Keep Your Hands Off Your Face
Unfortunately, I love picking at my face. I did a two-week challenge to not touch my face at all, except when I was doing my skincare routine and my skin looked better than ever. My aesthetician always says, stay a sinks lengths away from your face. Nothing good happens when you lean in and lets be real, no one really is ever looking at your skin that close.
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Consider Accutane For Hormonal Acne
STOP! Please dont just scroll by with a big olnope! Despite the myths and supposed horror stories youve heard, Accutane is not as dangerous as youve been led to believe. Yes, its definitely a serious medication , but its honestly the closest thing to an acne cure that dermatologists have, and its usually completed with just one six-month treatment.
Isotretinoin, or Accutane, permanently shrinks your oil glands so they cant be hormonally stimulated as easily anymore, says Dr. Gohara. And no, you dont need a face full of severe, cystic zits to be a candidate either: I have patients with pretty mild yet persistent acne, and because nothing else has worked for them, I have them on Accutane, she says.
Basically, keep your options openif your dermatologist thinks Accutane is the right call for your hormonal acne, at least hear them out, k? And maybe looking at some before-and-after Accutane photos from real people will help calm your nerves, too.
The Link Between Our Hormones And Acne
Before we get to the three best natural treatments for hormonal acne, lets first discuss how hormones trigger breakouts. Bear with me for a moment while we have a mini biology lesson!
Hormones have a major role in the development of acne. Although the exact mechanism behind their powerful influence is unknown, we do know that androgen hormones gum up the follicle by triggering oil production.
Androgens are the so-called male hormones and are present in males and females. The testes, ovaries and the adrenal glands all produce androgens. The most well-known androgens are testosterone and its breakdown product is dihydrotestosterone .
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Maintain A Preventative Skincare Routine
“Even when your skin is doing well, you should continue your preventative skincare routine,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital. “That means in addition to regular daily sunscreen or sun protection,continue using your topical retinoid, such as Differin Gel. And if your skin is not irritated and can tolerate an exfoliator, try alpha-hydroxy acids or salicylic acid two to three times weekly.
“In addition to clearing existing acne, Differin Gel will also help to prevent future breakouts from forming by increasing skin cell turnover to minimize clogging of pores.” Additionally, Fenton recommends using an OTC acne wash and non-comedogenic moisturizer regularly.
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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What Causes Hormonal Acne
Aaand were back to hormones. The hormones that cause this type of acne are fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, which both vary widely throughout the menstrual cycle, S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D.4, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Miami Skin Institute, tells SELF. In addition, the ratio of each of these hormones to each other can also affect womens testosterone levels, and can also be causative in hormonal acne. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can affect all of these hormones too.
It is believed that hormonal fluctuations, which can be menstrual or cyclical in women, do cause increased oil production in the pore, says Dr. Jegasothy. This is how skin-care experts believe hormonal acne starts5, although the actual cause has yet to be determined.
Take Care Of Your Gut
No, its not sexy or exciting, but taking good care of your gut health is almost always the first step toward healing.
First, its important to remove foods that are irritating your gut or triggering inflammation. Common culprits include gluten, dairy, vegetable oils, and refined sugar .
Second, regularly consume foods rich in nutrients that can heal the gut. Foods that are rich in omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, such as salmon, sardines, and pasture-raised eggs, all play an important role in supporting proper gut function since Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation, and low Vitamin D has been associated with decreased immune function.
Drinking bone broth, which is rich in collagen and glutamine, can also help to restore gut integrity.
Third, its important to eat probiotic rich foods regularly, and add in a high-quality probiotic supplement that will support your microbiome . For a more in-depth look at healing the gut, check out 3 Simple Gut Healing Strategies That Will Revolutionize Your Health.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What causes cystic acne?
- What is the best cystic acne treatment?
- What are the treatment side effects?
- How can I lower my chances of getting acne cysts?
- How can I prevent scarring or other complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Its tempting to want to touch or pick at painful, swollen acne cysts. But cystic acne is more likely than other zits to scar or develop infections. A dermatologist can offer suggestions to prevent cystic acne. This doctor can also treat painful acne cysts, lowering the chances of scarring. Antibiotics and topical creams are effective cystic acne treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/25/2021.
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.
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My Clear Skin Journey: Here Are The Exact Steps I Took To Clear My Hormonal Acne
Our beauty editor shares her personal story.
