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Photo: Stocksy/Susana Ramirez
Photo: Stocksy/Susana Ramirez

Welcome to the latest from Wellness Council, our handpicked holistic health squad: a tightly curated group that gives the best advice this side of your own personal guru. 

alisa_vitti_headshotHere, women’s hormone expert Alisa Vitti (AKA “the hormone whisperer”) offers up the hormonal path to clear, glowing skin.

What she writes about next is up to you—tell us what what you’re dying to know! Send questions and ideas to

You know how sometimes you’re a fully functioning, fabulous, have-it-all-together adult woman? And then you wake up with a giant zit on your chin and suddenly feel like a teenage girl barely surviving puberty?

It happens to the best of us. But especially those of us with imbalanced hormones. I should know: I had terrible cystic acne all over my face, chest, and back well into my 20s as a result of my struggle with my period and a hormonal imbalance called PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

It wasn’t just embarrassing; it was painful. I tried every supposed solution on the market, from antibiotics to benzoyl peroxide to Retin-A, and nothing worked. In fact, a lot of these irritants and drugs just made matters worse.

Hormonal acne is no joke, and it’s not the same as the occasional bump or blemish everyone gets from time to time.

How hormones affect your skin

Hormonal acne is the result of a serious endocrine imbalance, and most women experience the effects around mid-cycle, when they ovulate, and/or right before their periods.

This makes sense from a hormonal perspective: it’s the two points in the cycle when estrogen and testosterone are both at their highest points. For women with optimally functioning endocrine systems, these hormonal peaks don’t wreak havoc. But for women who can’t process hormones correctly, a buildup of estrogen and testosterone can accumulate in their systems and may not be properly eliminated.

Hormonal acne is no joke, and it’s not the same as the occasional bump or blemish everyone gets from time to time.

If you’re one of these women, your body is likely unable to carry out proper detoxification (and if you’ve been chronically making poor food and lifestyle choices, chances are your elimination organs—including your skin—won’t be up to the task, either). This can lead to estrogen dominance that inflames your skin and extra testosterone that encourages your sebaceous glands to churn out more oil.

This effect can be even more pronounced right before your period because, during this time, blood comes closer to the skin’s surface, exacerbating acne and redness. You may even be more prone to unwanted hair growth or loss at this times, due to all that testosterone messing with your follicles.

Eating your way better skin

Here’s why this hormonal chaos plays out on your face (and maybe chest and back): Your skin is your biggest organ responsible for elimination, and it works in tandem with other important important players in elimination like the liver, lymphatic system, and large intestine.

Once you recognize and appreciate how inextricably linked these organs truly are to one another, you can start to understand why dabbing some drying ointment on one pimple at a time isn’t going to do the job; the problem starts so much deeper.

What you put into your body is what will determine the outcome on your skin. The foods you eat, the products you use, and even the cleaning substances you handle have to be properly eliminated.

No amount of expensive creams or prescription pills will truly heal your acne. So what can you do about it? The answer is (thankfully) simple: prevent the problem through food and personal-care choices.

Here are some items to avoid—and add!—to get your skin clear and gorgeous again.

Get Started

What to skip

Aside from the fact that a lot of our dairy options include synthetic hormones that add to your body’s hormone excess, dairy is also a primary cause of leaky gut syndrome, since it’s an inflammatory agent.

If you’re already hormonally sensitive, then the phytoestrogens in soy may compound the problem and contribute to more acne. Soy can pop up in unexpected places, like supplements, so keep an eye on nutrition labels.

Just like dairy, gluten contributes to inflammation of the gut.

Even people who don’t think they’re allergic to peanuts can experience adverse reactions to them, including skin inflammation and breakouts.

Canola, sunflower, safflower, and vegetable oil
These cooking oils have more omega-6 than omega-3, which produces skin inflammation during peak estrogen time.

I’m not a fan of coffee or black and green teas. Both can strip your body of essential B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc—which affects the skin’s immune response.


What to add instead

Knowing how to replace these harmful triggers with healthful alternatives is key to replenishing good gut health and restoring the state of your skin. And knowing what to put on your face is crucial too.

Here’s the three-part plan I recommend for glowing skin:

1. Get the right nutrients

Try my Clear Skin Juice recipe: half a cup of cilantro, half a green apple, two stalks of celery, half a cucumber, four leaves of romaine lettuce, four frozen or fresh strawberries, and the juice of half a lemon. Add up to a half-cup coconut water if needed.

2. Replenish good bacteria

Probiotics are so important to good gut health, and good digestion is key to balanced hormones. There’s a set of gut bacteria (or bacterial genes, more specifically) that produce an enzyme that helps to metabolize estrogen—called the “estrobolome.” To ensure you have enough good bacteria, start taking a daily probiotic.

3. Go organic with your beauty products

You may already be eating organic fruits and veggies, but putting organic products on your face and body is just as important. Throw out anything containing:

Endocrine-disrupting phthalates (look for the acronyms DBP and DEHP)

Sodium lauryl sulfates and ether sulfates (look for the acronyms SLS and SLES)

Parabens (including methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl)

Anolamines (look for the acronyms DEA, TEA, MEA)

Petrolatum or petroleum jelly. You can find tons of amazing, natural alternatives that are safe for your skin and still effective.

Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, and the founder of, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has a web series on Lifetime, serves on the Yahoo Health advisory board, and is an advisor to several health and health tech startups. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram

What should Alisa write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to