How to Get Rid of Hormonal Acne: Diagnosis & Treatment Options

There are many treatments to clear up hormonal acne. From over-the-counter options to face washes and creams to DIY methods and doctor-prescribed medications, you can try out many different techniques to get rid of your acne. Look for products and cleaners that include salicylic or glycolic acid. These ingredients stop bacteria and reduce inflammation.

Women tend to experience more hormone fluctuations compared to men due to puberty, menstruation cycles, pregnancy and menopause. If you suffer from hormonal acne, check out this guide on what it is and why it happens.

Regardless of the severity of your condition, we can help clients with all types of acne by providing bespoke solutions to suit their skin.

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Generally, acne is caused by clogged pores and an improper diet. Clogged pores are the result of excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria. Hormonal acne, on the other hand, can be caused by stress, lack of sleep, oil-clogging products for hair or skin care and a poor diet that either lacks nutrition or foods that cause inflammation to the skin. Other causes of hormonal acne include a family history of acne, testosterone treatments, side effects of steroid medication use, pre-existing medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or changing hormone levels in women, specifically round the time of her period, irregular periods, pregnancy, menopause, or when discontinuing the use of oral contraceptives.

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Hormonal acne treatments

Most people with hormonal acne have already tried spot treatments, pimple patches, and anything with “acne-fighting” on the label to no avail. If you’re nodding your head right now, you may want to seek the help of a dermatologist or your primary care doctor, who can not only determine if your pimples are stemming from something more serious (like a thyroid condition) but also recommend possible solutions you can’t find in a drugstore, like birth control pills. 13

Certain plant-based strategies can treat mild hormonal acne. However, they may be not as effective as conventional methods, and research on the efficacy of these treatments is lacking. One of these natural treatments is tea tree oil. Although tea tree oil is generally safe, your health care provider can verify whether it will interact with any medications you’re taking.

“These bumps are usually tender to the touch because they’ve accumulated oil over a period of days or weeks that then causes an inflammatory reaction,” she explains. That’s why over-the-counter topical treatments may not always work for these types of blemishes, which usually require other interventions that start from the inside out.

Hormonal acne what does it look like

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Hormonal acne, as the name suggests, is influenced by changes in your hormones. It can affect anyone—regardless of their gender, age, or skin care routine. 1 However, it’s particularly prevalent in people assigned female at birth from puberty until age 40, and it can also show up in folks going through menopause, Cherise Mizrahi-Levi, DO, New York City–based dermatologist, cofounder of Ayana Dermatology, and clinical instructor at Columbia University, tells SELF. 2

During these times of increased hormones, the body produces more sebum, an oily, waxy substance. This then leads to inflammation, changes in skin cell activity and colonization of bacteria in hair follicles. With this combination, acne starts to appear. Medications, antibiotics, specific foods, depression, anxiety, stress and other mentally triggering elements can cause hormonal acne as well.

Hormonal Acne: What it is and Why it Happens

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Ah, the unforgettably awkward teenage years when many of us first encountered stubborn hormonal acne—those deep, inflamed, painful cysts that were supposed to vanish for good once you reached adulthood. As you may know all too well (you’re reading this article, after all), these persistent breakouts can also rear their ugly, uh, heads well into your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond. Yep, hormone-fueled zits aren’t just a high school rite of passage: They can stick around (or show up) later in life too.

Hormonal acne is acne that occurs when a person’s hormone level fluctuates. Fluctuations of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can cause zits and pimples to pop up. Typically, these fluctuations happen mostly during menstruation cycles, pregnancy and menopause.

Hormonal acne what does it look like

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Other drugs work by reducing the androgen hormone. Most people have natural levels of androgen, but excessive androgen may cause acne by increasing the production of sebum.

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Severity of acne

Treatment for mild hormonal acne

Androgens (particularly testosterone) can similarly stimulate oil glands and create an ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria, like Cutibacterium acnes, to thrive. 3 6 (This explains why breakouts are a common symptom of PCOS, a health condition that involves an imbalance in androgens.) 6

What Is Hormonal Acne, Exactly, and How Can I Get It Under Control

Is it hormonal acne?

A rise in testosterone levels may trigger the excessive secretion of sebum from glands in the skin. It may also change the activity of certain skin cells, leading to an infection of the hair follicles by bacteria known as Cutibacterium acnes. This can create hormonal acne.

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Causes of hormonal acne

Where exactly your gnarly zits crop up can help you determine if hormones are really to blame. If you’re noticing inflamed cysts along your chin or jawline—anywhere around your lower face, really—it’s likely hormonal acne. 3

Acne during menopause can occur because of hormonal fluctuations. People who develop acne around menopause usually have normal androgen levels but reduced levels of estrogen. Due to this imbalance, sebum production increases, and acne may flare.

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Yes, fluctuation in the levels of sex hormones (including progesterone) during your menstrual cycle may also contribute to acne before your period.

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Does progesterone cause acne?

“This is because these excess hormones in your body stimulate the oil glands—many of which are around your chin area,” Marina Peredo, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells SELF. However, these breakouts can emerge on your body too—like down your neck or along your back, chest, or shoulders, Dr. Rodney says. There are a lot of oil glands in these areas, too, and when they produce more sebum, combined with a natural buildup of dead skin cells, “It creates occlusion, or blockage, that can cause breakouts and more inflammation,” she explains.

Scientists have developed a few grading systems to assess the severity of acne. According to the Global Acne Grading System (GAGS), acne can be mild, moderate, severe, or very severe.

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