From skeptic to fanatic: how Red Light unexpectedly saved my skin

From skeptic to fanatic: how Red Light unexpectedly saved my skin

If you’ve been around this community for some time, you’ve probably noticed that I have a somewhat silly obsession with the quality of my skin. I want to be youthful, radiant, dewey–and to do so forever. I know it’s ridiculous, and my self esteem doesn’t depend on it. But I would enjoy the look. For better or for worse, I would like to look as springy and vibrant as I feel.

 

About two months ago I stumbled onto this skin- and muscle- healing concept called red light therapy. Now, I’m really, really, REALLY skeptical about new age sounding therapies. “Red light therapy?!” I snorted violently. I may as well wear a crystal around my neck and call it a day. I almost dismissed the idea out of hand.

 

But, there were all these success stories staring me in the face, so I decided to do some research.

 

As it turns out, red light therapy is legit science. It was first discovered on a NASA spacecraft out in orbit, when light in the red  wavelength area of the spectrum stimulated plants to grow faster. (It has also since been shown to target  and kill cancer cells.) Dermatologists thought this idea was fascinating, and wondered if these kinds of regenerative growth processes could work in the skin, too.

 

And they do. Somewhat miraculously, even. Within years of the discovery of red light in space, salons providing red light therapy popped up around the western world. Some women spend hundreds of dollars a month to go to salons with red light beds. It is also now possible to purchase a device and use it in the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately, these devices range from the scammy to the ineffective to the monstrously expensive.

 

I was therefore incredibly fortunate to stumble upon a company called Joovv. Joovv is a red light therapy company created by the wife and husband team of Melissa and Justin Strahan. Melissa first tried red light therapy at a salon, back when it was first emerging onto markets. She saw somewhat miraculous results on the quality of her skin and her stretch marks, and she fell in love with it. But going to the salon was expensive and inconvenient.

 

Justin, Melissa’s husband, is an engineer. He undertook the task of designing the most efficient and effective red light for Melissa that he could. Now with patents pending, the Joovv company services an enormous number of people with extraordinary customer service and care. If you go to their website, here: Joovv, you’ll see that they have more than 50 five star reviews, and are supported by people like the paleo fitness star Ben Greenfield and the Harvard doctor who specializes in photobiomodulation Michael Hamblin.
 

 

Joovv, amazingly, has a 60 day money back guarantee. So I figured I had nothing to lose. I ordered a light. They shipped it to the UK and it arrived in two days. After about three weeks of using the light for 5 minutes every day, I began to understand what everyone was raving about.

 

Do you know that particular dewey, radiant, sort of soft and sparkly kind of skin that magazine models always seem to have? And you think, wondering – that must be photoshopped. And it certainly is. But then every once in a while you make an acquaintance who has skin like that in real life, and you wonder, oh my, how does she manage that?!

 

Well. I always wondered that. I always thought, man, that would be the dream. And, I also always really hoped that I wouldn’t age like the other woman in my family did. That is, very early, and very wrinkly. I didn’t need smooth skin to be happy, not by any means, but I thought it would be nice.

 

And I can say now with 100% honesty I actually have this kind of skin. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but here I am, it really did. There’s a particular smoothness and glow about my face that never existed before. So much so that light reflects off of it (lol). And my pores, I think, are smaller. The chronic redness I carried on my cheeks for as long as I can remember is gone. Last week I ran into an old acquaintance and they said ‘wow, you look really refreshed. like you’re really well slept, and golden.’ These were all real words that they used, and I promise you I was not well slept. The fine lines that have recently appeared as crows feet, I am a bit amazed to share, have also softened. On my right eyes they have disappeared. they’re still hanging out on the left eye, but I’m all right with that. I’m only about five weeks into the therapy, and already super happy with the overall results (I intend to keep you posted about it, and if my experience turns south, I will definitely let you know). I have zero desire to cash in on the money back guarantee. In fact, I’ve considered paying Joovv more money simply to say thanks.

 

Here is the science behind what’s transforming my skin:

 

1) Red light therapy stimulates the production of collagen. Collagen is responsible for firmness and elasticity, which is what causes the reduction of pore size, as well as fine lines and wrinkles. I’ve read that this can take a bit longer than the other effects to show, so I will keep you posted on any progress in this regard.

