Late 2016 I decided to quit poisoning my body with fake hormones. This meant transitioning from 11-12 years of the contraceptive pill to a non-hormone alternative.
It all went pretty well, but I was aware that there may be some „side-effects“ along the way. After all- you can say your body is „recovering“.
Early spring 2017 it got started- inflamed skin, deep spots, redness and pain. Obviously I didn’t go straight to the doctor’s, but decided to wait and experiment.
In this post I want to present my learnings battling hormonal acne. I know many women in ther late twenties or even older fighting this condition. I also know that I could of had it FAR worse, so I am really grateful it’s more or less „manageable“.
I am no dermatologist. What I am about to write does not equal the professional advice of a specialized doctor. What worked/works for me does not mean it will work for you.
This post may also contain brand names, which I have to declare as advertisement. I have not received a single dime for promotion/advertising.
- Benefits and changes from going hormone free
- Biggest fails while trying to battle hormonal acne on my own
- Skin care- products and regimen
- Dietary guide
Benefits and changes from going hormone free
There are countless experiences women have reported after quitting hormonal birth control: A natural feeling to the menstrual cycle, stronger sex drive, feeling less bloated, less water retention, purer emotional states etc.
For me- after being gifted with a spot-on menstrual cycle around full moon (super weird at first having felt the power of the moon like this) it was the huge improvement in bloating and water retention. Weight fluctuations have been minimal and I have the feeling it has helped dramatically in weight management.I have been able to maintain and acchieve a lower level of bodyfat with much more ease than the years before! My moods and emotions have felt a lot more „real“. Menstrual cramps and pain were also a lot lighter and more natural from what I had experienced all the 12 years before (!!).
The toughest change was my shift in estrogen and testosterone. Weight training seems to pay off a lot faster, building muscle now seems easier- which is super cool! With the higher level of testosterone- the acne came too unfortunately- which has motivated me to dedicate lots of time to this topic, the main objective of this post!
Biggest fails while trying to battle hormonal acne on my own
When you’ve had you body for almost 28 years you will think you know best about it. Thing is- this kind of arrogance/ignorance probably cost me some months!
The biggest fails:
- Trying to pop spots on my own, not paying enough attention to cleanliness
- Using a huge variety of different cleansers and peelings (this just disrupted my skin even more)
- Impatience- always looking for new solutions instead of sticking to one and letting it settle
- Trying to dry out my skin using lots of teatree oil and neglecting moisturizers, thinking this would reduce the oiliness and dry out spots
- Too much heavy makeup (especially in winter) to cover the redness and blemishes
- Beating myself up and letting low self-esteem creep into my life
Skin care products and regimen
So what actually started helping? On the one hand- being brutally pen about this topic really helped. Reaching out to others, sharing my experience. I got so many lovely messages and amazing advice from women going through or who had gone through this skin-trauma. So thank you to all of you who cared/ care!
I started chucking out random cosmetics that were not organic first- and stuff I had collected over time that was definitely no good anymore. What shall I say, I am a little cosmetic hoarder *sigh*. Really take good care of the expiry dates!
The probably best thing I did was go to a professional cosmetic dermatologist (do you call it that?!) to get a real good cleanse and facial analysis. I went to our salon located in our health club in Vienna (Mystyle by Hermine Wallner in our Holmes Place 14th district). Apart from a small discount for staff of Holmes Place I thought I’d give it a shot. Best thing ever. I have been going once per month or every 3-4 weeks since February/March or so. It started with a thorough examination of my skin (turned out mine is oily AND dry at the same time in the same areas WTF) giving me loads of insights and teaching me a good lesson or two about the mistakes I have been making. The cleanse involves deep cleaning, steaming, peeling, popping, desinfecting and moisturizing. Sometimes we use extra fruit acid or essential oils, depending on my skin’s mood and temper. It took about three sessions to see the big difference. It is so much better, I can’t tell you. The biggest win is the reduced deep inflamation! I still go once a month and I will continue getting professional facials even when it’s all over. You gotta take care of your largest organ after all! I learnt a lot about the right products. Upon suggestion of my skin-fairy I got a 4-6 week regimen using a fruit acid peeling and then an anti-inflammation moisturizer, both from the german cosmetic brand Dr.Grandl. Expensive as hell but worth every cent. I will probably do the peeling again in winter!
