome anti-inflammatory powers. We highly recommend this delicious plant-based protein powder by Plantworks Nutrition (use code YHB15 for 15% off and free shipping)!
#8 - Reduce / Avoid Dairy
Milk & cheese have been shown to increase a protein enzyme that increases inflammation, which we know can contribute to, or worsen oily skin and acne.
Some of our favorite plant-based swap outs include:
#9 - Eat Organic, Thin Skinned Fruits
Buy organic thin skinned fruits like berries of all kinds, grapes, pears, apricots, peaches, etc
We are huge fans of the farm to table veggie delivery service, Imperfect Foods which not only fights food waste but also offers discounted pricing and both perishable and non-perishable groceries too...get $10 off your first order here!
We know shopping organic can be more expensive so we recommend referring to the "Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen List" put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) each year. As much as possible, prioritize purchasing the produce items listed on the "dirty dozen" organic.
#10 - Eat probiotic rich foods
Such as goat & coconut kefir and fermented vegetables, probiotics that populate the gut and create a healthy barrier to the inflammation that can trigger breakouts and chronic acne.
Farmhouse Culture is a great place to kick off your sauerkraut experience!
Redwood Hill Farm is a wonderful brand of goat's milk kefir & tends to be much easier on the digestive tract than most other dairy products
#11 - Eat Vitamin-A rich foods
Including spinach, kale, sweet potatoes and carrots combat infection to speed healing and help stop cystic acne.
#12 - Eat Liver supportive foods
Cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and cauliflower) as well as leafy greens and high-fiber fruits, such as pears and apple, support liver function and detoxification.
#13 - Drink Water!
Divide your body weight in half, and that is the number of ounces of water you should drink in a day. It is so important to drink tons of water to flush toxins and keep the skin hydrated. Tip: add a straw to slurp down more!
#14 - Healthy Skincare
Find a routine that works for you and your skin type! Check out this skin mapping chart to get a deeper understanding of where your breakouts may be originating. It reveals possible underlying causes of skin conditions so you can find a regime that supports the clear & vibrant skin you deserve to have!
#15 - Consider Key Supplements
The following supplements are known to support hormone balance and improve skin health! Consistent monthly use will yield best results.
Note: some of these supplements do have an effect on healthy hormone levels, so it is ideal to test your hormones upfront, before introducing new supplements to ensure your hormone balancing protocol is personalized to you / your unique levels.
- Fish oil - Nordic Naturals Fish Oil & Algae Oil for Vegans (1,000 milligrams of fish oil /cod liver oil daily or 3,000 milligrams of flaxseed or chia seed oil)
- Fiber - 25-40 grams daily
- DIM (100 -250 mg. per day) - an extract of cruciferous vegetables that assists hormone metabolism and has natural acne control properties
- Vitex (225 milligrams of vitex/chasteberry). This herbal remedy is specifically recommended for hormonally induced acne. Note: Vitex is not recommended for women with insulin resistant based PCOS & high LH levels.
- Vitamin A Palmitate/acetate - 5000 - 10,000IU daily - converted to retinol by the liver, this vitamin stimulates production of new skin cells and increases hydration
- Vitamin C 2000 mg (2gm) a day - contains strong antioxidant properties that help with collagen synthesis, repairing and healing skin, and increase effectiveness of sunscreen
- Zinc up to 30 mg a day (can be included in a multivitamin /mineral)
- Invest in a high-quality probiotic like Seed to repopulate the good bacteria & eat probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and enjoy kombucha like HealthAde in place of sugary sodas!
Bottom Line: What manifests on the outside of your skin (acne, wrinkles, dark circles) is usually a reflection of what's going on inside, so before turning to harsh chemical cover-ups and medications, work to get to the root first! You’ve got this!
Interested in testing your hormone levels and getting started on an all-natural rebalancing plan? Check out our at-home hormone testing + consulting packages HERE