If Youve Ever Tried Every Trick Under The Sun To Manage Your Acne But Havent Been Able To Find A Good Fix Then Youre Definitely Not Alone
Fact checked by Grzegorz Stanislawski, MD
It can be super frustrating to try and figure out the root cause of your acne. After all, without a clear understanding of whats causing it, how can you treat your skin?
There are so many different life factors that can affect your skin health and cause breakouts and blemishes, and hormonal acne can be one of the more confusing and difficult to treat.
Hormonal acne can be defined as breakouts of pimples, cysts, and other skin irritations due to fluctuations in the levels of certain hormones in your body, the most impactful of which are your levels of androgens.
But were getting ahead of ourselves, we know youre wondering what exactly hormonal acne looks like for you. Weve put together a checklist to help you understand your acnes causes, and how you can treat them.
If you find that one or more of these apply to you, then it might just be your hormones to blame.
Signs Acne Is Hormonal
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If youre like us, you probably thought that after the pimply tweenage years, acne was supposed to buzz off. But no. For many of us the acne lives on!
In fact, hormonal acne most often occurs between the ages of 20 40. But even if youre 40+ you might not be out of the woods. 30 years of potential pimples? Umm, thats not what we signed up for.
Having tried various approaches to dealing with zits, weve found that directing hate towards our little inflamed friends is not the best approach. We invite you to join us by taking a softer approach: one of self-compassion and acceptance.
Remember that your spots are just messengers from your body saying that something is up. Dont shoot the messenger! Its not your fault, or your bodys fault that youve got acne, so have compassion for the trillions of cells that are doing their very best to love and look after you.
Instead of blaming your zits, send them some gratitude for letting you know that theres something your body is asking you to pay attention to, and look a little deeper.
In this blog were going to take you through 5 clues that your pimply pals are alerting you to give your hormones some love.
Insulin And Insulin Growth Factor 1
Insulin stimulates the growth and maturation of sebaceous glands. This action is mediated through upregulation of GH receptors on the sebocytes by insulin.19 Moreover, insulin inhibits SHBG production from the liver and further plays a positive feedback effect on adrenal and ovarian androgenesis. The controversial link between diet and acne can be explained by the fact that highly glycemic index foods result in insulin release and in turn excess androgen and sebum production.20
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Other Ways To Balance Your Hormones
Besides vitamins for hormone balance, you can also use some other natural strategies to achieve the same effect. Consider making a few long-term lifestyle changes that include:
- Regular exercise. Choose high-intensity interval training circuits to boost your metabolism and yoga to soothe your stress.
- A hormone balance diet, including foods like organic tempeh, wild-caught salmon, bell peppers, and veggies like broccoli and bok choy.
- Use essential oils that can help balance your hormone levels.
- Stay away from stimulants like caffeine for a while, especially as you get your hormones back into balance. Instead, opt for natural energy boosters like Pick Me Up, a herbal formula designed to give you clean energy and pure focus.
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What Gets Rid Of Hormonal Acne
Before you get downtrodden about the finicky nature of hormonal acne, remember that its pesky, but perfectly normal. So normal, in fact, that there are many methods to help treat it.
Most people with hormonal acne have tried over-the-counter treatments to no avail. If they arent working for you, you may need to seek the help of a dermatologist, who can offer prescription hormonal acne treatments. In general, its a good idea to see your dermatologist if you have deep or cystic pimples, because they could be a marker of something more serious, such as a thyroid condition or abnormal hormone levels, says Dr. Jegasothy.
If youve stumbled across natural treatments for hormonal acne, like using certain essential oils or other home remedies, Dr. Rodney says theyre not really legitand can sometimes make the situation worse. She recommends trying one of the hormonal acne medications or treatments listed below instead:
The hormonal acne treatment pyramid starts with good over-the-counter cleansers. When choosing yours, look for alpha7 or beta hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acids8. As you wash your face, each of these ingredients helps exfoliate the skin by unclogging pores to varying degrees of intensity. Finding the right kind that works for you might take some careful experimentation, but the La-Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Cleanser and the Paulas Choice Pore Normalizing Cleanser are two derm-approved face washes for acne-prone skin.
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Hormonal Acne: How Do You Treat It
Ugh, why am I still getting acne wasnt that reserved for my awkward teen years, didnt I suffer enough back then? A question I think weve all asked ourselves when the outbreak comes out of nowhere and our chin suddenly becomes a minefield of sore eruptions. However, these pesky spots are likely a different breed altogether from those teen breakouts. Welcome to the not so beloved phenomenon hormonal acne.