My skin loved being pregnant, but around sixth months postpartum, it took a turn for the worse. While Ive dealt with mild forehead breakouts off and on since college, I never had acne or breakouts on my jaw and cheekuntil this past year. On top of that, I am generally on top of my skincare game. I never ever go to bed without washing my faceI can count on one hand the times I havent washed my face before bed in my entire life. I eat a clean and nourishing diet, use organic high-powered skincare, and put a lot of effort into supporting my health holistically.
Although it seemed like my skin should be okay, I was still dealing with hormonal acne, and my current routine wasnt working.
While Im obsessed with skincare, I dont love the idea that you have a lineup of 20 serums to get good results. In my quest to calm my skin, I had carts filled with hundreds of dollars worth of skincare, ready to pull the trigger to do whatever I could to clear my skin up. Thankfully, I took a breather and remembered that theres more to skin health than just throwing products at it. Skin is a reflection of your internal health and while yes, Ive found new products that have supported my skins health along the way, there were some major non-product-related steps that were crucial when figuring out how to clear up hormonal acne.
Scroll on for what Ive learned, both internally and topically with products.
Support Estrogen And Testosterone Metabolism
There are specific nutrients your liver requires to effectively detox your hormones. And you know what, those happen to be some of the same depleted by the pill.
Using a supplement that is formulated with DIM, Calcium-D-Glucarate, green tea extract, and broccoli seed extract will support natural liver detox pathways, plus how your gut eliminates excess estrogen.
Balance by Dr. Brighten is a comprehensive womens formula designed to harmonize sex hormones and improve common hormone related issues. Formulated with B Vitamins, antioxidants and hormone supporting herbs, this product helps support the body in eliminating excess estrogens and environmental toxins.
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What Women Should Know About Hormonal Acne
According to the latest dermatology research, using the term hormonal acne to refer to acne in adult women is a misnomer. It’s not that your acne isn’t caused by hormones rather, all acne is inherently hormonal!
From acne that occurs during puberty to adult premenstrual acne, all acne patients are sensitive to hormones. In fact, one study also found that women over age 20 are significantly more likely to deal with acne compared to men. The reason? You guessed it our hormones.
However, hormones aren’t the only culprit, either. The primary causes of acne include:
- Excessive sebum production
- Follicular hyperkeratosis
Hormonal Therapy For Adult Women With Acne
Treatment for acne in adult women is the same as for other people. Further options include hormone therapy.
These include the contraceptive pill as it can help to clear acne in women. Those approved by the FDA contain ethinyl estradiol.
An oral contraceptive can be used alone or with an anti-androgen medication.
Oral contraceptive pills should not be used by those with certain health conditions.
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Try An Oral Contraceptive To Balance Hormones
If you’re comfortable and if a gynecologist says you’re a good candidate, oral contraceptives can help balance out your hormones, including those that are responsible for acne. Zeichner says that the best prescription options for hormonal acne are birth control pills and Spironolactone . Birth control pills help regulate your hormones and decrease testosterone levels, which can mean fewer hormone-induced breakouts. Zeichner notes the four birth control pills currently approved for acne: Yaz, Beyaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and EstroStep.
Another option is the aforementioned Spironolactone. Though not specifically designed to treat acne, it is often used for exactly that purpose because it prevents testosterone from stimulating the oil glands: “Less oil means less shine, fewer clogged pores, and less food to feed acne-causing bacteria,” Zeichner explains.
“Certain oral contraceptives have even been approved by the FDA to be used in the treatment of acne,” explains Fenton. “If you are already on birth control or thinking of going on it, make sure to ask your gynecologist for an oral contraceptive that will also help your acne.”
First Know What Youre Dealing With
Before going into battle, its always best to know who your opponent is. In the case of period acne, this means knowing how to differentiate a hormonal break out from a regular one.
The easiest way to do this is to look at the timing. Acne thats related to your period is more likely to flare up during the week leading up to your period or during your period. Plus, it tends to clear up or improve when your period is ending or over.
Already have acne? You might notice that it gets worse during this time. If you tend to have clear skin, you might notice a pimple or two pop up.
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You Are Overusing Products
When it comes to treating inflammation of the skin, you may think more is better. Perhaps you are applying treatment pads a few times a day or you are mixing your salicylic acid cleanser with facial scrubs and a host of products that have been recommended to you.