 

2) Red light therapy  increases circulation and the formation of new capillaries in the skin. This delivers more oxygen and other nutrients to your skin, which helps it rejuvenate itself. this may have something to do with my transition from a somewhat irritated red to healthy gold/pink glow I’ve got going on.

 

3) Red light therapy increases lymph system activity, which reduces swelling and puffiness.

 

4) Red light therapy causes the release of cellular ATP in the skin–which is the form of energy cells need to stimulate growth and repair.

 

All in all, I’ve been super happy with these results. I am not trying to sell you anything. But I do think this information is fascinating and important. Whenever I notice science doing something cool for my body, I feel compelled to share. If you’re into this sort of thing, science may be able to do a cool thing for your body, too. Red light therapy is known to reduce stretch marks (I have yet to shine the light on my inner thighs, but will let you know when I do), reduce certain kinds of acne, heal sunspots and other discolorations, even out skin tone, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and create a more healthy glow. This is because it actually does heal the skin, in a way that is deep and real.

 

If, again, you happen to be into this sort of thing, I couldn’t recommend Joovv more highly. They make a full face machine which is great; most red lights you’ll find online are tiny spot healers that can only do a couple inches of skin at a time. Joovv’s customer service is outstanding, and their dedication to crafting machines that make the perfect wavelength and intensity of light (very important for its effectiveness) is unparalleled. Most of all I love their money back guarantee. They could lose a ton of money this way, by shipping people their fragile lights all over the world with the possibility of having them all returned. But I am willing to bet this turns out great for the company. If other people have a similar experience to me–even starting out as a raging skeptic–they’re not going to want to return their lights, either.

 

Here are some photos of my skin. It’s hard to be accurate because cameras tend to be really forgiving anyway, so there’s less contrast between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ than in real life. Interestingly, today instead of being grateful for the camera’s typically glossing-over features, I am regretful that it hides the dynamic shine to my skin.

 

Here is a ‘before’:

 

 

 

Here is after 3 weeks:

 

 

 

Here is after 5 weeks:

 

 

 

 

Again, it’s really hard to show the contrast. What I’m seeing most of right now is a reduction in redness, a smoothness I’ve never experienced before, and this kind of healthy, glowy quality I’ve always wanted. Plus a little bit of progress with the fine lines.

 

Here I am with the cool light:

 

 

 

 So, that’s a wrap! Just wanted to fill you in on a cool experiment I’m up to. Do let me know your thoughts if you’ve got em!

 

 

PSA! If you click on one of the links above or this one, you might wonder if it’s an affiliate link. That is, does Stefani earn any money from talking about Joovv? Well, yes. I might if people purchase red lights after reading this post. A very small amount. But I signed up to be an affiliate for Joovv only after testing it for five weeks; I was fully ready to send my red light back and say ‘no thank you.’ As with all the other affiliate links on this site that I vet with my own experience, I use them only to keep the PfW team afloat while I labor away in the basements of the Oxford University library system. Of course, by using a link like this, you personally never have to pay more; the company simply shares some of their profits with me, as a way of saying thanks for sharing the good word. As ever, I am never, ever dishonest with you, and never share a product or talk about one at great depth unless it means a lot to me. No pressure at any time ever for it to mean a lot to you, too. <3
The Best Paleo Makeup for Dry Skin

The Best Paleo Makeup for Dry Skin

Recently, I was offered the chance to try a new skincare and makeup line featuring all-natural, clean ingredients and nothing more.

I get offered these things from time to time and enjoy trying them because I’m always looking for something that can appeal to myself and the women I write for and that won’t make conditions like hormonal acne or dry skin worse.  As I get older I’m also looking at products that can help prevent signs of aging.

I know many of my readers want the same.

I’ve tried lots of products and some of them are really great!  But I hadn’t yet found a whole line that I really felt met all my needs.

Until now!

Annemarie makeup and skincare use organic, truly natural ingredients to make gorgeous mineral makeup, facial oils, moisturizers, and cleansers.

What I love about this skincare and makeup line is the versatility.  Dry skin products are often so oily that skin looks shiny long after application or they don’t quite have the moisture you’re looking for.

With natural makeup, coverage is also an issue.

The coverage of the mineral foundations from Annemarie can be changed based on how much of the powder and oil you use.  Not only that, but a fine dusting of powder and you are shine free, no extra product needed.

The makeup lasted me all day and I’m a face toucher for sure! I was really impressed with how long it lasted and I felt like it beat other natural makeups I’ve tried that tend to wear off or melt down on a hot day.  The ability to customize the thickness and oil content was a huge plus here too.

