In this life, we’ve all faced greater challenges than skin blemishes. But somehow, chronic skin issues have a way of making everything else feel insurmountable.
When we can’t meet the world with our best face and we feel as if everyone’s looking at our skin, it becomes an all encompassing focus. And when it’s cystic acne, it’s not just emotionally taxing, it’s physically painful too.Probably like you, I tried literally everything possible to clear my skin. You name it, I tried it. Serums, pills, laser lights, injections, voodoo magic…. Nothing fixed it permanently and my skin care regime and diet were as natural and healthy as they could be. I also don’t eat gluten, dairy, soy or any other potentially problematic foods.
One especially blemish-ridden day, I decided no help was going to come from a dermatologist or endocrinologist (supposedly my hormone levels were ‘fine’) and I’d have to take matters into my own hands.
I knew only two things for sure. Cystic acne was related to hormones and the pill helped my skin a lot but didn’t entirely fix it.
It made sense then, that no topical treatment was going to work. I had to get to the root cause.
I had to find a way to make my hormones match those of women who didn’t have cystic acne… which felt much easier said than done.
Mastering a friend’s smoky eye makeup would be far simpler than matching her hormones. But I was determined!
Because the pill and spironolactone (an anti-androgen diuretic) both helped, I knew I had to focus my efforts on finding additional methods to reduce androgens.
With anti-androgens, both sebum production and comedone formation are proven to be dramatically reduced. [R]
The problem is, all of the anti-androgen drugs I tried didn’t help completely and came with side effects I couldn’t accept. And yes, because spironolactone (even low dose) depletes hydration, it causes headaches and even worse, wrinkles! I knew there had to be better, more natural options and I was going to find them.
I read everything I could, including countless acne and hormone balancing forum posts from others sharing their experiences.
After comparing all options, I settled on three herbs that have amazingly and permanently cleared my skin with no negative side effects whatsoever!
It’s felt like such a miracle, I knew that even though this article would take some courage, with up to 45% of women battling cystic acne during their lifetime, I had to pass along what I’ve learned.
1. Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto is a small palm tree. The extract from it’s serenoa berries has been shown to reduce the uptake of androgens by blocking 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT – aka the acne causing / bad testosterone), into tissues by 40%. [R].
• I take 320 mg in the morning and again in the early afternoon. The brand I use (Doctor’s best – sold on Amazon) is standardized to contain 85% fatty acids and sterols. If you’re using one that contains a lower percentage, you may need a higher dose.
As an added bonus, I find that it also boosts my energy levels and motivation!
If you’re going to add only one of these herbs, I recommend saw palmetto because it seems to have the most noticeable effect.
Vitex fruit, also known as Chaste Tree berry, is often used to correct female hormonal imbalances and manage PMS. Studies have shown it to effectively reduce androgens and DHT. [R]
• I take 300 mg in the morning and at bedtime.
3. Black Cohosh
Black Cohosh is a plant in the buttercup family. It has been shown to inhibit both androgens and the growth of androgen specific cancer cells (including breast cancer). [R] In addition to being anti-androgenic, it’s used reduce pain with the monthly cycle.
• I take 200 mg in the morning and at bedtime.
For more information, you can read the links above and also find them mentioned in this article: Herbs to decrease androgens / testosterone
I added each herb, in the order listed, over the course of several months and noticed an improvement with each one. It wasn’t until I was using all three together that my skin was 100% clear.
If you’d like to try them all, I’d recommend starting each a week or more apart. It’s best to take very consistently and at least one dose in the morning when testosterone levels peak. Taking them with food is sometimes suggested.
You may need to experiment with the right dosing, but with these tools it’s absolutely possible to reduce androgens to a level where you won’t suffer cystic acne.
For additional anti androgen herbs, you may also like to read this research on: white peony, DGL (licorice) and spearmint.
Please note: The majority of women who suffer cystic acne have excess androgens and lower estrogen. Their skin generally improves on the pill.
If your skin issues developed with the pill or you know you have high estrogen, then you’re likely dealing with estrogen dominance with low progesterone. The verdict is out on whether Saw Palmetto can help with estrogen dominance.
To manage elevated estrogens, you can try the estrogen detoxer, Diindolymethane (DIM). [R]
For women with higher androgens, DIM can make acne worse, here’s why.
