Acne and hair growth issues are a common concern in women 30+ years old. Topical serums, creams and cleansers can leave women feeling frustrated when they provide limited benefits. To make matters worse, women often feel apologetic for feeling self-conscious about a “cosmetic concern” when in fact these symptoms can be important indicators of imbalances in hormones and inflammation levels in the body.
Many factors can contribute to acne and hair growth issues but blood glucose dysregulation is the most overlooked factor I see. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between blood glucose and its impact on both skin and hair. You’ll also learn what you can do from home to renew and rebalance your skin and hair from the inside out.
Most people are familiar with the link between glucose and diabetes. And thankfully, diabetes is commonly screened for with conventional lab testing (such as Hemoglobin A1c and Fasting glucose). But there’s a problem: Glucose issues can drive hormonal imbalances and inflammation well before diabetes (or even prediabetes) develops. A detailed health history is the most important part of assessing glucose health - additional lab tests can be helpful to confirm assessment and guide dietary adjustments.
Insulin is the hormone that works hard to keep glucose levels tightly regulated. However when blood glucose levels are elevated too much/for too long, insulin levels can remain high causing a number of issues, one of which is increased androgen production. Androgens are typically known as “male hormones” that are present in both men and women and play a role in regulating the growth and maintenance of hair and skin.
When androgen levels are high, we can see an increase in sebum production and increase in skin inflammation. This can result in an increased risk of developing acne. On the other hand, elevated androgen levels can also lead to hair loss by causing hair follicles to shrink and produce finer and shorter hair. In some cases, elevated androgen levels can also result in unwanted hair growth in areas such as on the upper lip or chin.
The good news is that managing blood glucose levels can help improve both acne and hair growth issues.
Your individual liver health, gut flora, stress levels, hormones and inflammation levels all affect glucose and insulin. So where to start? Here are a few effective things you can do from home to avoid the big glucose ups and downs and optimize your insulin.
The daily rollercoaster of glucose levels is a major stress on your body - but, it’s not always obvious that it’s happening. Start with reducing processed/refined sugar and flours. Instead choose whole food starches like squash, yams, potatoes, whole grains, fruits especially berries. Using sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract can help in transitioning off refined sugar.
Adjust your meals so you can avoid snacking between meals and avoid snacking before bed. This allows insulin to come back down to healthy levels between meals and while you’re sleeping. One way to make your meals satiating is to emphasize fat, fiber and protein in your meals while reducing starchy carbs. I recommend adjusting breakfast first.
Dairy products and red meat tend to trigger more insulin than other proteins. Often reducing dairy alone improves acne. Choose more non-dairy “milk” and protein sources like chicken, fish and legumes.
While working on optimizing glucose/insulin health, zinc supplementation can be helpful to reduce androgen levels and reduce sebum production. Zinc deficiency is more common in people following a strictly plant-based diet as well as in women taking hormonal birth control pills, using stomach medications or those who have low thyroid function. I typically recommend zinc citrate, picolinate or bisglycinate.
Lastly, herbs and other nutrients can be a helpful supplement to your dietary changes. Some herbs help to reduce androgen levels while other nutrients can support your liver in its natural ability to balance hormones. Learn more hormone solutions for your skin HERE. And always speak to your naturopathic practitioner to determine which supplements are best for you.
Glucose/insulin issues are a common cause of acne and hair growth issues and are often overlooked for years. Thankfully lifestyle and nutritional support can rebalance glucose/insulin, improve hormone balance and reduce inflammation. You’ll love the way your skin and hair feels!
How will you balance your glucose today?