The anti-aging oils are packed with nutrients for skin and moisturize and protect at once.  They also smell AMAZING.

Like lavender and happiness.  Seriously.

Everything is formulated with health in mind, so those with hormonal acne have nothing to fear.

Remember, with hormonal acne, oil on the skin is not the problem.  The problem is primarily internal and has much more to do with what you are eating than what you are putting on your skin.

Skin dryness is a similar issue, so make sure that in conjunction with great skincare/makeup products like these you are also using enough Omega 3 oils (find them here) and eating a diet that eliminates dairy/gluten and focuses on gut and liver recovery. 

For those of you with sensitive skin, I tried these myself and have what I’d consider sensitive skin and they felt just fine.

The cleansing wash did a good job removing makeup and making me feel fresh, and the toner was a nice touch as well.

All in all, I was genuinely impressed with these products. I think you will be too.

Annmarie Skin Care has put together a trial package where you can try any of 3 special sample kits that include some of their best-selling products. You can choose a sample kit based on your skin type — normal, oily, or dry.

These kits are $10 each AND when you order one (or more) you’ll receive a $10.00 off coupon that you can use for a future purchase. Annmarie Skin Care is also offering FREE SHIPPING for these kits – anywhere in the world.

Also, when you get a sample kit today, you’ll get their newly updated Toxic Free Home Guide. This is an in-depth, beautifully laid out guide that exposes the worst and most common chemicals you can find throughout your house — in cleaning products, toiletries, even your couch — and shows you safe alternatives to use.

Their comprehensive, easy-to-read Toxic Free Home Guide is full of tips for creating a beautifully natural home, with lots of product recommendations and DIY recipes for everything from deodorant to drain cleaning solution.

If you order a sample kit today, you’ll get this guide — free — which is a $24.95 value.

Finally, as an extra added bonus, if you’re one of the first 100 orders, Annmarie Skin Care will send a travel-size Neroli Toning Mist — a $7.95 value — to you for free. If you’re one of the first to buy, this bonus gift will not show up on your online receipt but will be included in your order.

So for $10, you can try this award-winning skin care line AND get your own digital copy of Annmarie Skin Care’s newly updated Toxic Free Home Guide. You’ll also receive their travel-size Neroli Toning Mist as a gift if you’re one of the first 100 to place an order.

Get Your Sample Kit and Bonuses Here

And come back and let us know what you think after you try the products!  I want to hear your feedback ALWAYS 🙂 🙂

Why I love using bentonite clay on my face

Why I love using bentonite clay on my face

Most regular readers of my blog know by now that I have the skin sensitivity of a poor kitten’s underbelly.

I cannot tolerate moisturizers, cleansers, or toners, even those billed as “natural” or “organic.”

When I try, my skin becomes red and inflamed, almost instantly. Every time I put on a new lotion or cleanser it’s the same.

On a very rare occasion I might try a brand “for sensitive skin” such as Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula (fragrance-free, which is the moisturizer I currently use), but it is quite rare for me to find something that suits my skin.

To that end, I stick to a simple warm washcloth and water, and an occasional spray of topical probiotics.

And because topical probiotics have worked so well for me in the past, I have promoted the company Probiotic Action’s products regularly on this site for a long time. I think they’re great.

I have also had the incredible fortune to become somewhat of a friend to the director of Probiotic Action.

This summer, the director sent me an email and told me he had developed a new cleanser, one made out of bentonite clay.

I responded, laughing. I remember the one time I got a 15-passenger van stuck in a field of bentonite clay out in Wyoming. I said, “you’ve got to be kidding me!”

He said, no, he certainly wasn’t. Bentonite clay, he explained to me, has a simultaneous exfoliating and moisturizing effect on the skin, leaving it smooth, clean, and not inflamed or overly-dry once washed.

Bentonite — and I do remember this from my days studying earth science (And getting stuck in the mud in Wyoming!) — has a special ability to bind to complex molecules, such as dirt and toxins.

I agreed to test it.

I have now been using the bentonite clay cleanser on my skin for weeks and I can honestly say it’s the only cleanser I have ever used that hasn’t made my skin worse. It feels soft and gentle and still very clean to the touch after I wash my face. I still do use my Palmer’s moisturizer, but I need less.

