Up until college, I had great skin. Aside from an occasional blemish in high school, I never gave my skin much thought. And then, at the stroke of midnight, the night before my freshmen year of college, it’s almost as if my skin (in a ghastly act of mockery) rebelled with the pent-up angst it had apparently been harboring for 18 years. All of a sudden, I was routinely getting angry red pimples on my chin and forehead and had a dusting of small white bumps to accent them. To me, it almost felt like a premeditated attack.
Over the years, my acne has ebbed and flowed. Sometimes my skin is completely clear, and other times I look like a pubescent teen who perpetually forgets to take her makeup off before bed. What’s frustrating, is that my skin seems to have a mind of its own. Now, at 24 years old, I’m on top of my skincare routine. I never fall asleep without taking my makeup off. I eat a healthy diet, exercise, drink water—basically everything anyone ever tells you to do to obtain, glowing, healthy, pimple-free skin.
So when my skin (particularly my chin and jawline) hit a record-high low this fall, I found myself ready to throw my hands up in mercy. I was bending over backward to appease a complexion that only seemed satisfied to worsen in retaliation. So what’s a girl to do? Call in the experts, of course. Despite the fact that acne and oily skin are usually associated with the awkward days of puberty, there are so many adult women who experience frustrating bouts of hormonal acne too. (FYI: If you tend to break out along the chin and jawline, hormones are likely the culprit.) So to cover all of my bases, I asked three different experts for their help. Keep reading to see what a celebrity nutritionist, esthetician, and makeup artist have to say about stubborn hormonal acne.
The Holistic Nutritionist
The expert: Kimberly Snyder, a holistic nutritionist and multi-time New York Times best-selling author of the Beauty Detox book series and Radical Beauty
The concern: How to understand the relationship between diet, lifestyle, and hormonal acne and how to make any necessary adjustments
Her prescription: According to Snyder, there can be a variety of things at play when it comes to hormonal acne. Yes, diet can be a factor (think high-fat or inflammatory foods), however things like toxicity (found in some foods, water, and air pollution), stress, certain medications, or even something like poor self-confidence can also lead to breakouts: "On an energetic, mind-body connection level, poor self-esteem, talking down to yourself, or repressed anger can all manifest in the physical form of acne."
And when it comes to lifestyle adjustments, Snyder shares some helpful tips. For instance, making sleep a priority: "Sleep fights stress and helps your body and hormonal systems function." Additionally, she recommends upping your water intake to flush out toxins, dry brushing, which is great for detoxication, exercising (she loves yoga) to help manage and relieve stress, and staying on top of gut health (which has been linked to acne) by incorporating a quality probiotic.
"Probiotics are a powerful way to further balance one of the most foundational processes in your body—digestion—so that everything else in your body works better. When you re-balance your digestion, your skin begins to glow more."
Diet-wise, Snyder suggests minimizing processed foods (as they can contain chemicals and ingredients that can contribute to acne), dairy, refined sugars and starches (which affect blood sugar and in turn, hormones), and cooked fats and oils, which can lead to breakouts as they're difficult for the body to digest and process.
Instead, she recommends maximizing zinc intake (think pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and coconut), which promote cell repair and lymphatic waste removal, food forms of vitamin A (arugula, broccoli, spinach, cantaloupe), watercress, which contains vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, and mustard oil, which acts as an internal antiseptic, in addition to plenty of skin-nourishing omega-3 fatty acids (chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts.)
Last, but certainly not least, Snyder stipulates the importance of trying to eat mostly organic produce: "These foods are anti-inflammatory powerhouses that
minimize toxic buildup in your system, fight free radicals, and promote health and well-being."
The Celebrity Skin Guru
The expert: Renée Rouleau, a celebrity esthetician who's known for keeping Hollywood's skin sparkling, clear, and acne-free
The concern: How to create a skincare routine to treat (and prevent) hormonal acne breakouts
Her prescription: As with most things in life, Rouleau explains that when it comes to hormonal acne, the key is in prevention (after all, we have limited dictation regarding the chaos our hormones incur.) So it's all about cultivating a strategic skincare routine that will anticipate your body's natural hormone response and stop the breakout before it even happens.
For prevention, Rouleau recommends finding a high-quality acne serum (preferably non-drying and alcohol-free) containing salicylic acid, which is known for its quick penetration and top-notch ability to clear pores of pesky, acne-causing bacteria.
She notes that while all skin types are different (psst, take her skin type quiz here), a salicylic acid serum will pack the most punch. Since you're layering it underneath your nighttime moisturizer, it's able to get deep into the pores and work overnight, unlike, say, a cleanser or mask that's simply rinsed off. Her expert recommendation: Use a quality BHA serum ($54) for three nights and then switch to a Skin Correcting Serum ($46) rich in brightening agents like vitamin B3.
However, if a blemish decides to ignore your preventative measures, the key is to act fast with a treatment plan. "I cannot stress the importance of treating your blemishes correctly once one pops up," she explains. And since treatment can influence how long the pimple (and its scar) will last, she recommends choosing products with ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, licorice, ethyl lactate, and beta-glucan to clear pimples fast. (Her Zit Care Kit, $153, has already worked wonders on my skin.)
The Makeup Artist to Models
The expert: Tobi Henney, a celebrity makeup artist who's known for blessing her model-esque clientele with radiant, lit-from-within makeup looks
The concern: How to cover hormonal acne without making the breakout worse or more obvious
Her prescription: "Chin acne is something that I, and so many other women, can relate to," Henney tells me. And since acne is dynamic and always changing, she acknowledges that it's important to address hormonal acne depending on the specific condition it's in at that time. So blendable, high-quality products are key.
"If it is in the beginning phases and displaying redness, I recommend using a high-quality anti-redness product to calm and neutralize the appearance of the skin," she says.
"IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Neutralizing Correcting Cream ($32) is a great moisturizer to start with." From there, Henney recommends applying a highly pigmented concealer, such as NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer ($30), to the affected area before ever so lightly layering with a powder. This, she says, will ensure that the concealer stays in place. Her pick: MAC's Mineralize Skinfinish Natural ($34).
However, if the acne is in its final stages (i.e., causing dryness or flakiness), Henney recommends a different strategy. "Try using a super-hydrating moisturizer such as La Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream ($170). Then, apply a creamy concealer to cover the acne without drying it out further." For this, she loves Becca's Aqua Luminous Perfecting Concealer ($30).
Henney's parting tip: Avoid using too much powder on top of dry, flaky acne, which will just make it worse. Instead, after using your BeautyBlender to apply several layers of the creamy concealer, top it off with a light dusting of a finely milled powder like Laura Mercier's Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($38).