Hormonal Skin & Adult Acne
I had acne like a teenager after fertility treatment, so severe that I have scarring around my mouth and chin. This went on for years and yet every doctor I went to said ‘there is no evidence to support that fertility treatment messes up your hormones’. Really! I beg to differ. Prior to fertility treatment I never knew what PMS was and used to wonder what other women were talking about when they spoke of mood changes before their monthlies. As a teen I didn’t have a big problem with acne but after fertility drugs… wham, the PMS and acne switches came on. I can’t describe to you how horrible it was to have breakouts constantly on my face throughout my 40s (but perhaps you know). Even now I have to be really careful with regards to keeping my skin clean, avoiding the foods that aggravate breakouts and using the right products. It really does impact your confidence and self-worth on a daily basis to be heading into the age of wrinkles while dealing with acne. Double trouble!
The common theme for adult acne seems to be an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone), whether brought on by hormonal fluctuations, lifestyle factors such as stress or diet, or PMS. And I think it’s probably fair to say it’s a vicious circle too; if hormonal imbalances did indeed act as a catalyst to my acne, then certainly there was also a degree of stress at the end of the fertility treatment (including a marriage break up and moving overseas), then add to that the stress of seeing persistent breakouts on my face, trying to find the cure and fretting about being seen. I tried different products over the years and I think, knowing what I know now, most of them were probably too harsh for my skin (see below for the products I am using now and seeing better results with).
If you are suffering with breakouts through mid-life for whatever reason, here are some things to consider:
- Is the acne worse when you use heavy creams, such as overnight wrinkle creams? If so, find a lighter serum, something with vitamin C or A is good, and use that at night instead. Also retinoid creams are good and a dermatologist will prescribe the right one for you, in combination with other topical solutions to blitz the bacteria and inflammation.
- Can you reduce an even moderate level of daily stress? Or do you need to seek help to work through an ongoing larger issue in your life that is causing severe stress levels? Don’t live with stress, it’s a killer, it saps the good out of your life… and it shows on your skin! Think stress busters to drive down your cortisol levels – 30 minutes of good exercise (and/or sex), a walk in nature or by the sea, a vacation, meditation or whatever it takes to find your Zen!
- Is the acne concentrated around your jawline? If so, you may have a dairy intolerance. Try omitting dairy for a week to gauge how your skin reacts. And while you’re at it, white bread and sugar are bad contributors too. A diet rich in wholegrains and vegetables will go a long way to clear skin (and clear eyes…. and a clear conscience!)
- Is some of the ongoing redness due to inflammation of the skin, caused by using harsh products and constantly scrubbing at the breakout area? If so, find a product that targets redness/rosacea/sensitive skin, calms the skin and balances oil. Is the inflammation and irritation there even when the pimples have gone? This can be down to how you dealt with the pimples in the first place. You need to hit them early (not pick at them) and clean twice daily with an antioxidant wash (like vitamin C) or with a product containing salicylic acid.
- If your breakouts don’t budge for months at a time, consider going to a Dermatologist for a chemical peel or two, as this will boost your cell renewal which results in fading the red marks.
- Sometimes ‘the pill’ (oral contraceptive) can be used to calm down women’s acne, as it helps with over production of male hormones (and cortisol is broken down into the male hormone testosterone, which is subsequently responsible for the excess oil production).
- Be careful how you try to hide the pimples with makeup – an oil-free concealer is required. Build up little layers of concealer on and around the pimple using a small concealer brush (not fingers, think more bacteria!). And make sure the concealer is dark enough, the same shade as your skin, because anything light or shimmery will only draw attention to the imperfection.
It’s really hard to be dealing with all the signs of ageing when you are specifically tackling acne. Any drying out of the skin caused by acne products results in lines and wrinkles looking more prominent. The trick is to be combating the acne while also delivering the ‘good stuff’ that older skin needs to repair and rejuvenate the thinning dermal layer, providing necessary hydration, as well as providing essential sun protection….
I’ve discovered a product called Osmosis. It is really quite exceptional. Many of the serums address multiple skin issues, so you can pick which one best suits your needs and in many cases you won’t need to be purchasing multiple products to address multiple concerns. The entire range seems to work together; some products for everyday use and others for incorporating once or twice a week. They are formulated to target aging skin specifically and are proven to be up to 10 times more absorbable than other products. I think this is really evident when you use them – a little goes a long way, they sink in and you can absolutely see a visible difference. According to their brochure, the idea is that Osmosis increases cell turnover through natural exfoliation, in fact they recommend not using grainy exfoliates on the face at all.
The products have cool names – like Clear, Calm, Catalyst, Repair, Shade, Quench, Enlighten, Renew and Replenish – and the description of what each does (over and above the obvious) is really informative.
Recently I started going to a local skincare/day spa clinic for waxing and tinting and I had a facial one day and noticed they were using Osmosis products. The beauty therapist showed me a trick to do with the Clear spray that has made the products even more effective for me (many thanks to the lovely Virginia!).
Here’s what I use:
- Morning – warm water in the sink, splash face, rub in about 4 small squirts of Deep Clean, then remove with a soft wet face cloth.
Spray your fingers (or face) with Clear Plus, then add a small squirt of Stem Factor and a drop of Catalyst (vitamin C) onto your fingers and rub onto the face in circular motions. Now continue with your go-to moisturiser if needed, then primer and apply your make-up.
- Night – as above (leave the Deep Clean on for a minute before wiping off with the face cloth), apply the Clear Plus, Stem Factor and a small drop of Calm (vitamin A). It’s good to alternate the vitamins C and A. When required, or once a week, use the Restore mud mask or just use a small drop straight onto the face with a spray of Clear Plus.
- Anytime – I also spritz my face with Clear Plus anytime I feel like it for a refreshing way to get extra clear skin benefits!
- Acne – if you are struggling with break outs then also try Clarify. But make sure you use the Clear Plus too, as I really think this product has made an immense difference to my skin.
- Other products I’ve found to be great for acne – another great range is ASAP. The Gentle Cleansing Gel seems to prevent the severity of break outs if you feel them coming on and wash with this at night. Leave it on the skin around the chin for a minute and then wipe off using a wet face cloth. P.S. their Radiance Serum is a lovely treat too!
The Dermalogica range is also fabulous. The Overnight Clearing Gel can stop break outs in their tracks. Just apply a little directly on the area and leave on overnight
My skin is far from perfect, and I feel like I will need to try a peel or laser treatment sometime in the future to get rid of the scarring caused from persistent acne for many years after fertility treatment, because seeing this in the mirror annoys me. In general however, it is so much better than it used to be. I still have to be really careful with sugar and dairy (and wine, sad face) but over the last year and a half things have certainly turned around. I would recommend Osmosis to anyone in a heartbeat. Even if you try a couple of the daily basics first, see how your skin reacts and then treat yourself to one of the more targeted (and more expensive) treatments once every 6 months or so.
Where do I buy Osmosis?
Online at Skin Revival (you can also buy ASAP here).