Young Female with Acne Vulgaris

What if it’s not Hormonal Acne?

Category: Hormonal Acne

While we know that hormones play a big part in the development of acne for some, for others, even working on their hormonal imbalances has no impact on their skin.

From a naturopathic perspective, it’s important to look at our bodies, lifestyle and diet as a whole. Treating things holistically means taking everything into account rather than treating each symptom in a vacuum.  So even when I am working with someone to re-balance their hormones, we are always aware of how much other factors are impacting them, such as:

  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Gut health
  • Skincare
  • External exposure to bacteria, sweat, chemicals
  • The local skin microbiome

Sometimes working on one of these aspects without addressing another will mean results can take longer or not happen at all.

Gut Health

Top things to investigate if your acne is NOT hormonal:

Gut Health

Our gut microbiome is comprised of trillions of bacteria, and each of these can have a negative or positive effect on our health. Research into gut microbiome and acne tells us that an imbalance in our microbiome species, otherwise known as dysbiosis, is a key factor in determining whether someone will get acne or not.

The first step to understanding your gut health is checking for symptoms, such as

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion or reflux
  • Burping or flatulence
  • Food intolerances
  • Abdominal pain

Sometimes another clue that your gut could be involved is that you were put on antibiotics for your skin, and this helped to clear things up temporarily.

If you have any of these symptoms, gut microbiome testing can help you get to the bottom of your symptoms.


Young Female with Acne Vulgaris

Other Skin Conditions

Acne vulgaris is the main form of acne that we see caused by hormones, when an increase in androgens causes a rise in sebum, leading to pimples. However, sometimes what we think could be acne vulgaris is something completely different that won’t respond to hormone treatments in the same way. Here are some skin conditions commonly mistaken for acne vulgaris

  • Folliculitis
  • Staph infection
  • Acne rosacea
  • Peri oral dermatitis

These other conditions can be treated using naturopathy once you find the underlying cause, and there are many herbs, nutrients and dietary strategies to get things back in balance.

Post Pill Acne

Following the use of hormonal birth control, we can experience a temporary rise in our hormones as things go back to normal. This is because our body will prevent our hormones from being made while on the pill, to make sure we don’t have too many hormones circulating alongside the synthetic ones. Once we stop, our hormones can experience a surge when they start to kick back in, which can lead to an increase in acne and other hormonal symptoms.

This can start 3-6 months post-pill and continue for up to 12 months before stopping, and in some cases, it will get better on its own. In other cases, this imbalance persists and needs to be addressed holistically, employing hormone testing, diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine to reduce acne.

Food intolerance or sensitivity

Nutrition is an extremely important part of any naturopathic care plan.  In general, following a whole food, fibre-rich diet with plenty of good quality protein will set you up with a great foundation. However, some people experience food sensitivities, allergies or intolerances that can cause acne breakouts, so this is always something to investigate.

Person saying No to Cow's Milk

Cow’s milk dairy

For some people, cow’s milk dairy can increase certain hormones in the body to contribute to acne, so it can be helpful to reduce or avoid this while investigating the cause. The case in cow’s dairy can increase something called Insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which in turn can impact hormones and blood sugar levels. If this is the case for you, hormonal balancing might help to some degree, but dairy could be contributing to this.

High carb diets

High carbohydrate diets can increase acne by increasing insulin levels, so implementing a LOW glycemic index (GI) diet can be helpful.

Low-GI foods take longer for the body to break down and use as energy, such as brown rice, quinoa, whole grains and legumes.


Gluten Variety of Foods


For those with coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten intolerance, gluten can be inflammatory, causing an increase in breakouts. If you suspect that gluten-containing foods cause symptoms for you, you might try cutting it out for 6-8 weeks (about 2 months) to see if you feel better or testing for coeliac disease at your GP.

Acne is rarely caused by just one factor, which is why as naturopaths we have an advantage over conventional treatments because they only address one aspect at a time.

A holistic approach to your health not only means you will get results more readily but also feel better overall.

To get tested, to get balanced and to get your acne fixed you can either call us, Happy & Healthy Wellbeing Centre, at 02 2 9524 2471 or book your initial consultation online.

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