I stopped going crazy with commercial cleansers, toners and peelings and switched to facial soaps. My current favourite is the salt soap by Wiener Seife. It’s great for about any part of your body actually! I use ths in the morning (only a little) and at night. It takes all the make up off too! Now and again I will still use teatree products, but only if a spot is super inflamed.
For nights I use the Dr.Grandel moisturizer every other night and for daytime I currently use the teatree BB cream from The Bodyshop. That’s currently woking best for me!
Products won’t work wonders over night, so you’ve got to give it some time to settle in! Be patient!
I don’t use heavy make-up, unless there is an event or I am getting a lot of attention/spotlight/pictures. Otherwise it’s just my regular eye-makeup and bronzer.
Oh and for god’s sake girls… clean those bloody make up brushes! EVERY DAMN WEEK! Those fuckers are bacterial motherships eeww.
You are what you eat. Your skin is your biggest organ and will reflect your dietary habbits too!
It always depends on what you’ve been doing so far- hence everybody may rect to changes in dietary habits differently. These are my top tips to help your skin heal and prevent nasty breakouts:
- Drink your water /calorie free liquids like herbal tea. Aim for 2,5L a day or more! The total amount of water you need will also depend on your activity level and weight. Pro tip to crush those daily liquid goals: Aim to drink regularly, as in hourly. Don’t only drink when you’re thirsty- that’s too late. Go for 150ml-200ml per hour (x the hours you’re awake). You can only really absorb so much in a go and you don’t want to be running to the loo all the time right?!
- Go slow on the caffeine. Yes, I am a lousy caffeine addict myself. Caffeine may boost stress hormones which may have an impact on your facial skin. Also, too much caffeine may disrupt your gut flora- and your gut health will also relfect on your skin. If it’s the flavour you crave- go for decaf or just really reduce you over all intake. Surprisingly, when I did a caffeine detox in january, I had a lot more mental clarity when drinking matcha instead!
- A friend suggested drinking lots of rooibos tea (that red stuff)- orginially it’s from africa! I haven’t tested this extensively, but it’s worth a shot if you like it in general!
- Cut back on processed fats. Not too much oil, fatty foods and even nuts and avocado. Stick to the daily recommended servings.
- Cut back on salt- or actually the nutrient in salt-sodium! It is also found in meat, processed foods and corbohydrate rich snacks such as crisps. Instead season with herbs and spices instead!
- Monitor your (processed) sugar and carbohydrate intake. Insulin spikes may enhance inflamations and may increase your skin’s talcum production, causing more blockages in your pores!
- Focus on wholefood-plantbased products as the fundament of your diet. Even if you’re not vegan, you need your micronutrients and fibre which will improve gut health and overall health obviously. I really like the free app by Dr. Michael Greger called „Daily Dozen“. It’s super to monitor your daily plantbased food intake and will help you fill in any gaps! Give it a go, it helps planning meals and is easy/fun to read. That way you increase essential vitamins, minderals, phytonutrients and polyphenols which we all know boost our defense system and help fight any kind of inflammation. I stick to a 90% wholefood plantbased diet (10% vegetarian exceptions/cake haha) and have not only seen an improvement in my skin, but my overall health, performance and looks! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want some help on this task 🙂
- Incorporate berberin rich foods like red rice or barberries. The active compound -berberine- has shown great success in a clinical trial with teens suffering from acne vulgaris. Apart from that, barberries are packed with antioxidants (more than in for example goji berries!).
All in all- there is no magic trick. No magic creme or cleanser. No magic food.
What there is so- patience, positivity and consistency! Take advice from people with knowledge and experience. Make you notes on what works an what doesn’t.
You are not alone here- we are thousands tackling the same issues, in different degrees!
It will all pass- if you took the pill for an extended time- your body will need a bit more than a few months to get over the crap. Show it some love and patience, be sensible and reach out, when ever you feel like you have to!
I will continue to update you on my progress, experiences and research!
- Inheritable stimulatory effects of caffeine on steroidogenic acute regulatory protein expression and cortisol production in human adrenocortical cells. Chem Biol Interact. 2012 Jan 5;195(1):68-75. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22100783
- Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosom Med. 1990 May-Jun;52(3):320-36. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2195579