Beauty Clinic: Help with hormonal breakouts
Q. I'm 30 and recently diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I have been experiencing very hormonal breakouts on my chin. When I was on the contraceptive pill I didn't have any skin issues but my husband and I are now trying for a baby. The cleanser I used for years now seems to make my skin worse, and the one I swopped to – a leading brand – hasn't helped either. I am very self-conscious and would be so grateful for help. A. We’re so sorry to hear about your problems but hopefully there are ways of making things better. First - to explain the underlying situation - Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Solutions to PCOS, says this:
‘PCOS creates a vicious cycle of hormone imbalances, which has huge knock-on effects throughout the rest of your body. The problem often starts with the ovaries, which are unable to produce the hormones they should, and in the correct proportions. Linked to this is the common problem of insulin resistance. Women with PCOS very often have difficulties with blood sugar levels, which can cause weight gain and the excess insulin can stimulate your ovaries to produce yet more testosterone (the male hormone). Half of all women with PCOS do not have any problems with their weight, yet they can still have higher insulin levels than normal. ‘
The aim, Marilyn says, ‘is to balance your hormones in order to control the hormonal breakouts from the inside out. There is now overwhelming evidence to suggest that diet plays a significant role in helping with PCOS and also increasing the chances of conceiving.’
‘Adapting your eating habits so that you keep your blood-sugar levels on an even keel throughout the day is essential. If your adrenal glands are over-stimulated by ever-fluctuating sugar highs and lows, they produce too much adrenaline – the stress hormone – and also too much testosterone, preventing ovulation altogether.’
Aim to eat little and often to keep your blood sugar under control and follow a low GI (glycaemic index) diet, with little sugar of any kind, including fruit and fruit juices as well as the more obvious cakes, biscuits, etc. You will find guidelines in Marilyn’s book.
You can also take natural remedies to help your breakouts:
This is a crucial nutrient for PCOS in general. If you are suffering with acne I suggest you take an extra zinc supplement (15mg) in addition to the zinc in your multivitamin and mineral capsule. (Use fertility multivitamin and mineral as you are aiming to get pregnant, try NHP’s Fertility Support for Women, from www.victoriahealth.com or www.naturalhealthpractice.com). Take the extra zinc last thing at night on an empty stomach. Normally it is best to take supplements with food because they are ‘supplementary’ to what you are eating but with skin problems the extra zinc works best when taken just before bed, try Lamberts Zinc Citrate.
Tea Tree oil
This essential oil has both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties so can be very helpful for acne. Use it on the skin in a diluted form. A 5 per cent solution of tea tree oil has been shown to an effective as a 5 per cent solution of one of the most common over-the-counter remedies for acne, benzoyl peroxide. It does, however, take longer to work, try Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Oil.
Aloe vera can be used on your skin to help with acne. Choose an aloe vera gel that contains few preservatives and has a high aloe vera content, such as Optima Healthcare Organic Aloe Vera Gel.
This balancing herb, which is mentioned, can also be helpful especially if your acne gets worse with your menstrual cycle (even if your cycle is erratic), try Bio Health Periagna.
This immune strengthening herb can be useful for treating acne as it will help your body control any bacterial overgrowth, try A Vogel’s Echinaforce Forte Tablets.
Make sure you are taking a good probiotic as 70 per cent of your immune function is in your gut. This means that these beneficial bacteria in your digestive system can help to control not only inflammation but also negative bacteria and yeasts (the one I use in the clinic is NHP’s Advanced Probiotic Plus (from www.victoriahealth.com or www.naturalhealthpractice.com).
For skincare, as well as the aloe gel (which will help soften and balance), pharmacist Shabir Daya suggests the natural, well-priced range Yes to Tomatoes (mad name but good products), for its calming and soothing properties.