Is Your Thyroid Behind Your Acne?

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I’ve been very open about my battles with taming acne, over the past couple of years. As a teenager, I didn’t have more pimples than my friends as such, and as a young adult, although I would get a few pimples, it was never an alarming amount. It wasn’t until I decided to come off the combined contraceptive pill in December 2015 after being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and Hashimoto’s, that my skin started to go crazy.

Unearthing a sex hormone imbalance, a leaky gut and developing gluten sensitivity, I was able to slowly piece together the puzzle in why my skin had broken out so badly. 

Rachel standing in a garden with trees behind her. The sun is breaking out over the top of them and lighting the sky behind her.

The sudden amount of acne I had was really hard to come to terms with. With help from other thyroid patients online and from reading various articles, I pieced together a sex hormone imbalance of low progesterone and high oestrogen; Oestrogen Dominance.

Sex Hormone Imbalance

Driving this hormonal imbalance was the adrenal fatigue (note: it is more accurately referred to as hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction) I was also trying to tame, in the form of high cortisol. Many of us with hypothyroidism also have adrenal fatigue. When high cortisol remains high for so long, the body can start converting progesterone in to more cortisol to try and sustain this stress response, creating a sex hormone imbalance. This sex hormone imbalance gave me irregular periods and pretty horrendous mood swings, as well as the sudden and very painful cystic acne. I gave progesterone cream a go but saw little improvement, so stopped after six months or so.


Having Hashimoto’s, as 90% of us do, I also decided to give going gluten-free another go and, within just a few weeks noticed great change. As well as a great improvement in my acne, brain fog and heart palpitations, I was going to the loo more often and I felt overall healthier and more ‘with it’. I’ve inserted before and after photos of going gluten-free below, for you to see for yourself. My periods also became regular and my overall heath seemed to be improved.

A side by side photo of Rachel's face showing lots of acne on the left and a far clearer face on the right.

Six months in to being gluten-free and I rejoiced at my skin being left with just scarring which was fading at a good rate. The thought of no longer spending so long every morning concealing them, because most the time I preferred covering them up, was exciting. However, my skin soon flared up again, not as bad as before, but definitely indicating that something else was wrong. I also felt a lot more fatigued and mentally as if I was slipping. I knew something was ‘off’ again.

A photo of Rachel staring into the camera whilst wearing a pink dressing gown.

Gut Health 

Hoping that things would resolve on their own (they almost never do, though) I gave it six months before eventually visiting a functional medicine practitioner, for help on my mounting symptoms. Frustrated, because switching from Levothyroxine to NDT had made such a big difference to my life, yet  now I felt as if I was going backwards, I practically begged her for help. She confirmed that I had leaky gut, with a yeast overgrowth, driving my adrenal fatigue which in turn was driving the sex hormone imbalance (of oestrogen dominance). Going gluten-free was a great first step for my gut health but it was never going to fix everything.

Essentially, through having Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, this led to adrenal fatigue due to a leaky gut and inflammation in the body, which then led to the sex hormone imbalance.

So, what did we do?

So, I needed a targeted approach to the yeast overgrowth, working on killing this off and eliminating it from the body and then also improving my gut and digestive function. Taking enzymes, drinking bone broth and kefir were recommended and so, desperate to rid myself of the mounting symptoms and acne, I jumped on to it and implemented everything the functional medicine practitioner suggested.

It was a little slow to begin with but my god, the results have been amazing. More energy, better mental health and you guessed it – an improvement in acne. The photos below show before and after 3 months on kefir, taking citricidal to target the candida and digestive enzymes. In the before photos (left), I have a lot of red, sore pimples. The after photos (right) show mostly scarring a few months after starting gut health targeted treatment.

A 'Before' collage of photos showing different angles of Rachel's face showing acne all over. An 'After' Photo of Rachel's face showing very little acne. Rachel is smiling and looking into the camera.

As my skin improves further, I aim to update this post with even better photos of improved skin, but you can see the difference so far, from those photos before I went gluten-free to now.

It’s not just the acne on my face and chest that has improved though, but oil production and the overall softness and texture of the skin.

In my case, and I think in many thyroid patient’s cases, a sex hormone imbalance is going to behind their acne when they have thyroid issues. The delicate balance of hormones in the endocrine system, such as thyroid hormones, adrenal, sex hormones and more, can all impact each other and when one goes out of whack, so can others. By addressing the system as a whole, calming the adrenal fatigue, fixing gut health and so on, improvements in the skin and overall health can be seen.

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information give, but further information can also be found at: 

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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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