The cleanser:

A close up of MY FACE after using the cleanser:

Probiotic Action developed this cleanser in the pursuit of an all natural soap, one that is powerfully cleaning but free of typical additions to purportedly natural cleansers such as sodium laureth sulfate and benzyl alcohol. This is a fully natural product with no synthetic elements – and it passes all the natural standards of the holy grails of US mainstream cleanliness, such as Whole Foods.

So I wanted to share with you, as we head into the dry winter months, my favorite cleanser. I couldn’t recommend bentonite (as a cleanser or a mask) highly enough. Nor could I recommend Probiotic Action, which is an earnest and passionate company that makes high quality products at the lowest prices possible.

PLUS, Probiotic Action has so kindly created a discount code JUST FOR US! 

It’s a 15% OFF coupon. Use the code VPDVXYHZMR81 at check out!

So do check out the bentonite clay cleanser if you have super sensitive skin like me! I would love to hear what you think of it and if it works as well for you as it does for me. 🙂

Here is the probiotic action site: http://probioticaction.com

Here is the link to purchase the clay cleanser: https://probioticaction.com/buy-now/#!/Bentonite-Clay-Cleanser-4-fl-oz/p/73168511/category=0

Please do let me know what you think! <3

clay-for-pin

5 Signs You Suffer from High Testosterone and 5 Reasons Why

5 Signs You Suffer from High Testosterone and 5 Reasons Why

High testosterone levels in women is one of the most common hormone disorders. Literally tens of millions of women suffer from it in the United States alone. So how do you know if you have high testosterone?

1. Acne

Testosterone is elevated around ovulation cycles if you are menstruating which can lead to hormonal acne breakouts commonly around your jaw or chin. If you have PCOS you may be suffering from breakouts like these most of the time. (If you suffer from acne, my brand new program, 50% off this week, Clear Skin Unlocked: The Ultimate Guide to Acne Freedom and Flawless Skincould be a great resource for you).

2. Irregular Menstrual Cycles

Having irregular menstrual cycles creates a hormonal balance allowing testosterone to become dominant or recessive. Another reason you may be having irregular menstrual cycles could be stemming from PCOS.

3. Blood Sugar Swings

Insulin encourages the ovaries to produce more testosterone.

4. Low Libido

Your testosterone levels can be high but if your other primary sex hormones are not balanced, then high testosterone will not result in higher libido.

5. Male Pattern Balding and Hair Growth

Another sign of high testosterone levels in women is male pattern balding and hair growth.

 

So what causes testosterone levels in women to be elevated?


1. Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

If you have type I or II diabetes or know that you are insulin resistant, high testosterone is probably a problem for you.

Approximately 25% of the testosterone in female bodies comes from the ovaries. This is natural. However, insulin in the bloodstream stimulates the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This can seriously increase the ovaries’ output of testosterone.Depending on the severity of the dysregulation, insulin can lead to a significant increase in testosterone in the bloodstream. This is as much as 2 or 3 times over the optimal and healthy testosterone levels.

This is very often the case in polycystic ovarian syndrome.

2. Thyroid Disorders

Sex hormone levels and thyroid hormone levels are intimately related in many ways.

One important way is through Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). When thyroid function slows — as in hypothyroidism — SHBG levels fall. SHBG binds excess hormones to it in the blood. It is incredibly important for maintaining healthy hormone balance. When hormones like testosterone threaten to increase and there is bountiful SHBG then it can bind the testosterone and minimize its threat. Without SHBG, excessive hormones can become a real problem.

In healthy women, 80% of testosterone is bound by SHBG in the blood. With decreased SHBG however, significantly more testosterone runs free and causes testosterone-related issues.

3. Stress

Stress can have a wide variety of negative impacts on the female body. Many of these have the potential to elevate testosterone levels.For example, stress can cause hypothyroidism and the concomitant decreases in SHBG.Stress can also decrease levels of estrogen and progesterone in the blood. Estrogen and progesterone perform a counter-balancing function to testosterone. Without them, testosterone levels in women can rise to unhealthy levels.

Stress also causes a rise in DHEA-S, which is a male sex hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is not testosterone – but it is one of testosterone’s closest cousins. It acts in a chemically similar way and will often cause the same hormone disruptions. Read more about this process here, and about how stress negatively impacts hormone production here.

sleep and stress effect testosterone, high testosterone levels in women

4. Fasting After Workouts

If you work out frequently and do not eat afterwards, your testosterone levels – specifically as a woman, can rise. After intense exercise, several hormone levels are elevated including Cortisol – the “stress hormone” – and testosterone.