During the monthly menstrual cycle, both estrogen and progesterone fluctuate as certain functions turn the production of each hormone on and off. Also, the ratio of progesterone to estrogen can have an added effect on testosterone levels. These are the most common factors that contribute to a breakout. If you ever notice regular breakouts happening consistently every cycle it is most likely linked to these specific hormones. Beyond any cyclical breakout, weve all experienced a more random irregular eruption at times of high stress, a heavy workload, or some form of an emotionally taxing period in time. That my sisters, is most likely a cortisol induced breakout if cortisol fluctuates heavily it can knock other hormones out of balance, leading to severe acne if not managed .
All in all, these fluctuations of a womans key hormones are believed to increase oil production in our pores, which leads to the breakouts you may be experiencing.
Hormonal Acne Book Will Be Available Next Week
If youve got hormonal acne and youre totally sick of it, my guide to female hormonal acne is going to be coming out next week. Im just putting the finishing touches on it right now.
In the ebook, Im going to help you to recognize what kind of imbalance youre dealing with so you can tailor a specific plan for your situation and finally get rid of that stubborn hormonal acne once and for all! Stay tuned!
: Guide to Female Hormonal Acne is now available! Get your copy here right now.
Is your acne hormonal?
Blog author Tracy Raftl used to have severe acne now she teaches thousands of women how to take back control of their skin through natural, holistic, and mind-body methods.
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Can I Prevent Acne
It’s not always possible to prevent acne. But these tips can help:
Note: Acne isn’t really helped by the sun. A tan can temporarily make acne look less severe, but it won’t help it go away permanently and some people find that the oils their skin makes after being in the sun make their pimples worse.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalance
Your hormones have to work together in balance to help your body thrive. However, hormone ups and downs in women are very common, so if you feel that you have a hormonal imbalance, you are not alone.
Doctors from WebMD say that some of the common causes of an imbalance in hormone production in women are pre-menstrual syndrome, pregnancy, and the menopause. However, other lifestyle factors can cause hormones to fluctuate. Being overweight, not getting enough exercise, or a lack of sleep can all throw your hormones off balance.3
Other reasons for hormone fluctuations are an underactive thyroid that doesnt produce enough thyroxine . Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that hypothyroidism can leave you feeling lethargic, cause changes in your menstrual system, or make it difficult to lose weight.4
Also, diabetes is a common cause of hormonal imbalances and can affect, not just the insulin hormone, but also other blood sugar-related hormones, sex hormones, and growth hormones.5
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Hormonal Imbalance And Weight Gain
People with Cushing syndrome have high levels of cortisol in their blood. This leads to an increase in appetite and fat storage.
Hypothyroidism, if the condition is severe, can also lead to weight gain.
Slight hormone imbalances can happen during menopause. During this transition, many people gain weight because their metabolisms slow down. You may find that even though youre eating and exercising like you usually do, you still gain weight.
The only way to treat weight gain from a hormone disorder is to treat the underlying condition.
During a typical pregnancy, your body goes through major hormonal changes. This is different from a hormonal imbalance.
How Do I Treat Hormonal Acne
Based on the severity of your acne, different treatment options are available to reduce sebum production, pimple formation and painful inflammation:
- Blackheads and whiteheads: Topical cream .
- Inflammatory acne: Topical retinoid and/or topical antibiotic and/or benzoyl peroxide.
- Moderate to severe acne: Antibiotic and/or isotretinoin .
- Cystic acne: Steroid injection .
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Take Your Vitamins And Herbs
While hormonal acne is stubborn, there are some easy strategies you can take to balance hormones for acne relief naturally and it starts with vitamins and herbs.
Vitex for Acne
In women, hormonal acne typically manifests along the jawline and chin. If this sounds familiar, taking Vitex for acne may be a successful treatment.
Vitex agnus castus, also known as Chasteberry, is a womans herb thats been traditionally used for hormonal imbalances. Its been used for menstrual symptoms of low progesterone in the luteal phase . These symptoms include depression, crying, mood swings, acne, nervousness and anxiety.
Vitex has also been used as a natural remedy for treating such symptoms of high estrogen levels as pain, tender breasts, bloating and heavy periods.
Current research shows that Vitex can support healthy hormone levels and relieve pre-menstrual symptoms. It can also be an effective natural hormonal acne treatment.
How does Vitex for Acne Work?
The Vitex herbs act upon the pituitary and hypothalamus glands by increasing luteinizing hormone production and mildly inhibiting the release of follicle-stimulating hormone . This results in a shift in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, with a rise in progesterone. The ability of the Vitex to increase progesterone levels is an indirect effect.
