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Is Estrogen Dominance Causing Your Acne?

Posted Jan 30 2012 8:36am

Do you have a problem with any of these?

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Hot flashes
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Acne
  • Fatigue
  • Short term memory loss
  • Weight gain
  • PMS
  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Low sex drive
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Premenstrual breast tenderness
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Anxiety
  • Obesity
  • Sweet cravings
  • Acid stomach

If you said yes to some of the above you may have a problem with “Estrogen Dominance”. Estrogen Dominance is a hormonal imbalance that is becoming more and more common.

First of all, I’d like to say that I’m not an expert in any way, I am just sharing the information I have learned through talking to my hormone therapist, my own research and personal experiences. I decided to write this article after I saw Fran’s article on Estroblock and how that really helped to clear her acne, and realized that a lot of other people seemed to have the same kind of hormonal problem.

Estrogen Dominance basically refers to the ratio between Progesterone and Estrogen in your body. When your Progesterone becomes too low and your ‘bad’ estrogens become too high, you can become ‘estrogen dominant’ and can experience the type of symptoms mentioned above – and a big one is acne. :/

Without getting into too much detail, it’s important to remember that even though we often just simplify things by talking about ‘Estrogen’, there are many different types of estrogens in both men and women; some referred to as ‘good/beneficial’ estrogens (the types that protect against cancer, and others referred to as ‘aggressive/bad’ estrogens (the types that can lead to breast/ovarian cancer etc).

Someone who has ‘Estrogen Dominance’ usually has:

  • Low Progesterone
  • Low ‘Beneficial/Good’ Estrogen (such as Estriol)
  • High ‘Aggressive/Bad’ Estrogen (such as Estrone, Estrodiol)

How Low Progesterone/Estrogen Dominance Contributes To Acne

Acne happens when androgens such as Testosterone gets turned into its more potent form called DHT through the action of the enzyme called 5 Alpha Retuctase. DHT in the skin then cause sebum production to increase, leading to more oily skin, which clogs pores and results in acne.

Progesterone helps to prevent this by regulating the production of DHT in the body. It inhibits the activity of 5 Alpha Reductase and prevents it turning Testosterone into DHT. When your Progesterone levels are normal, this will help to keep your DHT levels down.

This is why some people who start taking natural progesterone cream see their acne clear up. Also, if you have low progesterone levels, it is also likely that you will be experiencing many other symptoms as well. So it’s a good idea to go and get your progesterone level checked by taking a saliva test.

However, keep in mind that a lot of time with acne, you need to take a 2 pronged approach. Even if you get your progesterone levels back up to normal, you may still be producing way to many androgens in the first place (e.g. from Adrenal stress, insulin resistance, PCOS etc). So you will need to address this problem too. You need to get your Progesterone levels up and your androgen levels down.

The other big problem with Progesterone and Oestrogen imbalance is that as well as having a lack of progesterone, you will also usually have too much ‘bad’ aggressive estrogens and a lack of ‘good’ estrogens (E3).

Having too much bad estrogen and not enough good estrogen can lead to a lot of problems, including acne. If you have a lack of progesterone your body won’t have enough resources to produce enough ‘good’ estrogen. Also, aggressive estrogens will often take over the receptor sites before the good estrogens can. Without enough good estrogens to help counteract your androgen levels, you can get acne. Also, if you have too many ‘bad’ estrogens they can become ‘toxic’ to your body and your body will have to try to process them and eliminate them (often through the skin), so this is another way this type of hormonal imbalance can lead to acne.

So as you can see, there are 2 main things we have to deal with in this situation:

  1. Getting your progesterone level back up to normal
  2. Reducing ‘bad’ estrogens in your body

By doing both these things you will help to promote ‘good’ protective estrogens too.

Causes of Low Progesterone

  • Stress
  • Poor Diet (malnutrition)
  • Inactivity. Lack of exercise can decrease progesterone production
  • Insulin Resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Causes of ‘Estrogen Dominance’/Too Much ‘Bad’ Estrogen

1) Synthetic Estrogens and Birth Control Pills – Birth control pills contain aggressive estrogens and synthetic progestins (different from your natural progesterone). Your body doesn’t have enough protective Estriol and Progesterone to balance this out.

2) Xeno-Estrogens – Xeno-estrogens are chemicals in food and in the environment that mimic estrogen when consumed/absorbed into your body. They are everywhere and are in so many things, so they are very hard to avoid. That is why studies show that so many people in developed countries have problems with Estrogen Dominance. They contribute to low fertility rates and low sperm count as well.