Cortisol levels fall naturally after a workout. But testosterone levels do not. They remain very high and decrease much more slowly if you do not eat afterward. If you do this on a regular or even daily basis this can cause a chronic problem.

high testosterone levels in women increase from fasting

5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Finally, the most common cause of high testosterone in women is PCOS.


Read about the in’s and out’s of PCOS


Now, it is not altogether clear what causes what: does high testosterone cause PCOS, or does PCOS cause high testosterone levels in women? There is no certain answer. But what is certain is that the two are inextricably linked for many women. It may very well be the case that they both cause each other: high testosterone causes PCOS and PCOS causes high testosterone.

PCOS stands for Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome and is the condition of having multiple cysts on one’s ovaries. There are three criteria used in diagnosing PCOS. In order to be diagnosed you must meet two of the three criteria:

  • irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • elevated testosterone or other male sex hormone levels
  • cysts on the ovaries as demonstrated by an ultrasound

PCOS affects as many as 15% of in America today, and is actually the leading cause of infertility, by a long shot.

So if you suffer from symptoms of high testosterone, from any of the above conditions such as hypothyroidism, stress, or insulin resistance / diabetes, you may want to investigate PCOS as a potential underlying cause or secondary effect of your condition.

PCOS may be a complex condition but this does not mean that it is insurmountable. I myself overcame my own PCOS (despite receiving terrible medical advice). So many of the women I have worked with on the issue have, too.

To read more of my work on PCOS and find out how it’s unique from what other people have done, check out any of these posts: What is PCOS? PCOS Treatment OptionsThe PCOS Diet, or my program on overcoming PCOS, PCOS Unlocked: The Manual.

To read more about acne and it’s relationship to testosterone and other hormones, check out my most popular posts on acne, or my program, Clear Skin Unlocked: The Ultimate Guide to Acne Freedom and Flawless Skin.

So that’s it for common causes of high testosterone levels in women. Do you have other ones in your own experience? Questions, concerns? I’d love to hear about it – please let me know!

The Acne and Vitamin B12 Link: How Healthy Food Can Give you Pimples

The Acne and Vitamin B12 Link: How Healthy Food Can Give you Pimples

Bacteria are incredibly important for the quality of your skin. (I have talked about this on the blog previously in this post: Topical Probiotics: Can applying bacteria to your face cure acne?)

Recent studies have shown that they are even more important than we ever thought.

It has also been rumored in the dermatological community since the 1950s or so that vitamin B12 causes acne.

Molecular pharmacologist Huiying Li decided to investigate both phenomena at once. Is there a relationship between vitamin B12 and skin bacteria?

Li and team examined the gene expression of bacteria on people’s skin, and then injected them with B12 and examined them again.

They found that vitamin B12 altlers the metabolic activity of the skin bacteria propionibacterium acnes.

These bacteria, propionibacterium acnes, naturally secrete vitamin B12. They create it on their own. Yet when the supply of B12 to the skin from the human host increases beyond natural levels–such as when injected with B12 or when taking a multivitamin–the bacteria stop producing their own B12.

When they stop producing their own B12, they begin producing porphyrin molecules.

Porphyrins cause inflammation, and therefore acne.

This effect was witnessed by Li and team when they injected people with clear skin with B12. Before the injection, their skin was clear and the genetic expression normal. After the injection, the genetic expression was altered and the skin was no longer clear.

In fact, the amount of genetic expression of the propionibacterium acnes of this B12-related gene decreasedd in these people who had previously had clear skin to levels of genetic expression Li and team saw in people who already had acne.

Basically, vitamin B12 injections made clear skin become acne prone skin.

A week after receiving the vitamin B12 injection, one of the 10 participants broke out in pimples. That person’s P. acnes gene-expression pattern also changed, the researchers found. Before the B12 injection, it was similar to those of the other healthy participants, but 14 days after the vitamin B12 shot, it looked much more like an acne patient’s pattern.

The researchers also did experiments on P. acnes growing in lab dishes.They found that when they added vitamin B12 to the bacteria, the microbes started producing compounds the porphyrins, which promote inflammation and acne.

What to do about it

-Do you suffer from acne? If you eat a nourishing, high-quality whole foods diet and do not take any supplements, you probably don’t have anything to worry about from vitamin B12. 

