Control Your Hormones, Fix Your Acne? [Expert interview] - PCOS Diva
Control Your Hormones, Fix Your Acne? [Expert interview]

PCOS podcast 51 Hormones AcneAcne, particularly cystic acne, plagues many women with PCOS. Robyn Srigley, the Hormone Diva, knows how to help. Her story may seem familiar to you. She treated her persistent acne with everything- birth control pills, Accutane, other pills, creams, antibiotics- never finding a permanent solution. She finally discovered the secret through her practice in holistic nutrition and health coaching. She is here to share her best tips and tricks to treat your hormonal acne. Listen in and learn:

  • The link between stress, cortisol and acne
  • Foods to eat and avoid
  • The roles of gut health and food allergies
  • The difference between jawline acne, facial and body acne
  • Suggested topical remedies, treatments and cleansers
If you struggle with acne, I suggest you try Robyn’s 7 Day Happy Hormones Challenge. Every day, you’ll get one new healthy habit to include in your life that will bring you toward the happy hormones that you’re trying to achieve. Check it out at www.thehormonediva.com/pcoschallenge.
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A full transcript follows.

robynsrigleyRobyn Srigley is The Hormone Diva, holistic nutritionist and women’s holistic health coach. Robyn’s own journey with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) jumpstarted her passion for helping women replace their anxieties with joy to open possibility in their lives and break free of hormonal imbalance. Robyn runs a successful 1-1 coaching and online program practice where she uses diet, movement, botanicals and a self-love lifestyle to transform the lives of women with PCOS, Endometriosis, PMS and much more. You can find out more about her work at www.thehormonediva.com

 

 

Full Transcript: 

Amy: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the PCOS Diva podcast. This is your host, Amy Medling. I am a certified health coach and I’m the founder of PCOS Diva. Today we are talking to another Diva. Robyn Srigley is the Hormone Diva. She’s a holistic nutritionist and women’s holistic health coach. Robyn’s own journey with PCOS jump started her passion for helping women replace their anxieties with joy, to open possibilities in their lives, and break free of hormonal imbalance. Welcome, Robyn, to the podcast.

 

Robyn: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

 

Amy: It’s really nice to have a fellow Diva, PCOS Diva, on the podcast. I think that you can really relate from your own experience and working with other women with PCOS, with just how women suffer with some of these really difficult symptoms to alleviate. Today we’re going to be talking about acne because along with I think the hair issues, acne is just really tough. I think it takes … Just kind of chips away at our self-esteem. We just want some, I guess remedies and tips and tricks. You know, how to deal with this hormonal type of acne.

 

That’s what we’re going to be talking about today and I’d love if you kind of share your background and your PCOS story and how maybe some of the symptoms like acne have kind of come into play for you. Then we’ll talk about some of your solutions for us.

 

Robyn: Absolutely. That sounds great. My PCOS story … You know, when I think about it now, I feel like it probably started from as soon as I started my period when I was like 12 years old. I never had regular periods. They were always irregular, painful, heavy. I started getting acne before everyone else when I was around that age. I was just covered in acne, actually. My face, my back, my chest. Just covered in painful, deep, cystic acne.

 

It wasn’t until many years later, after I’d been on the birth control pill for about 7 years, and I did go on it for contraception, it was recommended to go on it for me when I was even younger for acne, but I chose not to do that at the time. I eventually did start to take it and after 7 years, I was going along my merry way, but then I learned one day in nutrition school when I was studying to become a nutritionist, about all the nasties that come with taking the birth control pill. Potential blood clots and infertility risk and cancer risk and all of this crazy stuff. I thought, “You know what? This isn’t aligned with the way that I’m trying to live my life. The natural way that I’m try to live my life.”

 

So I decided to stop taking the birth control pill. It was at this time when my hormones just went even crazier than they have been in the past. All the acne that I had managed to get rid of while I was on the pill came back with a vengeance. It was right to when I was 12 or 13 years old again. I gained a lot of weight. My moods were incredibly erratic. I just couldn’t control anxiety, depression. Like lots of tearful nights. That kind of stuff. My hair was falling out, and that was really scary.