* For Men: Because these herbs prevent the conversion of good testosterone to DHT, men also use them for acne, to retain good testosterone levels, to protect the prostrate, and to reduce hair loss. [R, R]
* For Everyone: [Update and side note] After posting this, I’ve received many reports from people noticing that when taking them, the same day they had an improved mood, better tolerance, and greater energy and motivation levels… almost miraculously so in some cases!
The reasons for shifts in mood are likely because high androgens can cause low serotonin, elevated stress hormones, and excessive amygdala activity (resulting in anxiety and worry).
Please see my subsequent blog post to learn more: Curb anxiety, irritability, and low energy with this amazing herb — Saw Palmetto
Almost too good to be true
You can imagine how UNBELIEVABLE it felt when I realized that these herbs actually worked as promised, and without side effects.
With them, I don’t need the pill, I don’t need prescriptions or serums or injections or voodoo. My skin is simply and effortlessly clear.
At times, it feels like I’m living someone else’s life…. some woman with flawless skin who never had to battle cystic acne at all.
A woman who has increased confidence and who can spend the extra hours not spent managing her blemishes on so many more important things in her life.
Like the perfect smoky eye ;)
If you suffer with skin issues, it’s my greatest hope that these herbs can help you too! Please consider passing this on to your girlfriends, whether or not their skin is seemingly clear. You never know when someone could use some extra help.
I only wish someone had sent me an article like this …..20 years ago!
Would these clear eczema, I have chronic eczema all over my legs and now horrible hand eczema too.
Eczema is more likely related to diet or other allergens… have you tried dairy free or gluten free? These herbs wouldn’t hurt, but I’m not certain they would fix it. Could be worth a try though, I’m sure you’re probably willing to try anything, I truly understand the feeling. 💛
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Rebecca is right in that eczema is usually related to food and/or chemical sensitivities.
You will likely be best served by finding your triggers (aka. Cause). Mine are gluten, dairy, and nightshades, all of which are common triggers. Chemicals (“fragrance” is a big one) and even metals can also cause issues. Please note that “unscented” is NOT the same as “fragrance free”. I fought eczema (and other skin issues) for over 30 years before discovering my “triggers”. I wish you the very best.
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Eczema is absolutely diet related. I used to have horrible eczema on my hands and eyelids. On my hands it started as little white bumps that were super itchy and would leak a clear white liquid. It got to the point where my hands would crack and bleed and I had to wear gloves everyday to do normal things. I tried injections, creams, steroids etc. then finally realized it got worse in the summer when we grew and ate copious amounts of fresh, delicious TOMATOES! turns out I am highly allergic to lectins and lectin containing foods. Read Dr. Gundry’s book “The Plant Paradox.” You will understand why. I only get hand eczema when I eat TOMATOES or other nightshades like eggplant or beans. For the eczema on my eyelids however I had to cut out corn and soy and any meat that was raised eating corn or soy which is almost all meat these days. When I eat meat at a restaurant it will pop up on my eyelids within a day. None of the allergy tests I did looked for tomato allergies. I did test positive for corn. Try cutting out all lectin containing foods. And know that eczema is just a sign of major inflammation going on in the inner layers of your dermis which mirrors the state of your intestines. Also, my daughter had eczema around her mouth and we discovered It was also from tomatoes! I hope this helps you! The many doctors I visited told me it was just stress… Sorry that say I even told them what worked for me and they dismissed it. They don’t want to believe that it is diet related.
Rebecca, your article has been so eye opening to me! I followed the link from your article on Caroline and the herbs. My 14 year old struggles with acne, lack of menstration, excessive sweating, blood sugar issues, moody, migraines, enlarged Adam’s apple. I really feel like these herbs will help her.
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I would love to hear your results if you give them a try!
O my!! Just 2 days on saw palmetto her non existent period….started!!!!
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Great news!! I hope they continue to help her 💛
Did you do a hormone panel before trying these supplements? I’ve seen the hormone panel on Yasko website, but was wondering if there may be another source? My teenage daughter is dealing with cystic acne (and everything we’ve tried doesn’t work) and we would like to try this.
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I have had testing done and every time am told everything was normal. In my experience, when something is easy to try, inexpensive, and not likely to cause a negative effect, I sometimes try and observe.
Having said that, when it comes to altering hormones of a child, I can’t give advice other than to check with a doctor. Testing can’t hurt, I’d just keep in mind that the range of “normal” doesn’t mean her acne isn’t caused by hormones- because mine clearly was. Hope you find something to help her!