In case you are curious, however, foods that are naturally high in vitamin B12 are liver, eggs, red meat, shellfish, crab, cheese, mackerel, low fat dairy products, tuna, turkey, poultry, and all seafood products.

Basically, B12 is found in high quality animal products. Liver is the highest dose of B12.

I always wondered why I broke out when I ate liver, even though it was supposed to be such a healthy food. This problem with B12 explains why. Knowing this reassures me about my health when I eat liver. The reason I was breaking out wasn’t because I was unhealthy, but was rather because of the genetic expression of the bacteria in my skin. I should keep eating liver (or taking desiccated liver supplements!) like I always have been, despite the occasional zit.

-If you take a multivitamin that contains B12, a B-complex with B12, or Brewer’s yeast, you may wish to lower your dose or to stop taking the supplement for 2 weeks, to see if you notice any changes in the quality of your skin.

-I highly recommended considering a high-quality topical probioitic which will increase the amount of “good” bacteria in your skin and reduce its level of inflammation. You can use a probiotic spray like I do. This is the one I personally use, by the company Probiotic Action, here.

-You can also use a probiotic moisturizer. My favorite is the Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer, which you can get on Amazon here.

-If you want to learn more about acne, check out my post on the topic: Everything You Need to Know about Acne in 3000 Words, the very popular Hormonal Acne: Where It’s Coming From and What to Do About it or The Ultimate Hormonal Acne Treatment Plan. You could also take a look at my page on acne, and see all my favorite acne links!

Most of all I recommend checking out my 100% risk free program, Clear Skin Unlocked: The Ultimate Guide to Acne Freedom and Flawless Skin. It is the most comprehensive acne and skincare program I have found to date. 

 

What do you think? Might there be a relationship between B12 and acne in your experience?

PCOS and Acne: The Paleo Way to Overcome Both at Once

PCOS and Acne: The Paleo Way to Overcome Both at Once

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndome (PCOS) is a fertility condition that affects between 10 and 15 percent of women in the Western world.

All of these women suffer from at least some of the symptoms of PCOS: irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, difficulty with weight loss, low libido, facial hair growth, balding, and, perhaps most popular of all, acne.

PCOS and acne are inextricably linked. Why? Because PCOS is caused by an underlying hormone imbalance. The very same underlying hormone imbalance causes acne. It is possible to have PCOS without acne, and possible to have this kind of acne without PCOS. But quite frequently they occur together.

Here in this post I explain the hormone imbalance that causes PCOS, and the ways in which it also causes acne.

Also, and importantly: after figuring out how to overcome my own PCOS and acne, I wrote a manual on overcoming PCOS. It’s PCOS Unlocked: The Manual, and you can read all about it here.

PCOS and acne: the underlying hormone imbalance

Most medical professionals understand the hormone problem that underlies PCOS to be quite simple: elevated insulin levels cause the ovaries to produce excess testosterone, which throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle and causes irregularity, cysts on the ovaries, and infertility.

This does indeed happen to be the case for many women with PCOS. Testosterone is their biggest problem. In my PCOS manual, I call this “type I PCOS”.

Yet there are other types of PCOS.

Low female sex hormone levels are another cause of PCOS.

Why? Because–even though most medical professionals don’t understand this–PCOS is not just about high testosterone, but is rather about a fundamental imbalance between testosterone and the female sex hormones.

When estrogen and progesterone levels fall, they get out of fundamental balance with testosterone, which also throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle.

Estrogen and progesterone levels fall for any number of reasons, though by far the most popular reasons have to do with stress and with starvation. 

The thing about the female body is that it is highly sensitive to any conditions that may impair it’s ability to healthfully bear children. If you imagine life millions of years ago back on the savannah, it would be quite common for natural disasters or tribal conflict to create stressful times that could hinder a healthy pregnancy. It would also be quite common to come into a period of famine, in which case pregnant women would not be able to get enough food to sustain their pregnancies.

In periods of stress and starvation, pregnant women die more easily.

In order to prevent this from happening, the female body shuts down hormone production when it detects the slightest bit of stress or starvation. Shutting down hormone production prevents the body from becoming pregnant, which would have saved an ancestral woman’s life in the long run.

Our bodies do the same thing.