 

I went to my family doctor. I went to my gynecologist. I’m like, “What’s going on? Can you test me?” Because I was in nutrition school, I kind of have an inkling that this was what was going on. I was like, “You know what? I’ve heard about this thing called PCOS. Do you think it could be that?” The doctors did the tests and at first were saying, “No, that’s not what it is. The typical markers aren’t there.” I had the ultrasound, and I didn’t have any cysts and that was like the big thing, right? There’s no cyst. They didn’t want to diagnose me.

 

Eventually, it took me a year, I eventually got my diagnosis of PCOS and really went on a natural health binge, if you will, of trying to heal myself and regulate my cycles. A big part of that was trying to deal with my acne, because in the past, birth control pills had helped a little bit. I had been on 2 courses of Accutane throughout my teens, which helped only temporarily. I had tried all the topical creams and antibiotics that you could possibly think of that doctors and dermatologists and whatever might give you and never had a permanent solution.

 

I was really hoping that now that I have this answer of PCOS, and that can contribute to the acne I was experiencing, that I was hoping to be able to fix that, and I did. Although I will say it took me about 2 years to fully clear my skin up. Skin is tough, really tough to deal with naturally if you don’t know what exactly is causing it. Once I did, it was just amazing. Not to have to wear makeup, not to be embarrassed about going out, and all of that kind of stuff, it wasn’t anything I had experienced before. I was happy that I was able to be able to fix my acne over time.

 

Amy: I think your story it’s … so many people listening can resonate with that. Acne was not something that was one of the symptoms that I dealt with, but my sister did. My sister also has PCOS. Just seeing her struggle, it’s really just heartbreaking.

 

Give us kind of a background of what was going on hormonally. We know that insulin and testosterone, androgen come into play. Kind of looking back, you can kind of be the Monday morning quarterback. What was going on with your hormones?

 

Robyn: For my personal hormones, it was definitely insulin was a big contributor. I’d always had imbalanced blood sugar, now that I know what to call it. What I was feeling, even as a child, now I know it was insulin issues. I think that really contributed a lot.

 

Also, the testosterone was a big one, because I also experienced the hair loss and some of the facial hair growth and stuff like that. My tests for testosterone and DHEA, another androgen, were just off the charts. I think that really contributed as well.

 

It really took almost an indirect approach because the more that I worked on balancing my stress, and so therefore balancing things like cortisol, our stress hormone, that is actually when I noticed the most difference in my skin, interestingly enough. I think that was kind of, you know … Insulin can be put out of balance by imbalanced cortisol and stress hormones. I think that was kind of one of the big underlying things for me- not being able to control my insulin and testosterone was because of my imbalanced stress hormones.

 

Amy: Yeah. That is so important I think. I say that stress just really wreaks havoc on women with PCOS because it kind of causes that whole sort of hormonal cascade from increased insulin, decreased progesterone, increased testosterone. I find a lot of women also with the insulin issues, not just the acne, but sort of that belly fat weight gain, for a lot of us, the only that we can really deal with that is to learn how to control our stress. I think sleeping more and making sure you get 8 hours of sleep, kind of having some type of way to counteract the stress, whether it’s a meditation practice, or exercise, or the right type exercise that isn’t adding to the cortisol issue, and reducing sugar, and diet … Now to diet, and changing your diet … Studying natural, holistic nutrition, did that really help to alleviate that acne problem for you?

 

Robyn: Yes. Absolutely. Diet was a huge thing. I was born, starting right from the beginning, I was put on soy formula, which we know can contribute to crazy estrogen stuff happening. Then I grew up on a lot of fast food because both my parents worked, so there was a lot of McDonald’s and sugary stuff that came in boxes and stuff. Right from as soon as I was born, essentially, having all of that stuff in my body a lot, and I would crave it. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and just want a huge glass of juice. It was just sugar, sugar, sugar everywhere.

