How hormones and food affect acne

54%of adult Australian Women suffer with acne!

It is such a large number and considering how embarrassing and self conscious they make us feel, I really think we need to sit down chicks and sort this out!

Having suffered with pesty pimples on and off over my life I have felt the myriad of emotions they create.

"Am I eating the wrong thing, is it my hormones, why do I deserve this?"

All in all, pimples, acne, red nasty marks on our face make us feel ugly.

Even though our friends tell us we are not.

So what is going on?

Why are so many grown up women suffering with acne and pimples?

The answers started arriving to me in such clarity a few years ago. Actually 10 years ago when I had a hormone back down.

I won't go into the details now (I talk about it more in my book Beauty & the Beast Within) but it was a personal journey that has lead me to now specialise in hormones.

It was only during the recovery process that I started to realise my personal battle with pimples and acne was due to hormones and food!

Pimples are skin pores (where the hair follicle exits) that can produce extra oil, trap in bacteria or are inflammed from within.

Sometimes pus builds up (white head) or bacteria or dirt can get trapped leading to a black head.

Acne, hormones & food.

I would say that majority of pimple and acne sufferers will have a hormone imbalance and usually a food intolerance.

There may also be a gut dysbiosis issue (overgrowth of the wrong types and numbers of bacteria in your gut, or parasites or any gut issue). and there may be a liver detoxification issue. Some facial products and shampoos/conditioners can also aggravate your skin but by in large these are not as important issues as hormones and food.

However majority of skin issues will be improved by balancing your hormones and by sorting out the right foods for you to eat.

In my clinic I help young people come off roacutane (the sooner the better - this is a dangerous drug) and help people avoid going on it in the first place.

Overall I have approximately a 65-75% success rate in helping people with acne.


I find most acne is driving by hormone imbalances and food intolerances

Hormones & Acne

There are many hormones that can contribute to pimples and acne and I find doing a saliva hormone test really good for determining which ones are out of balance. ( I explain why a saliva test is more accurate than a blood test in other blogs).

The typical hormone imbalances that I see are: high testosterone, high cortisol-insulin and high estrogen.

I have written extensively about these hormones in other blogs (look under my search bar for more information and videos).

These are some take home points.

What causes high testosterone?

Stress will increase your testosterone and cortisol both of which impact on insulin levels which can lead to altered glucose metabolism (and pimples).

Testosterone also goes up with anger, high carb diets, binge drinking and women who work in male environments.

More about high testosterone here.

What causes high cortisol or altered insulin levels?

Cortisol is our stress hormone. So when we feel under perceived harm, we release cortisol.

Insulin is a hormone released into our blood stream when we eat carbohydrates to help the sugar (glucose molecule) into the cell where it is used for energy.

Both increase our blood sugar levels.

Insulin (and testosterone) need a key vitamin called inositol to activate receptor sites on the cell. Without this activation, serum testosterone levels can go up (common in PCO) or serum insulin levels can go up. Both may result in pimples.

What causes high estrogen?

Estrogen can go up with exposure to the pill, HRT, hormones in meats, pesticides/weedicides.

Because estrogen and testosterone are two of the main causes of acne in your women, I treat these with supplements initially to get control and then we do the lifestyle-food interventions long term to keep the acne away.

If you would like more information on these two hormones this ebook discusses them more. Beauty and the Beast Within.

To balance hormones try:

  • eating very clean
  • eating hormone free meats
  • eating organic vegetables
  • avoiding soft drinks
  • only eat when you are relaxed
  • manage your stress

Balancing your hormones is very liberating - not just for your skin but for your mental health, your periods, your weight, your energy levels and sleep.

Hormone balancing is much better managed by "natural practitioners" and putting women on the pill for their skin issues only "masks" the underlying issue which is a hormone imbalance.

Food and acne

The greatest causes of gut disturbance and intolerances are: eggs, peanuts, dairy and gluten.

People are shocked to hear that food causes pimples but it makes sense right?

What we eat affects our health and skin. And in case you haven’t heard the skin is the largest organ of the body, so it is affected the most!

Dairy is particularly problematic for skin.

It’s not so much the sugar lactose either, it’s the casein (the protein in the milk) which is really hard for humans to break down.

We are simply not baby cows and don’t have the right enzymes in our guts.  (Enzymes are the chopping axes that our body uses to break up proteins otherwise they stay long strings of amino acids). Further down the gut tract in the small intestine the body gets very confused with these long non-broken-up protein strands. It may mistake them for bacteria or viruses and this can activate the immune system. At the very least it confuses the gut wall and can create inflammation.

It's not just skin conditions that can be affected by dairy. Overall I am not a fan of dairy.

Through observation in my clinic, published research and also testing people's IG g responses on allergy testing, people always have a reaction to dairy.

It is implicated in the following conditions: thyroid disorders, IBS, acne, PCO, endometriosis, breast cancer) and not by magic but logic, you take the dairy away and these conditions improve.

How much dairy is dangerous?

Intolerances and allergies to dairy are very common. Some people can't tolerate any at all. Others get away with a little bit (eg milk in their tea) while some can eat a tub of yogurt and not have any issues.

If you are having lots of dairy, regularly, you will find your body will be over-reactive and quite sensitive. Try stopping all dairy sources for awhile and see what happens. It will take 4-6 weeks to notice big changes – less redness under the pimples, clearer skin, but you should notice minor improvements after 2 weeks.

Remember dairy sources include cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, chocolate, sour creams, Philadelphia cheese and butter. I would avoid all animal milks (including sheep and goat).

Is Gluten bad for skin?

YES! Research demonstrates that 15% of the population is gluten sensitive but I am sure that number will rise as gluten is being used in more and more products.

Gluten is a skin trigger and evidence from the USA is now declaring that EVERYONE has an issue with gluten. I won't discuss it in depth here as it is worthy of a blog itself. But for now, try to decrease your gluten exposure (rye, wheat, barley and oats).

Roacutane and acutane are serious drugs that stop the addition of Vitamin A to serum at the hair follicle.

While it may help with severe cases it has such a severe and long term side effect profile I think people should be encouraged to do what I have suggested above first (food and hormone balancing). This is a blog I wrote on roacutane a while back.

Make sure you see a naturopath, not just a dermatologist. See someone who can help with hormone and dietary advice as this is where most of you resolution will start.

Medium term I treat people's gut because after years of exposure to a "bad" food, it will need some strengthening. I generally do this stage after the skin has settled.

You can order the saliva hormone test kit plus 30 minute consultation with me here.

There is no need to suffer for another year.