Vitex itself is not a hormone, but rather an herb that helps the body balance natural estrogen and progesterone. By balancing the estrogen, the androgens then come into balance as well.
Identifying Hormonal Male Acne
Hormonal acne is characterized by raised, red, and tender bumps or large red/white bumps filled with pus. Cysts are deep pimples without an opening on the surface. These pimples tend to be deeper than superficial whiteheads or blackheads. Hormonal acne often involves the lower half of the face including the cheeks, jawline, chin, and neck. Hormonal body acne is also common because men have a higher density of sebaceous glands per hair follicle on their chest, shoulders, and back.
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What Is The Treatment Of Hormonal Acne
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.
If you go with the cream option, dermatologists recommend patients use topical retinoids. Retinoids can help rid your skin of dead skin cells that end up clogging your pores. And over time, these creams will help your skin stay clear. While you can find many of them over the counter, your doctor can prescribe a higher dose for more severe acne.
Some patients cure their acne problems with DIY or natural methods. Tea tree oil and alpha hydroxy acid are some of the best ways to fight hormonal acne organically. For more severe acne, contact your doctor or dermatologist.
If you are a woman, one of the medications a health specialist might recommend is birth control. Birth control balances out your hormones and clears your skin. However, not every woman can take oral contraceptives, and men cannot at all. So what can a doctor recommend? The next medication they can give you is anti-androgen drugs. Anti-androgen drugs suppress the male hormone androgen, which lowers oil production and secretion.
How Is It Hormonal
Hormonal acne is triggered by fluctuating hormone levels. Thats why you might get more breakouts if you have a vajayjay.
Females are more susceptible to hormonal acne since we experience fluctuations in female sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone monthly with our menses, says Zenovia Gabriel, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and hormonal skin care expert.
A breakout can be the first sign of hormonal imbalance. The pimples are proof your body is adjusting.
An increase in testosterone stimulates our oil glands to produce excess sebum, which is one major cause of acne, says Zenovia.
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How Hormonal Acne Develops
Acne breakouts are a four-step process, with each step contributing to the development of a noticeable pimple:
Hormone production. Before your period, your body starts to increase its androgen production. Higher testosterone levels trigger your body to create more sebum, which can lead to oilier facial skin.
Clogged hair follicle. Sebum clogs one or several hair follicles. These clogged hair follicles are called comedones. Comedones can be completely blocked , forming a whitehead pimple, or partially blocked , resulting in a blackhead.
Bacterial infection. Bacteria trapped inside the comedone causes an infection, resulting in a painful, irritated pimple.
Inflammation. In response to the bacterial infection, your immune system causes the clogged hair follicle to become red, swollen and uncomfortable. This inflammation can include acne cysts or cystic acne.
November 4, 2021// by Dr. Robert Paull, MD//
Most of us associate the term hormonal acne with those monstrous pimples that plagued us during our teen years. But hormonal acne can also occur much later in life. In fact, its most common in adult women between the ages of 20 and 40. And youre still not in the clear once you hit your 40s, because fluctuating hormones can trigger breakouts around menopause.
In this skin care blog post, Ill explain what causes hormonal acne and how you can tell if your acne is hormonal. Then, in my next post, Ill unpack some proven strategies for getting rid of it.
Natural Remedies For Hormonal Acne
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 youre taking.
These self-care tips may help clear acne or keep it from getting worse:
- Wash your face gently, no more than twice a day, and after heavy sweating.
- Use mild cleansers or soaps and lukewarm water.
- Avoid exfoliating products or harsh scrubs.
- Dont rub, pick, or scrape your pimples since this can cause inflammation.
- If you wear makeup, look for non-comedogenic options when possible.
- Avoid humid environments, which lead to sweating.
Excessive washing and scrubbing can actually worsen acne, as it may remove too much oil from your skin and cause irritation. In response, your skin may secrete more oil, worsening the acne.
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Learn More About Acne
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting around 50 million Americans every year. While all acne is hormonal, it can be triggered by a variety of factors, from androgens to stress, medication and more.
Interested in learning more about acne? Our guide to androgen hormones that cause acne goes into more detail about how testosterone and other androgens can trigger an acne outbreak. You can also learn more about common acne triggers in our guide to what causes acne breakouts.
Want to solve your acne breakouts as quickly as possible? Our guide to getting rid of acne fast covers the most effective acne treatments available, as well as the amount of time required for you to see results.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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