They are found in:

  • Pesticides
  • Herbicides
  • Petrochemicals (car fumes)
  • Plastics (as you can imagine this is a big problem because plastic is used for so many things)
  • Detergents
  • Person Care Products (this is a huge one too, and they also contain Parabens which cause cancer)
  • Canned Foods
  • Contraceptive Creams
  • Food (a lot of food contain high levels because of all the commercial sprays used)
  • Meat and Animal Products (artificial estrogen compounds are used to fatten up cattle and chicken quickly. Estrogens are stored in the fat and eaten by consumers)
  • Packaged Foods
  • Alcohol and Drugs (especially Cannabis)
  • So many more places

These chemicals behave like aggressive oestrogen in our bodies and further throw hormonal levels off balance. They can begin creating problems in children and have been blamed for increasing rates of early puberty.

What You Can Do About Low Progesterone:

  1. De-stress and relax
  2. Healthy diet and proper nutrition (you’ll find lots of advice and ideas if you search this site)
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Eat a low sugar, low GI diet to keep insulin levels down/steady
  5. Natural Progesterone Cream – this could probably do with having another whole article written on this topic, but writing from my own experience I would recommend it. When I had a saliva test and found out my Progesterone levels were really low I used natural progesterone cream for a few months to help ‘kick-start’ my own natural hormone production, and I really noticed the difference in not just my acne, but all my other symptoms improved as well.

What To Do About ‘Bad Estrogen’:

While it is impossible to eliminate all xeno-estrogens from our environment, it is possible to limit the amount we are exposed to by implementing the following guidelines:

  • Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food and water
  • Heat food up in the microwave in glass or ceramic covered dishes, never plastic
  • Buy hormone-free/organic meats
  • Buy organic produce, vegetables and fruits grown without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers or hormones
  • Use anti-oxidant supplementation: Vitamin A, C and E to combat xeno-oestrogen effects
  • Eat food high in anti-oxidants
  • Use anti-cancer supplement: Di-Indoyl Methane to down regulate oestrogens
  • Use simple detergent with fewer chemicals. This includes laundry detergents and household cleaners
  • Use organic soaps, shampoos and personal care products such as skincare products and makeup
  • Use natural pest control not pesticides (instead use a cup of salt in 4 litres of vinegar)
  • Wear natural fibres
  • Use condoms without spermicides instead of birth control pills
  • Avoid parabens used in skin lotions and creams
  • Don’t use synthetic hormone replacement pills, use natural progesterone cream if you can


Phyto-Oestrogens are plant-based foods that have oestrogen mimicking properties. Phyto-oestrogens are weak in their oestrogenic action but are very quick to the receptor sites around the body. This means they are able to block xeno-oestrogens from entering the cells, thereby reducing the risk of Estrogen Dominance.

Foods that contain Phyto-Oestrogens are:

  • Alfalfa
  • Anise Seed
  • Apples
  • Barley
  • Beets
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cherries
  • Chickpeas
  • Clover
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel
  • Lentils
  • Linseeds
  • Garlic
  • Green Beans
  • Green Squash
  • Hops
  • Liquorice
  • Oats
  • Olives/Olive Oil
  • Papaya
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Red Beans
  • Red Clover
  • Rhubarb
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Sage
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Split Peas
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Squash
  • Yams

Diindoylmethane (DIM)

DIM is made from a high concentration of cruciferous vegetables. It is very useful in treating Estrogen Dominance because it basically helps to get rid of excess bad estrogens (like xeno-estrogens) and helps to promote good estrogens.

DIM stimulates more efficient estrogen metabolism. It increases the metabolism for estrogens which increase the chance for aggressive estrogens to be broken down into their beneficial or ‘good’ estrogen form. When DIM increases the ‘good’ estrogens, there is a simultaneous reduction in the levels of undesirable ‘bad’ estrogens. Pretty much, DIM helps to convert bad estrogens into good estrogens.

DIM is also a strong competitive inhibitor of DHT by binding to the androgen receptor. This will also help to improve acne.
If you wanted to know how I got rid of my ‘Estrogen Dominance’ hormonal imbalance, I basically followed the guidelines above, and in particular I found that natural progesterone cream and DIM really helped.

However, acne can be caused by many different things, and there may be a different ‘type’ of hormonal imbalance at the root cause of your acne. So this approach may not work for you because your estrogen and progesterone levels may be fine. But for those of you who are curious and identify with the symptoms above, I suggest getting a saliva test to get your hormone levels checked out and go from there.

I hope this article helps some of you, and best of luck!

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