Addressing Hormonal Acne and its Relationship to Thyroid Health


Addressing Hormonal Acne and its Relationship to Thyroid Health: Part 2

Today, I’m going to discuss what hormonal acne is, its complexities, and how acne relates to thyroid and hormone imbalances. As women, we strive for a smooth and flawless complexion. When it seems like we are doing everything right we still might be experiencing breakouts. This can be extremely frustrating! I want to ease your frustration and help you achieve glowing skin.  Let’s begin by defining what hormonal acne is.

What is hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne appears most frequently on your chin and jawline. The more your hormones become unbalanced, the more you might notice it spreading to your cheeks. Other locations might also include your shoulders and back because this is where testosterone receptors are located.

Hormonal acne typically appears as cysts that are pus-filled bumps that are red and inflamed. However, it doesn’t have to be as extreme. Hormonal acne might also appear as smaller lesions that are less painful but still hang around.

testosterone and its role in skin health

We often think of men having testosterone. Did you know women also produce it? It can become a problem for women when we start producing too much and we cannot utilize it all. Excess anything in the body has to go somewhere. So it ends up on the skin in the form of painful, cystic breakouts. Too much testosterone also means too much skin oil.  Extra oil ends up clogging the pores and causes more breakouts. When your pores become clogged it increases the inflammation.

Blood Sugar Imbalance & chronic acne

Chronically high blood sugar and imbalances may increase testosterone production.  As a result, more testosterone enters the bloodstream, resulting in extra skin oil and more hormonal breakouts. It is not just about giving up your lattes and donuts! It is easy to see the obvious - that cookies, donuts, ice cream, and soda are harmful to our health. But eating an abundance of sweet potatoes, starchy vegetables, plantains and other starchy paleo/AIP approved foods can throw you into blood sugar imbalances too!

  • Are you constantly craving carbs?

  • Do you feel fatigued and tired after you eat carbohydrates?

  • Do you experience fluctuating energy throughout the day?

  • Are you easily irritable?

If you said, yes to these, then you might be experiencing blood sugar regulation issues. It would be recommended to ditch the sugar for a time period to help your body re-regulate.

The Stressful Impact

Americans experience stress every single day. I think we are all familiar with the common stressors - traffic jams, deadlines at work, school events, relationship problems, financial struggles, etc. But let’s say you have one day free of all of the typical life stressors. Do you think you are still experiencing stress? There is a pretty good chance that the answer is YES! You still can be experiencing internal stressors. Eating processed and refined foods, consuming bad oils like canola or safflower oil, or not getting enough sleep, plus the addition of environmental toxins can all cause internal stress on your body.

For those of us with autoimmune conditions, our immune system becomes overactive and starts attacking another organ in our body. In my case the thyroid gland. With those of us in this category, we typically have symptoms as a result - acne breakouts, undigested food in our stool, rashes and other skin issues, stomach cramping or bloating, headaches and sensitivities to smells.  These are all stressors from digestive dysfunction, leaky gut, and possible infections or parasites. Even regulating your thyroid hormones can cause stress as an imbalance can sometimes make it difficult to heal your leaky gut. Sounds like a vicious cycle, huh? Although daunting, it is important to not stress because again that impacts your acne. Remember to breathe, take small steps and remember it is a process. Hormonal balance is not something that can be achieved overnight but by building a strong foundation and using additional strategies you will be making progress.

Result of High Cortisol

Chronically high-stress levels, internal or external, triggers the adrenal glands to constantly release cortisol to keep going. As stress continues, adrenal health is made a priority over the sex hormones which causes a hormonal imbalance.  Our hormones are like a fine-tuned orchestra where all organs have an important part to making beautiful music. When an organ becomes exhausted, it might come in late to a song and is unable to give it his all. As the adrenals, become more worn out from blood sugar imbalances and poor diet it can lead to pituitary and thyroid issues.

Hypothyroidism and Acne

When you are experiencing, hypothyroidism symptoms the body has difficulty converting cholesterol to the steroid pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA. Progesterone is key to preventing acne and both proper vitamin A and thyroid hormones help to keep it in check. But it isn’t as easy as increasing your vitamin A amounts because too much vitamin A can suppress your thyroid which as described above can cause problems. It is a good idea to have your vitamin levels checked periodically.

Hypothyroidism also increases your bodies inflammation and makes it difficult to regulate your blood sugar. As previously mentioned, blood sugar regulation is step one of balancing hormones and here we are talking about another form of stress again. Do you see how the thyroid has many complexities but that we have to get to the root cause of the underlying issues? Even those of us with Graves' disease can experience hypothyroid symptoms as our hormones are working to become regulated.

Healthy sources of quality, organic fats paired with good digestion practices can help the body utilize the cholesterol and use it more efficiently to produce progesterone. Sources of fat are essential for making hormones and help support a healthy cell membrane. I recommend eating fat sources like grass-fed butter (or ghee), pastured pork lard, and grass-fed beef tallow and diversifying what quality fats you use to keep in balance. By including healthy fats into our diet, we are helping our bodies reduce stress and inflammation while supporting blood sugar balance.

Monitor your Thyroid

A complete panel of thyroid labs should be done often to monitor your levels. If you are not working with a functional doctor, this can be more challenging because health insurance often only pays for them on a predetermined frequency. Endocrinologists have told me that measuring my thyroid labs every 5-6 weeks is way too frequent, however, my functional doctor and research I have done believes differently.

Thyroid labs to have checked:

  • TSH - communication from your pituitary

  • Free T3 - amount of active hormone in our blood

  • Free T4 - amount of storage hormone available

  • Total T3 - includes free + bound hormone

  • Total T4 - includes free + bound hormone

Tame the Toxins

The thyroid gland is extremely sensitive to stress and toxins. I covered examples of stressors above. Toxins like iodine, bromine, and chloride are classified as iodine-mimicking. That means because your thyroid gland is particularly sensitive to toxins these mimicking chemicals come in and take the place of the iodine needed to produce thyroid hormones.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals in our homes, skin care products and household cleaners can be yet another trigger of hormonal imbalances within your body. When there are extra hormones and toxins within our body, our liver becomes sluggish. This makes it difficult to keep up with the demands of detoxifying. Many times, the toxins have no place to go and we find them on our skin in the form of rashes and breakouts.

Toxins like BPA, parabens, and fragrance impact your estrogen levels making you more likely to be estrogen dominant. This can lead to reproductive difficulties, increase fat deposits, and early onset of puberty in boys and girls. To make a simple switch in your home, eliminate plastics especially food storage containers and switch to wide mouth mason jars or glass storage containers. For skin care and household cleaners, use The Never List and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Healthy Living app as a guide to determine the toxicity level in products.

This informational post is the second one of my acne series. Be sure to read the first one, 3 Ways to Start Improving Your Skin with Nutrition and be on the look-out for my third post on products to help tame the hormonal acne beast!