 

Once I was able to kind of get that under control a little bit and have my blood sugar balanced through my diet, so including a lot of fats, once I learned about the good reasons why we need to include fats, because I did all those low fat diets too, right, and tried to lose weight and count calories and do all of that kind of stuff, and it just makes things worse. As I ate better and I had a lot more green veggies and healthy fats and good sources of protein, I definitely noticed a huge difference in my skin. I see this time and again, clinically as well as my clients. Self-care, reducing stress, and really paying attention to your blood sugar balance and diet are the 2 main factors when it comes to healing your skin from the inside out.

 

Amy: What about dairy? I know that … I really do not recommend a lot of dairy for PCOS Divas, and I think that a lot of people have acne issues seem to eat a lot of dairy, and that raises insulin, but then I think the hormones from dairy too. Is that something that you removed from your diet when your skin started to clear up?

 

Robyn: Interestingly, no. I’m not like you, a huge proponent of a lot of dairy in the diet. I still have it sometimes and it doesn’t seem to, at this point, bother my skin. I find that more sugar, like processed sugar products, bother my skin more than the dairy. For a lot for women, dairy’s really bad because it will, besides upsetting the insulin balance which you just mentioned, it will also help to increase testosterone in your body as well. A lot of people can’t digest it and so there goes your gut, right? If your guts poor, then you’re going to have bad skin as well.

 

There’s a couple cons to using dairy as a food every day. I agree with you. A lot of them will have dairy a lot. I find that it’s almost addicting sometime, like they have cravings for it, like they just can’t give up cheese or do these kind of things. Once you kind of get that insulin under control, it’s a little bit easier to give up the dairy I find.

 

Amy: Yeah. Also, you know that casein protein and cheese can act kind of like an opiate. It’s like casomorphin and acts like an opiate in our brain receptors. It triggers those cravings. When people say they’re addicted to cheese, biologically there really is something to that and it is hard to give up cheese.

 

You had mentioned the gut. Tell us more about how healing the gut can help sort of heal your acne and give maybe some tips on gut healing.

 

Robyn: Absolutely. It’s really, really important to heal your gut when it comes to acne, or at least improve it. You might not even think you have gut issues because gut issues don’t always show up just in like diarrhea or constipation or stomach upset or any of that kind of stuff. The symptoms can show up anywhere, especially on your face.

 

A lot of it comes down to 1- not having a good bacterial balance. Not having enough of those beneficial bacteria, those probiotics that people have heard of these days. Having too many bad bacteria can really upset the balance. There are so many, like trillions, of bacteria in our body and in our gut, there’s more of them than there are of us, our human cells. If they’re upset, then things are just going to go crazy in our body, and they really help to modulate our immune system and our endocrine system, so it’s really important to have a good balance there. Probiotics and fermented foods can be really, really helpful in bringing back that balance.

 

Then, the other aspect of poor gut health and acne, what I find, is poor absorption. If you don’t have enough stomach acid or enough digestive enzymes happening when you’re eating food, then you’re not going to be breaking it down and you won’t be absorbing all the wonderful nutrients and antioxidants and all of that good stuff that really help to keep our skin and our hormones in balance as well. It’s really important to kind of pay attention to these 2 things when it comes to healing the gut and helping with acne.

 

I did mention taking probiotics or fermented foods can be really helpful when you’re trying to do the bacterial balance. Then there are things that you can do to heal your gut and help increase your stomach acid and increase your enzymes, besides the fermented foods. Some raw foods can be helpful with this. Sprouts, especially.

 

Apple cider vinegar, raw of course, unpasteurized, which is also really good for insulin balance, interestingly enough, can help heal your gut as well. It’s got a lot of good enzymes in there and really helps with low stomach acid and if you’re not breaking down proteins and all of that good stuff as well. Even taking a little bit of that before your meals can be helpful in healing the gut.