Too much use can actually worsen your skin. You should not be using more than one salicylic or benzoyl peroxide product on your face at a time and certainly not in tandem with Retin-A or prescribed products. Do not cleanse with a salicylic acid product, then follow up with a salicylic acid pad and then complete your regimen with an application of the gel. Its simply too much. Your skin will be aggravated.
Retin-A is a form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself by encouraging cell turnover. Its commonly prescribed for acne, fine lines, and sun damaged skin.
Also, acne products tend to be formulated for teen skin because a high percentage of teens suffer from acne. If youre an adult, you may be using too harsh a product to treat your acne.
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Does Cystic Acne Come To A Head
These pimples may be open sore-like depressions in the skin or they may appear like small lumps under the skin.
Blind pimples are often painless unless infected by bacteria which can lead to a painful abscess if left untreated. Blind pimples are most common on the face but can appear anywhere on the body. They can arise at any age but are more likely to occur during puberty and early adulthood.
The cause of blind pimples is not clear but it may be related to excess levels of androgens in the blood. Excessive amounts of androgens can cause hair to grow in inappropriate places, increase the size of the genitalia in males, and produce acne. Women also experience an increase in androgenic activity during pregnancy and postmenopause, which may explain why pregnant women can develop severe cystic acne. Blind pimples should never be popped because this will only make them worse over time.
Pimples that break through the skin’s surface are called open pimples. Open pimples can be painful and may contain yellowish fluid or pus.
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Whats The Difference Between A Papule And A Macule
Papules are a form of acne. Macules are smooth areas of discoloration that appear on a persons skin that may be from a variety of causes.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Acne papules are a common skin condition that affects most people, especially teenagers. Because they mainly affect teenagers, many people think that papules are part of the transition from childhood to adulthood and dont see a healthcare provider about them. But a dermatologist can help treat your acne papules and limit any long-term damage to your skin.
Why Do I Still Get Acne In My 30s
With puberty firmly behind you, you look forward to a life without the roller coaster ride of fluctuating hormone levels and the side effects they bring, especially the patchwork of acne that covered your skin. So why does it still persist, even into your 30s and beyond?
Here at Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston, we help our clients in Cypress, Texas, gain the upper hand on adult acne, giving them skin that doesnt harken back to the ungainly yearbook photos of old.
If youd like to learn why you can still get acne in your 30s and what you can do about it, weve pulled together everything you need to know below.
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Probiotics For Gut Support
Is birth control bad for my gut? Can I take probiotics with birth control? If these are some of your top questions know that youre not alone. These questions are sent to me regularly from readers.
Yes, birth control is bad for your gut, as I explained. And yes, you can take probiotics while using birth control. In fact, you should take probiotics because birth control disrupts the microbiome.
In my clinical practice I recommend Women’s Probiotic because it is a spore based organism that promotes microbial diversity in the gut. It also helps with creating healthy antioxidant status in the body. And it doesnt cause the same kind of issues a Lactobacillus species can if you have SIBO.
Balance, Prenatal Plus, and Women’s Probiotic are all part of the post-birth control basic supplement kit that you can check out here.
What Is Hormonal Acne Hormonal Acne Treatment
Hormonal acne is acne caused by genetic and hormonal factors that cause breakouts well past puberty and the teenage years. Hormonal acne occurs more often in women and is typically located on the lower part of the face. Breakouts happen along the jawline, the chin, and the perioral region . The breakouts consist of inflammatory lesions, cysts, whiteheads, and blackheads.
When it comes to adult acne, genes have proven to play a role in its existence. Genetics influence the number, size, and activity of the sebaceous glands the sebaceous glands are the oil glands in the skin that create sebum , can get clogged, and cause breakouts.
The two hormones that need to work harmoniously together when it comes to clear skin are androgens and estrogen hormones. Androgens stimulate sebaceous gland growth and increase sebum production. Estrogens work in the opposite way and slow sebum production. So when androgen levels are abnormally high, breakouts occur often. Similarly, when estrogen levels are lower especially during the premenstrual period in women, acne is more likely to occur.
The most common reasons for hormonal acne breakouts are:
There are some natural ways to treat hormonal acne.
- Dietary Changes
- Limiting dairy, artificial sugars, alcohol, red meat, and overly processed grains can help to lower inflammation and reduce breakouts.
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