You might be wondering what exactly is hormonal acne and how it differs from other types of acne.
Just like the name suggests, hormonal acne is a type of acne that is affected by hormonal fluctuations and imbalances, which is why it’s mostly women who suffer from it.
And it’s not just teenagers who have to deal with hormonal acne. About 50 percent of adults suffer from some kind of acne, and hormonal acne strikes mostly during menstruation and menopause.
There are several different factors that contribute to the appearance of hormonal acne. Continue reading to find out the most common reasons why people suffer from hormonal acne, how to tell if your acne is hormonal and how you can treat this condition.
Because this particular type of acne is associated menstruation, experts claim that it’s the fluctuation of the estrogen and progesterone hormones that play a role in acne outbreaks.
Several days before women get their period and while they’re on it, the sebum levels in the skin increase naturally, making the skin oilier than it usually is. And we all know that excess sebum is one of the main causes of the appearance of acne in the first place. This is why if you do experience hormonal acne, it usually appears the week before you get your period.
Another way these hormonal fluctuations influence the skin is by increasing the overall inflammation in the body, which then worsens acne. They also contribute to clogged skin cells which get trapped in the hair follicles, resulting in a breakout.
Stress levels also play a big part in hormonal acne. When you’re stressed, your body increases the levels of androgens which can cause excess sebum.
If you have an undiagnosed medical condition, it might be the cause of your hormonal acne. Underlying medical conditions like PCOS often come with the pesky side-effect of acne. If you suspect that this is the case for you, getting a proper diagnosis is crucial. Once your conditions start to improve, the acne will most likely go away.
There are a few signs that you need to be on the hunt for in order to tell if you’re dealing with hormonal acne.
Firstly, look at the placement of the acne. Hormonal acne is typically distributed on the lower parts of the face, such as around the mouth, on the jawline and neck.
When it comes to the sizing of the pimples, they usually resemble cysts and are bigger and more painful than whiteheads and blackheads.
Now let’s get to the gist of it - how to treat hormonal acne for good.
Since hormonal acne is influenced by factors that are harder to control, it’s usually a quite difficult skin condition to treat and get rid of completely.
What makes this process more difficult is the fact that conventional treatment options like creams, gels, and DIY spot treatments usually don’t work on hormonal acne. While some women see improvement by using retinoid creams, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, it’s usually not enough to combat those annoying hormonal acne.
So, is there anything that actually works?
The answer is – yes! Patients usually need a more systematic approach, and what seems to work best when dealing with hormonal acne is oral medication.
One type of oral medication that’s commonly used with female patients with hormonal imbalances is birth control pills. They work great for acne because they balance out your hormones and irregular periods. The most effective option seems to be the pill that combines both the hormone estrogen and the hormone progestin.
Even though they are commonly prescribed, birth control pills should be taken with caution. Always consult your dermatologist if you want to go on oral contraceptives. You need to be extremely careful if you’re a smoker, if you suffer from high blood pressure, have a history of blood clots or breast cancer.
Another treatment option that’s often prescribed to patients is spironolactone. Although it’s technically a medication that treats blood pressure, dermatologists prescribe it in low doses. With acne patients, it actually blocks the negative effects of testosterone or androgen receptors.
Accutane, or isotretinoin, is also a popular treatment option. Although it’s harder to qualify for Accutane if you don’t suffer from a serious case of acne, if your acne is persistent then your dermatologist will likely prescribe Accutane. It works by killing the bacteria that causes acne, unblocks pores as well as permanently shrinking your oil glands, which reduces the amount of sebum. When it comes to Accutane, most people are put off by the seemingly endless list of side-effects. If you do decide to try it out for yourself, make sure to do your research thoroughly.
Using good quality topical treatments is an important step for dealing with hormonal acne.
There are several OTC topical treatment options you can choose from, depending on the severity of your acne. Dermatologists recommend using a quality face wash on a daily basis, preferably one that contains either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid in order to kill the acne-causing bacteria. These ingredients also work for reducing both the swelling and redness around the affected areas, as well as shedding off dead skin cells.
If your acne is stubborn, you might also be prescribed topical retinoids like Retin-A. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives and perform a similar function as taking Accutane orally. These work on the existing acne while also preventing new breakouts from happening. Which is why they are also used for maintenance once the acne treatment is complete.
One thing to remember about topical retinoids is that your skin might get worse before it gets better. It’s a normal thing that happens with most treatments and it’s usually not a cause of concern. A temporary breakout wave occurs because the acne from underneath starts to come out. But don’t worry, the retinoids will work on those once they emerge and your skin will be clear in no time!
In addition, limiting your sun exposure is recommended while you’re using retinoids.
Some people experience redness, itching or peeling. These are some of the most common side-effects of topical retinoids, but they usually go away once your skin gets used to them.
Tea tree oil is an amazing spot treatment option for hormonal acne. It has antiseptic properties and helps to kill off the bacteria that causes acne. It’s best to apply it directly on the spots, leave it overnight to work and wash it off in the morning. Tea tree oil is easy to find and affordable, so trying it out on your hormonal acne should be a no-brainer! When it comes to spot treatments, it definitely takes the cake.
The question that’s lingering is precisely that: Is there an effective way to get rid of hormonal acne for good?
Dermatologists believe that by combining both oral medication and conventional acne treatments you can minimize hormonal acne breakouts. Keep in mind that there isn’t a guarantee that you will never experience an acne breakout ever again, but you will certainly not have to deal with hormonal acne to that degree if you start a well-planned treatment.
When it comes to naming the causes of acne, lifestyle factors seem to be very underrated. Although we can’t tell yet to what degree diet influences acne, there certainly seems to be a correlation between dairy and acne breakouts. Since milk contains hormones naturally, it makes sense that it would cause havoc in our own hormones. If you notice new breakouts when you consume dairy products, you can try swapping dairy milk with plant-based alternatives like almond milk or oat milk.
Another thing you should avoid is processed sugar. It spikes blood sugar levels, which then spikes the inflammation in your body. As we’ve mentioned before, inflammation is a contributing factor to acne. It’s advised to avoid refined carbs as well. Instead, opt for whole grains and omega-3 sources like flaxseed meal or chia seeds which decrease skin inflammation.
Exercise is another major component of a healthy complexion. By working out, you allow more blood flow in the face and you sweat out all the toxins and impurities in the skin. Exercise is also a great form of stress relief, which is a major contributor to acne. By working out you decrease the amount of cortisol – the stress hormone in the body. It will also help you maintain a healthy weight which is good for the body and, in turn, for acne. So, when you’re considering how to treat hormonal acne, exercise should definitely not be overlooked.
If you suffer from hormonal acne, you’re not alone. Millions of women suffer from some kind of variation of hormonal acne, for different reasons. While there’s not one specific cure for this skin condition, there are several different treatment options to choose from.
Thus far, dermatologists have discovered that combining oral medication with specific OTC topical treatments provide the best results.