Ultimate Guide to Hormonal Acne Diet

Ultimate Guide to Hormonal Acne Diet

Did you know that most types of acne are significantly impacted by hormonal fluctuations? It’s true. Of course, acne-causing bacteria and sebum play a part but at many stages of our lives  acne is largely affected by hormonal fluctuations within the body (think puberty, PMS, pregnancy). And while this generally affects women the most, it can affect anyone, and really does affect many more people than you think! (1)

**We already discuss the critical role the pore-clogging ingredients play in other articles; this piece is all about the hormonal side!

When you have an acne breakout as an adult, that is usually referred to as hormonal acne. Furthermore, hormonal acne flare-ups can be affected by many things, including your environment, your stress levels, and even the things you eat and drink. Today, we’re going to teach you more about how your diet can affect acne breakouts, as well as what to look at if you suspect your diet may be affecting your skin.

Acne products from CLEARSTEM Skincare

Is Hormonal Acne Affected by Diet?

Many of you are probably not going to want to hear this, but we have to say it anyway. The foods you eat and the drinks you drink have an effect on your body and how it functions. And on that note, they can also definitely affect your skin, especially if you struggle with acne already. For instance, you may already understand how some foods can affect other things in your body. Maybe you don’t digest spicy foods well, or too much coffee makes you jittery. 

Of course, it would make sense that these very same foods can also affect your skin health, as well. For example, besides sometimes giving you a touch more energy than you can handle, that cup of joe can also lead to hormonal breakouts. Yes, it’s true – the link between coffee and hormonal acne is fairly well established, and overdoing it can definitely lead to unwanted acne lesions. Something similar happens with a diet high in refined sugars and processed carbohydrates, too.

Curious to learn more about how your diet may be leading to hormonal acne? Let’s go ahead and break down which foods can affect your skin and acne symptoms – and, more importantly, what you can do about it!

How To Clear Hormonal Acne with Diet

If you suspect your diet may be causing or adding to your acne issues, then the first thing to do is keep track of what you are eating. Many foods can cause inflammation or can lead to hormonal imbalance that can affect the glands in your skin. Are you eating differently than you have in the past, or have you introduced some new foods recently? Knowing what you are introducing to your system is the first step in knowing if something new is impacting your skin’s health. (2)

Best Foods to Eat for Hormonal Acne

Foods that help hormonal breakouts are fortunately easy-to-find and easy-to-eat foods that are normally included in a healthy diet. A hormonal acne diet plan will include grass-fed & organic lean meats along with nutrient-rich foods like vegetables and fruits. Avoiding high-glycemic, sugary food in addition to processed foods is key. Many of the best foods for hormonal acne include foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, like certain types of fish or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. (2 & 3)

Foods to Avoid for Hormonal Acne

On the other hand, there are also some foods that are already known as being bad for hormonal acne. These are all types of foods that are overly processed or packed with added sugar or are generally high on the glycemic index. Some studies have suggested that following a low glycemic-index diet can help with acne flare-ups. (2)

Particular foods to avoid would include things like dairy, white bread, potato chips, super starchy vegetables, and very sugary foods, like doughnuts or ice cream. In other words, most of the super tasty “cheat” foods can lead to an increase in acne severity. Other foods that affect hormonal acne may be surprising. For instance, the link between eggs and hormonal acne is not commonly known but is shockingly consistent - particularly if consuming eggs more than once per week.

When it comes to hormonal acne and hormonal imbalances, there are many nuances, potential contributing factors, and individual considerations. For specific advice depending on your situation, we recommend getting in touch with an acne nutritionist.

Supplements that May Help with Hormonal Acne

The best diet for hormonal acne could include supplements that may act as an acne treatment. Over-the-counter supplements are easy to add into your hormonal acne diet. Some of the supplements that may help with those stubborn acne lesions, like hormonal acne around mouth areas and along the cheek and jaw, include the following: (4 & 5)

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B5 
  • Milk thistle
  • Turmeric

The experts at CLEARSTEM actually formulated a hormonal acne supplement for this specific purpose. It addresses breakouts in several ways, targeting multiple root causes simultaneously.

Topical Treatments for Hormonal Acne 

While dietary changes and lifestyle modifications can significantly improve hormonal acne, topical treatments work by directly targeting the skin to reduce inflammation, eliminate acne-causing bacteria, and prevent clogged pores. Some commonly used topical treatments for hormonal acne include:

  • Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, help regulate cell turnover and prevent pore clogging. They can be effective in reducing both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions.
  • Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and helps reduce inflammation. It is often used in combination with retinoids.
  • Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it effective against both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions
  • Salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells and helps prevent pores from clogging. It is often used in over-the-counter acne treatments.
  • Topical antibiotics: Topical antibiotics may be prescribed for severe inflammatory acne. They work by killing acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation.

It is important to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate topical treatment for your individual needs and acne severity. They can also provide guidance on how to use topical treatments safely and effectively. (6)

What Triggers Hormonal Acne?

Your hormonal acne could have been triggered by a vast number of different things. Fluctuations in hormone levels of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone can cause acne breakouts, or make existing acne worse. Unfortunately for women, a lot of these fluctuations can be caused by things like menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, stress, lack of sleep, overexercising/ aggressive HIIT workouts, food choices, and more. While men have the better side of this deal, they can also be highly affected by hormonal fluctuations as well. (1)

What Habits Increase Acne?