If we count calories, resrict food intake, limit carbohydrates or fat too much, yo-yo diet, or excercise excessively, our sex hormone levels fall, and our estrogen and progesterone levels become too low both for a healthy menstrual cycle and for clear skin.

You can read more about the female body and psychological stress in this post: psychological stress and hypothalamaic amenorrhea, and more about the female body and starvation-type stress in this post: metabolic distress and hypothalamic amenorrhea.

There is yet one more popular hormone problem that causes PCOS. It’s what happens when DHEA-S levels rise.

Elevated levels of DHEA-S contribute to PCOS because DHEA-S is also an androgen, or male sex hormone.

DHEA-S and testosterone act very similarly in the female body. The primary difference is that testosterone is produced by the ovaries, and DHEA-S is produced by the adrenal glands.

DHEA-S levels rise in response to stress. Whenever you feel stressed out, your body has a choice to make: it can continue to direct it’s hormonal resources toward sex hormone production, or it can divert those resources toward stress hormone production.

This process is often called “pregnenolone steal.” The reason we call it a “steal” is that hormonal resources are literally stolen by the adrenal glands and used for sex hormone production.

Thus you end up with lower hormone levels (like estrogen, progesterone, and the pituitary signalling hormones LH and FSH), as well as elevated DHEA-S levels, which can cause testosterone-like symptoms in the body: PCOS, infertility, facial hair growth, and acne.

So in sum, there are several hormonal factors that may be at play in PCOS:

Testosterone levels may be too high largely due to insulinemia

Estrogen and/or progesterone levels may be too low due to psychological and physical stress

DHEA-S levels may be too high due to psychological stress

Causes of PCOS and causes of acne

So in a very brief, very simplified nutshell: PCOS is caused by and large by an imbalance between male sex hormones and female sex hormones. If testosterone or DHEA-S is elevated, PCOS may result. If estrogen or progesterone is low, PCOS may result. Any of these things can happen at the same time, and often do.

(For more on the details of how all this happens, check out the PCOS manual here.)

This hormone imbalance is also one of the primary causes of acne.

How hormones and acne work

There are three separate layers to the skin, and pores traverse these layers. In order to adequately protect your body and keep toxins on the outside, the outer layer of the skin has to be hydrated and strong.

Pores deliver oil to the out layers from the bottom up. In healthy skin, oil comes up through the pores and oozes onto the surface, lubricating the skin and making it look soft and glowy. Think of it like a well, or a hot spring, or an oil rig.

In acne-prone skin, debris from the surface clogs pores, bacteria clog pores, and oil coming up from the bottom clogs pores. Then all this oil oxidizes and bacteria go on a feeding frenzy – which makes the pores become infected and inflamed.

The problem for women with PCOS is that male sex hormones increase oil production.

Estrogen performs an opposite function, and helps sooth the skin.

When estrogen levels are low, and when oil production increases from elevated testosterone or DHEA-S, acne is often the result.

The kind of acne that usually accompanies PCOS is around the chin, the mouth, and the jaw. It can spread to other areas of the face and the body, particularly the shoulders, buttocks, and back of the thighs, because these are the areas where the skin has the most testosterone receptors. If you have acne in these places there is quite a decent chance that your hormones are at least a bit  out of balance, PCOS or no.

For more on hormones and acne, check out this post: cystic acne and hormones: everything you need to know.

PCOS and acne: what to do about it

So what do you do about your acne and PCOS?

For one, tackling PCOS should be a priority.

You can do so by utilizing the manual for overcoming PCOS I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve used with thousands of women, which you can read all about here.

You can also read some other posts I have on PCOS:

What is PCOS?

The PCOS Diet

5 Things I wish I knew when I was diagnosed with PCOS

PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea: What’s wrong with the contemporary understanding and how you can have both

You may also wish to consider tackling your acne from more than one angle. PCOS and underlying hormone problems are in all likelihood a significant factor in your acne, yet there are probably other factors at play. To that end you may wish to check out the posts:

The ultimate hormonal acne treatment plan

Acne: thinking beyond hormones

And, most of all, I highly recommend the remarkable acne program by my favorite thinker on the topic of acne, Seppo Puusa. I have learned so much of what I know about acne from Seppo. You can read all about his work, his program, and what he has to offer HERE. 

 

And that’s it! Please let me know your thoughts, your problems, your experiences in the comments! I and everyone else in our community would be honored to learn through your life and wisdom 🙂

 

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PCOS and Acne - Paleo for Women