 

Generally with gut healing, I start with removing those offending foods, so the dairy, sugar, some women are sensitive to gluten, any other sensitivities or allergies that they might have. Getting rid of processed foods and the chemicals and all of that stuff, to really give your digestive system a break. Then maybe introducing some of those things like probiotics, fermented foods, apple cider vinegar, other digestive supplements.

 

Amy: Two things that I wanted to ask you about. First was fermented foods. If somebody has never really ventured out beyond yogurt for fermented foods, what do you suggest?

 

Robyn: Well, there’s just so many out there. I’m much bigger fan of like the not the drinkable ones, so not the necessarily kombucha. Some people have problems with that and it can maybe flare up some candida yeast if you have that.

 

But like edible ones, so like sauerkraut is really good and, of course, when you’re looking for these fermented foods, just as an aside, you want to make sure you’re getting them in the refrigerated section so that you know they’re truly fermented and they’re not full of sugar and vinegar and stuff because then you’re not really getting any probiotics at all. Just to watch out for that. Sauerkraut is really great. Also because sauerkraut has cabbage and cabbage helps to detoxify estrogen, which is kind of a double bonus for a woman with PCOS to use sauerkraut.

 

Pickled beets, actual pickles, like pickled cucumbers are awesome. Any kind of fermented food like that. Kefir (or ka-feer depending on how you want to say it), can be good. You can get that made out of coconut milk. If you’re not doing dairy, I find that that one’s usually pretty good. It’s got a really nice variety of different probiotics in it. Anything at all that you can find like that. Even yesterday, I was at a Whole Foods and I found a fermented tomato salsa instead of the jarred type. I’m very excited to give it a try. There’s a whole bunch of different types of things that you can try. Kimchi as well, which is like an Asian kind of sauerkraut. It’s a little bit spicy. Just having a few things like that in your fridge can be helpful to just include with a couple of your meals throughout the day.

 

Amy: I actually take it sort of medicinally. I have it in my fridge. My favorite brand, you can get it here in New Hampshire at Whole Foods, is called Micro Mama’s. I’m not sure if it’s readily available across the US, but their sauerkraut I think is the best that I’ve tasted, and I’m not a huge sauerkraut fan. I take a couple forkfuls every day and think of it kind of like taking my probiotic. It’s sort of like a medicinal. So yes, sauerkraut I think is a great place to start.

 

You mentioned food intolerances. I really think that if you are intolerant to a food, it’s causing the body a lot of inflammation. PCOS is essentially sort of this state of chronic inflammation. I think not only does lessening the inflammation in your body because you’re getting rid of some of these foods that you’re intolerant to, it’s also going to help with the acne as well.

 

I just did this really fantastic food panel, food allergy panel, by KBMO Diagnostics. I just found out that I am highly allergic to eggs, and something that I was really adding a lot into my diet. I’ve noticed that by removing them, my energy level has gone up.

 

For anyone that’s really suffering from acne, I recommend getting a food allergy panel done. Something like the KBMO Diagnostics to find out what foods you’re allergic to. Is that something that you’ve seen with your clients as well?

 

Robyn: Yeah. Absolutely. Sometimes I find that the foods we’re sensitive to are often the ones we’re eating a lot of, which it kind of sucks a lot of the time but it’s true. Removing those and doing some gut healing can be really, really helpful with acne. I will say, though, that what I find is that women who have food sensitivities or allergies that are contributing their acne are generally having acne in different places or in addition to that common area of hormonal acne, which is around the chin and jawline. If you’re having it elsewhere, like on your cheeks, on your forehead, your nose, your upper lip, that kind of thing, I find that that is a lot more linked to the food sensitivities. Not to say that the chin, jawline hormonal acne isn’t, because if you’re eating things that are disrupting your hormones, then certainly that will contribute that way. As far as like a direct contribution to acne, I find that if you have it in those other areas of the face, then it might be good thing to look into one of those tests just to see what’s going on.