Many of us tend to be creatures of habit, but unfortunately, some of those habits can backfire and lead to hormonal acne breakouts. For instance, if you’re the type of person who likes to indulge in coffee drinks with lots of cream and sugar, you’re all but asking for a breakout. Both milk and sugar have been shown to trigger blemishes due to their negative effects on your endocrine system, as well as other dairy products. (2)

We also advise that you step away from any form of smoking too. Research has shown that tobacco products can elevate your chances of getting acne. Believe it or not, many of the chemicals in cigarettes (and even smokeless tobacco products and vapes) can be very inflammatory and can cause major hormonal imbalances, leading to unwanted hormonal acne. (7)

In today’s hustle and bustle world, it’s tempting to want to pull late hours to try to meet a deadline at work. However, skipping out on the shut-eye and allowing stress to overwhelm you can also lead to hormonal imbalances, which can in turn lead to a crop of hormonal acne on your face. (8)

On that note, some of you may like to reach for a glass of wine to help you unwind after a stressful week. While the odd glass here and there won’t necessarily hurt you, alcohol has also been shown to affect your hormone levels. Because it’s super inflammatory and also high-GI, you’re looking at an elevated risk of pimples if you indulge in that nightcap too often. (2)

Does Hormonal Acne Go Away Naturally?

Hormonal acne is not something that will go away completely short of intervention or outgrowing the hormones in question. Furthermore, if you are inadvertently contributing to your acne breakouts with lifestyle choices and not following a diet for hormonal acne, then your blemishes may take much longer to disappear.

That said, if your hormonal acne is simply caused by hormones and your lifestyle and habits are headed in the right direction already, then eventually with the regulation of your hormones, your acne will likely start to clear up before too long. However, once those hormonal fluctuations start occurring again, your acne is likely to reoccur. 

PRO TIP: It’s important to remember that our lives go through cycles and we are all just trying to do our best to manage stress and improve our daily habits. Stressing about stress is counter-productive so go easy on yourself and just focus on making your good habits easy and the bad habits harder (ie: avoid buying triggering foods and have a great evening ritual to aid your sleep).

Our Best Tips to Help Control Hormonal Acne

The best way to control your hormonal acne is first to understand what is causing it. After you have that figured out, other small tweaks should help your acne disappear. A great skin care regimen with high-quality ingredients, such as those created by us here at CLEARSTEM Skincare, can help reduce the appearance of acne while also helping clear your skin and make it healthier.

We know you’re probably tired of being told to wash your face, but the fact is, rinsing off all that sebum and bacteria can absolutely help. We suggest a gentle, non-stripping face wash, such as our GENTLECLEAN Vitamin Infused Calming Wash. Look for products that are non-pore-clogging and include exfoliating ingredients like alpha hydroxy acid, such as our CLEARITY "The Blackhead Dissolver" mandelic acid serum.

Following a hormonal acne diet and paying attention to what you ingest is paramount. Highly processed, dairy-based, and sugary foods can all lead to fluctuations in your body that can contribute to acne breakouts at any age. Adding anti-inflammatory herbs is also useful- you may have heard that using turmeric for skin health is quite common and generally effective for many.

Other Remedies for Hormonal Acne

You may also want to think about treating your hormonal acne by treating your hormone fluctuations. For instance, if your acne is often centered around menstruation, there are medications that can be taken to reduce this hormonal imbalance. Using a good hormonal acne supplement can also help balance your hormones and lead you back on the path to clear skin.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and suspect you may have some deeper imbalances going on, we are huge advocates of working with a professional to get your hormones tested and analyzed. That way you can get highly specific, bio-individual recommendations, which is the best option!

When to See a Doctor

If your acne is severe, does not seem to ever go away, or does not seem to be helped by topical medications, it may be time to contact a holistic esthetician who specializes in acne. A great place to start, if you are located in San Diego, is the San Diego Acne Clinic! This is Danielle’s, the co-founder of CLEARSTEM, professional clinic where she treats acne.

If you do not live in or near San Diego, try locating a Face Reality Skincare clinic near you.

Ultimately, your goal is to restore balance to your hormones and get clear skin, right? Because of this, you’ll want to be proactive about taking a holistic approach to it and figuring out what’s causing your hormonal acne breakouts. And by learning how to love yourself from the inside out – and using the right combo of diet, supplements, and topical treatments – you can finally have the acne-free skin you’ve always dreamed of!


Source 1: Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360964/

Source 2: Diet and acne: A systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8971946/

Source 3: Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24553997/

Source 4: Acne Vulgaris and Intake of Selected Dietary Nutrients—A Summary of Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8226785/

Source 5: The effects of magnesium supplementation on abnormal uterine bleeding, alopecia, quality of life, and acne in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized clinical trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9343825/ 

Source 6: The 12 best topical acne medications for clear skin. Miiskin. https://miiskin.com/acne/medications/best-acne-treatment/

Source 7: The endocrine effects of nicotine and cigarette smoke https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3389568/

Source 8: The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722010/

Source 9: Skin care for acne-prone skin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279208/