If you've been dealing with hormonal acne, chances are you've tried the old standby remedies: benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment, salicylic acid as an exfoliator. While benzoyl peroxide can dry out blemishes and salicylic acid can unclog pores, a more holistic approach is needed to mitigate stubborn hormonal acne in the long-term. In fact, dermatologist Ben Johnson, MD, founder of Osmosis Skincare, forgoes those ingredients when dealing with hormonal acne. "Acne is basically a wound," he says, "and if you put benzoyl peroxide on it, you're pretty much burning a wound."
Instead, he recommends first looking at your diet as a way to clear hormonal acne. You might have heard that dairy, sugar, and soy may cause hormonal acne, but Johnson's theory is that food preservatives and pesticides are also to blame. "There are chemicals in them called xenoestrogens, or estrogen toxins," he says. "When they enter your body, they make less estrogen available to you, creating a testosterone imbalance. When you're presented with too much estrogen toxins, your face can get oily and experience breakouts." Try eating clean, fresh foods—nothing packaged, and no fast food. Wild salmon, pasture-raised chicken, plenty of organic fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats will steer you in the right direction before your wedding. Exercise also helps put your body into equilibrium; shoot for 30 minutes of light exercise a day.
In tandem with a healthy diet, treating hormonal acne with an effective topical regimen is something April Gargiulo, founder of Vintner's Daughter, knows from both personal and professional experience. "I struggled with cystic acne all my life," she says. "It would leave marks and discolorations—it was a crazy constant cycle. I tried everything from Stridex pads when I was a teen to Accutane in my early 30s, and nothing worked." So she developed Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum, which contains natural antimicrobial and antibacterials, to promote healthy skin at a cellular level.
"When you're putting drying, synthetic products on the outer layer of your skin, it forces the body to 'close the balloon' too fast, which ends up leaving a mark,'" Gargiulo says. She recommends using products with rosemary, cypress, and frankincense. They're antibacterial, antimicrobial, and also microcirculatory, meaning they increase circulation, bringing fresh oxygen and blood to the skin. This promotes faster, healthier healing, and in a way that doesn't leave acne marks behind.
Evening primrose and rosehip oils are additional ingredients that, anecdotally, are beneficial for acne, because they help balance hormones. "They're claims you're not technically allowed to make on a product," Gargiulo says, "but they're real and they've been used in this way since ancient times. They balance the skin with the exact ratios of omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals. They're oils that are derived from the most nutrient dense plants in the world."
Along with evening primrose and rosehip oils, tamanu oil is great to use if you have hormonal acne, Gargiulo says. It's another ingredient that's antibacterial, antimicrobial, aids in the healing process, and fades scars. "In English, tamanu oil translates to the 'thirty cure oil' because in Madagascar they use it for everything—cuts, acne, whatever. It's a miracle ingredient that's so full of life because it's made from the same nutritive building blocks as our skin."