 

Amy: That’s an interesting insight. When you look at the areas of your face, I know I’ve often taken a look at some of those Chinese medicine face maps. Are you familiar with … They kind of map … You can find them online, but it’s kind of like the theory in Chinese medicine where your acne is. Like what kind of organs … What organ it corresponds with your body. A lot of acne is associated with liver and kind of like a clogged liver in Chinese medicine. What’s your thoughts on detoxification and doing like a gentle cleanse in order to kind of help clear your acne? Do you think that some of the acne is kind of associated with our bodies not being able to process toxins well?

 

Robyn: Yes. I a hundred percent agree with that. The liver is very, very important to pay attention to, especially when it comes to acne. That often will indicate poor gut function too. If your liver is really sluggish or bunged up with toxins, I think it’s really important … It has played a huge role in own healing, doing detoxification when it comes to my skin especially. I generally do like 1 or 2 sort of more gentle cleanses throughout the year, and I find that helps to keep some equilibrium going for myself. When I was first starting to balance my PCOS and trying to get rid of the acne naturally, I think that really helped as well because besides helping your liver if you’re using target supplements or foods to detoxify, you’re also giving your digestive system, your gut, a break which I find is helpful sometimes so that it can kind of reset. You can give it lots of nutrients so that it can rebuild itself a little bit. There’s many good points to doing some cleansing when it comes to PCOS and acne.

 

Amy: Yeah. I really like to do a spring and fall kind of cleanse, and even sometimes after the holidays if I’ve gotten off track. I have the Sparkle program. It’s a whole food functional, functional food based cleanse. Really gentle, but a great way to kind of give your liver a break and your digestive system a break. It’s something to think about if you are dealing with skin issues. That sometimes can be a sign of toxicity.

 

Robyn, tell us if you feel like you have that jawline acne which could indicate underlying hormonal imbalance, like PCOS, what are some things that listeners can do to help balance their hormones and clear their skin? We talked a little about internal, the probiotics, the fermented foods, but what about topical remedies or any other tips you have?

 

Robyn: For sure. Yeah. All of the basics that we’ve talked about are really important. Managing your stress, making sure you’re getting a blood sugar balancing diet with good amounts of protein and fat and fiber and doing anything else that you can internally, like fixing your gut, probiotics, all of that good stuff. When it comes to topical, and I know this is important because a lot of women strictly do topical for their skin and we kind of have that mindset of treating the symptom right there, but internal is just as important as topical.

 

When it comes to topical, of course it’s really important to avoid any kind of harsh chemicals or cleansers, products with soap or weird stuff that’s going to strip the natural oils from your skin, because you don’t want to do that either, right? You need that protection on your skin so that you don’t have more bacteria and stuff growing on there that might contribute to your acne a little bit.

 

Going as natural as possible is really great. What I usually like to recommend for women who are just starting into this … You know, changing from their chemical based products into something more natural, is something that I use myself and it has just made the biggest difference in the texture and the look of my skin. I use it as a cleanser, but you could also use it like once a week as a mask if you leave it on longer. It’s simply a mix of ground cinnamon powder and honey, unpasteurized raw honey. Local if you can get it. That’s it. You mix the 2 together and you just kind of rub that on your face. It’s got a very gentle exfoliating action. You don’t need to press too hard with your fingers. Both the cinnamon and honey have a lot of good benefits for them, in terms of improving acne and reducing any pathogens that might be on the skin, but without stripping the beautiful, natural oils that you need on your skin as well. I think that can be a really, really good starting point. Like I said, that can be used daily as a cleanser, massaged gently and then rinsed. Or you leave it on for 10 or 15 minutes once a week as a nice acne fighting mask.

 

Amy: Oh, that’s great. I’m going to try that this week for sure. What about spot treatment? Do you subscribe to salicylic acid or what would you use to kind of treat what you already have?

 

Robyn: For sure. I find that some of the spot treatments work and some don’t. I get asked a lot about tea tree oil and how … You know, whether that would be good as a spot treatment. In theory, yes, because it has all the properties that you’d want. But what I found with most of my clients is that it either doesn’t really do anything, or it maybe it does, but it also causes more redness or even burning on the skin because it is very concentrated. It might be worth a try, but again, it might not work.

