The products I lean on to treat hormonal acne and nourish my skin back to health
Hormonal acne is the gift that you never wanted that just keeps on giving.
Like so many others, within a few months of taking myself off birth control I began dealing with hormonal breakouts all along my jawline and chin area. Treating blemishes and searching for answers on how to prevent future breakouts became something like a full-time job - except this one takes money out of your pocket instead of putting money in it.
Before this experience, I (thankfully) never had to deal with anything more than a few pimples that would come right before my period every month and leave shortly after. This was new to me. My discomfort in my new skin was made worse by the fact that I'm a tom boy who never learned how to properly apply makeup; so concealing my blemishes in order to make myself feel pretty and presentable was not a skill in my arsenal.
I learned quickly that keeping my face clean and free from makeup and eating a clean, plant-based whole foods diet wasn’t going to change or improve my situation. My hormones continued to rage.
Eventually, I saw dermatologist (which I highly recommend if you can afford it) and splurged on treatments, like chemical peels and laser genesis, when I could. I have a great dermatologist and these treatments were very effective; but because lasting results require maintenance, this option wasn't always practical.
If I wanted to see long-term improvement, then I also had to learn to care for my skin on my own. To do this, I researched all there was to know about hormonal acne; and how skin reacts to various stressors, both inside and outside of the body. Extensive information exists online, so I won’t repeat it here.
With this information, and a lot of trial and error, I’ve found some incredible products that continue to help me combat a number of the signature issues related to hormonal acne such as excess oil production in sebaceous glands, deep cystic pimples, hyper pigmentation, inflammation etc.
Read on to learn more about the skincare treasures that I rely on to treat and nourish my troubled skin back to health.
One of the first things that I learned in treating my hormonal skin is to cleanse gently. Also, to avoid exfoliating scrubs and excessive use of other harsh ingredients that may aggravate the skin and strip it of it’s natural oils. My Dermatologist, Christie Kidd, developed her own line of products, including a facial cleanser that is a a staple in my routine and crucial in helping me control breakouts. The all-natural deep cleaning formula effectively removes dirt and makeup from my skin’s surface, leaving me with skin that feels squeaky clean, calm, hydrated and pores that look and feel tight.
Toner and Essence
Before battling with hormonal breakouts I didn’t have very problematic skin and was more or less uninformed on the topic of skincare. Once I learned that dehydrated skin produces more oil, which can lead to more breakouts, I became obsessed with making sure that I stayed hydrated. I am religious about using toner, which is essential for balancing oily or acne prone skin, specifically Thayer’s Witch Hazel with Cucumber. Apart from being very cost-effective ($10 for a large bottle!), it helps to eliminate any oily residue I may have, tightens my pores, restores hydration to the skin, and leaves me feeling really clean and refreshed.
Because hydration is essential to achieving healthy skin, I also use an essence to maximize hydration. After toner I apply May Coop’s Raw Sauce to my face, which is a really gentle, yet intensely hydrating, essence made mostly from maple tree sap. One of the benefits of using an essence is that it helps your skin to better absorb the products applied after it and making them more effective. Over time, it really does enhance the results.
If there’s any product that helped treat and prevent my hormonal breakouts it was the Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel pads from Dr. Dennis Gross (DDG), which is a chemical exfoliant that combines AHAs and BHAs to gently resurface the skin. Star ingredients include glycolic acid to slough off dead skin and reduce dark spots and other signs of aging; salyicic acid to help reduce clogged pores; mandelic acid to reduce irritation and redness and supplement the effects of glycolic acid on the skin; and lactic acid, which is a natural AHA that supports cell renewal. More than any other product I’ve tried, these pads eliminate existing blemishes and help to prevent future breakouts as well. After two weeks of daily use, my skin looks renewed and radiant, and my pores became almost invisible.
I stumbled upon this product while (desperately) searching through a Sephora forum on how to mend overexfoliated skin, which requires repairing one’s moisture barrier. This gel cream came highly recommended by several users, many of whom said that it worked miracles on their damaged skin. My overexfoliated skin was sensitive and irritated, probably from sun exposure even though I wear a broad spectrum SPF 50 daily. I learned that I needed to incorporatea product with ceramides to build and repair my skin’s barrier to prevent moisture loss and stay hydrated. This gel cream keeps me hydrated better than anything else, and has the additional perks of being light weight, easy to absorb, mattifying and incredibly soothing.
I have always been a sun soaker, but this changed once I developed hormonal breakouts and saw for myself that unprotected sun exposure only makes things worse Regular use of sunscreen is a must if you want to maintain an even skintone; without it acne scars become darker and last longer, and exfoliated skin may develop harsher-than-usual sunburn that leads to visibly irritated, sometimes swollen, skin. EltaMD Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is a staple in my daily routine. Unlike others that I’ve tried, it is noncomedogenic, sensitivity-free, frangrance-free and paraben-free. In other words, there are no unnecessary ingredients and is not likely to cause breakouts. EltaMD truly makes my skin feel protected.
For the quickest fix, I use Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion to spot treat whiteheads of all sizes. Because it’s formulated with quick-drying ingredients like salicylic acid and calamine, it is fast and effective at shrinking and eliminating this type of blemish. I use a cotton swab to spot treat the affected area before bed, and almost always wake-up to find the same pimple is almost entirely gone.
Deep, cystic pimples are painful, super slow to heal and almost always lead to permanent scarring, so speedy damage control is necessary. Within 12-24 hours, this sulfur and salicylic acid treatment not only minimizes the size of a cystic pimple but also prevents the skin from becoming red, inflamed or scarred. I also love that it is invisible on the skin and absorbs easily so it can be worn during the day and under makeup if necessary.
A big part of dealing with acne is managing the ensuing scars left on the skin afterward. Most brightening or scar fading products, in my experience, produces underwhelming results. Except for Bio Oil, which dramatically reduces the appearance of pigmentation marks and blemishes stemming from hormonal breakout. I’ve found it most effective in healing newly formed scars; older scars will still benefit from Bio Oil but improvement does seem somewhat limited from what I can see.
Red or inflamed skin often goes hand in hand with acne. Some of the more common causes of red skin are over exfoliating, broken capillaries, sun exposure without broad spectrum sunscreen, inflammation and hyper pigmentation. If your skin feels raw and appears red, it needs to be healed and hydrated. When this happens, I use Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30 - a green-to-beige color-correcting treatment that tackles redness, uneven skin tone, and blemishes. While offering coverage, it also heals and nourishes damaged skin by improving moisture levels and repairing it’s moisture barrier. Saying that I cannot live without this product is putting it mildly.