 

My favorite thing right now for a spot treatment is a product by a company called Yon-Ka, that’s Y-O-N-K-A. It’s available online. I get it locally here as well. I think they’re out of France of something. They have a product called … Which one is it? … The Juvenil serum. That is their version of a spot treatment. I have been using this now for about probably nearly a year on little spots that I get. It’s just been amazing. It’s natural. They use a lot of essential oils in their formulas, so it’s a lot more gentle than some of the drugstore products that you might be buying, but it doesn’t mean that it’s less effective. I really like the Juvenil serum by Yon-Ka for a spot treatment.

 

Amy: Do you use their other products for cleansers or are you just kind of cleansing with the honey mask?

 

Robyn: Yeah. I’ve never used any of their cleansers. All I use is the cinnamon and honey to wash my face. That’s it. I have used one of their other products, which is called Creme 15. It’s more of a cream that you’d put all over your face or your back or your chest, wherever the acne’s happening, to help reduce it. The Juvenil’s more of like your spot treatment, or a little bit more strong in its action, and then the Creme 15 I found really beneficial just as an all over kind of face cream, acne fighting cream after cleansing.

 

Amy: Any other ideas for divas? I mean, you’ve given us a lot of ideas for treating acne.

 

Robyn: Yeah. I’ve got one more thing that I would mention. Because I get asked a lot about moisturizers and stuff. Because women will say, “Well, my face is so oily but I also get dry patches or it feels tight after I use a cleanser or I wash my face. What should I be putting on my face? Will it clog my pores and all of that?”

 

I have one and I really like it because it’s one ingredient. It’s just an oil. It’s rosehip seed oil. I really like this as a moisturizer for the skin because it’s not complicated. It’s just the one thing. There’s no weird chemicals. Also, it’s a very, very light oil. It’s not going to clog your pores. It’s not going to make your face super oily and oil slick for the rest of the day because you’ve put oil on your face or anything like that. It’s got some nice nutrients in there too. If you’re looking for a really light something to put on your face just after your cleansing to help maybe even put a nicer base before you put your makeup on so that it goes on really smoothly, I like rosehip seed oil.

 

Amy: Oh, that’s interesting. A far cry from the Accutane and antibiotics that you were using earlier.

 

Robyn: Yes. Absolutely.

 

Amy: You also work with women that deal with endometriosis and PMS. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your practice and how people can learn more about what you do.

 

Robyn: Absolutely. I work with women one-on-one through private coaching and through my online program, The 21 Day Happy Hormones Diet, which the aim of that is to help women determine what they should be eating and how they should be eating and how they can really include healthy amounts of self-care in their lifestyle to create happy hormones. Both of those are available. You can check it out on my website. I would love to invite the women who are listening to connect with me, join my community, and they can do that with this challenge that I’ve just released. It’s called the 7 Day Happy Hormones Challenge. It’s basically back to basics. Everyday you’ll just get one new healthy habit to include in your life that will bring you towards the happy hormones that you’re trying to achieve. They can find me and they can find the challenge all at www.thehormonediva.com/challenge.

 

Amy: Great. We will post that link at the bottom of the podcast. Thank you so much, Robyn, for joining us and sharing your experience dealing with PCOS hormonal acne. I know that what we’ve learned from you today is really going to help a lot of Divas.

 

Robyn: Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed being here.

 

Amy: Well, thank you everyone for listening. I think that this is podcast number 49. There’s lots more interviews with experts on iTunes or you can access them from my site pcosdiva.com.

 

Well, I enjoyed being with you today, and I look forward to joining you again on the podcast soon. Bye-bye.

 

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  • Ali C

    awesome!

  • It is true that cystic acne gives kind very unbearable pain sometimes. Me to have them on my back and I am looking for the treatment that helps me to get rid of this acne. I am bit concern about the do this home remedies actually work or should i Get it treated by the skin care specialist? I already do diet and avoid the oily food but still those acne don’t go away. Please suggest something.

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