Where Are Your Pimples Popping Up
We often think of the T-zone as the main area for acne breakout, since the forehead, nose and chin are notorious for pumping out lots of sebum in acne-prone skin. But there are other areas of the face that experience acne breakouts. And where those breakouts occur may shed light on the source of the problem.
See If A Vitamin Or Supplement Might Help
If you’re not comfortable trying a prescription medication, there are some vitamins and supplements that could potentially help treat hormonal acne. First up: Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that may help acne due to its anti-inflammatory effects. In studies, both topical and oral vitamin B3 supplements have been shown to improve acne, according to Dr. Garshick. It’s also possible that zinc can help hormonal acne. Zinc supplements have been shown to reduce breakouts, says Dr. Zeichner, though some studies show that treating acne topically with zinc might be the more effective route.
All that said, it’s important to always check with your doctor first before taking any new supplements, especially since taking too much of any supplement has the potential to be harmful. It is also best to only start one new supplement at a time to be able to identify what is helping or if any side effects occur, says Dr. Garshick.
How To Prevent Hormonal Acne
The best way to prevent hormonal acne is to consult with a board-certified dermatologist, like Dr. Michele Green in NYC, who has the expertise and experience to determine the underlying causal factors of the breakouts and treat them appropriately to best resolve them. When you meet with Dr. Green in her private dermatology office, located in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, you will discuss with her in-depth regarding your medical history, lifestyle, skincare regimen, and more. Lab tests may be ordered in order to detect any abnormalities in hormone levels that may be contributing to your skin condition. In addition to oral medications that regulate hormone levels, non-comedogenic skincare, including makeup and sunscreen, is recommended for patients who struggle with hormonal acne and acne-prone skin. When you consult with Dr. Green, she will customize a treatment protocol for your hormonal acne that is perfectly suited to your skin needs and goals.
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How Do I Get Rid Of Acne Papules
Nonprescription medications can get rid of milder cases of papules. Some medications include:
- Azelaic acid: This is a natural acid found in various grains such as barley, wheat and rye. It kills microorganisms on your skin and reduces swelling.
- Benzoyl peroxide: This is available as an over-the-counter product as a leave-on gel or as a wash. It targets surface bacteria, which often aggravate papules. Lower concentrations and wash formulations are less irritating to your skin. Irritation is a common side effect.
- Retinoids : Retinoids, such as Retin-A®, Tazorac® and Differin® , break up papules and help prevent clogged pores. You may notice a change in skin color, drying or peeling. Using a retinoid every other day or using it at the same time as a moisturizer can reduce these side effects.
- Salicylic acid: This is available over-the-counter for papules as a cleanser or lotion. It helps remove the top layer of damaged skin. Salicylic acid dissolves dead skin cells to prevent your hair follicles from clogging.
If your acne papules dont go away with nonprescription medications, your healthcare provider may recommend the following prescription medications:
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
- How severe is my acne?
- What lifestyle changes should I make to prevent hormonal acne from forming?
- What are the side effects to my acne treatment?
- Can I take this treatment if I become pregnant?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It can be frustrating to see breakouts on your skin as an adult, considering they are most frequent among adolescents. Talk with your healthcare provider if your acne is persistent and they will be able to offer advanced treatment options to eliminate pesky pimples.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/10/2021.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
If you have mild acne, speak to a pharmacist about medicines to treat it.
If these do not control your acne, or its making you feel very unhappy, see a GP.
You should see a GP if you have moderate or severe acne or you develop nodules or cysts, as they need to be treated properly to avoid scarring.
Try to resist the temptation to pick or squeeze the spots, as this can lead to permanent scarring.
Treatments can take up to 3 months to work, so do not expect results overnight. Once they do start to work, the results are usually good.
How Do You Know If Acne Is Hormonal
There are several signs that your pimples are related to hormones. According to dermatologists, here are a few signs of hormonal acne:
While wed love to leave acne behind once we enter our 20s, the reality is acne flare-ups are possible at any time. Hormonal acne is the type thats most likely to attack in your 20-something years, since those are the years when people with vaginas tend to be most hormonally active. Your 20s is often the peak childbearing age, says Dr. Jegasothy. This makes people with vaginas more prone to the intense hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
But age alone wont determine whether or not youll break out. Genetics can dictate when hormonal breakouts start and stop. Throughout my professional career, Ive found that nearly half of women in their 20s experience acneand menopause can cause a resurgence of breakouts, Marina Peredo, M.D.6, cosmetic and medical board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF.
This is because these excess hormones in your body stimulate the oil glandsmany of which are around your chin area, says Dr. Peredo. These excess oil glands make your skin a prime spot for these types of breakouts.
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Things You Can Try If You Have Acne
These self-help techniques may be useful:
- Do not wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse.
- Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water can make acne worse.
- Do not try to “clean out” blackheads or squeeze spots. This can make them worse and cause permanent scarring.
- Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics.
- Avoid make-up, skincare and suncare products that are oil-based . Use water-based non-comedogenic products, as theyre less likely to block the pores in your skin.
- Completely remove make-up before going to bed.
- If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free water-based emollient.
- Regular exercise cannot improve your acne, but it can boost your mood and improve your self-esteem. Shower as soon as possible once you finish exercising as sweat can irritate your acne.
- Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face.
Although acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled with treatment.
If you develop mild acne, it’s a good idea to speak to a pharmacist for advice.
Several creams, lotions and gels for treating spots are available to buy from pharmacies.
Products containing a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide may be recommended, but be careful as this can bleach clothing.
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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Where Does Hormonal Acne Occur
Hormonal acne can occur anywhere on the body where there are sebaceous glands, but it is most typically found on areas of the lower face including the chin, jawline, and cheeks. In younger individuals that are experiencing hormonal acne breakouts related to puberty, the t-zone is generally the area most affected . If you are struggling with inflamed acne breakouts and believe they may be related to fluctuating hormones, the first best step is to consult with a board-certified dermatologist, such as Dr. Michele Green in New York. Dr. Green will diagnose and treat your skin condition, resulting in healthy, clear, beautiful skin that lasts.
Top Tip: Reduce High Glycemic Foods
Other foods have been linked to acne and worsening inflammatory conditions as well. For example, high glycemic load foods. Therefore, if one wants to try a new diet to improve their acne, in addition to avoiding dairy, I would recommend avoiding refined flour, sweets, and processed carbohydrates. Again, the exact mechanism isnt known for certain, but we believe that these refined carbs lead to an insulin spike which causes a hormonal cascade that can increase inflammation and oil production.
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Consider Seed Cycling For Acne
Seed cycling is a food-based approach to hormone balance that is synchronized with your menstrual cycle.
With seed cycling you eat a specific set of seeds during each phase of your cycle. It looks like this:
- Follicular phase: flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds.
- Luteal phase: sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
Each set of seeds provides nutrients that support how our hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the month.
Now, even though theres not a lot of scientific research around seed cycling, its a method that is often taught to naturopathic doctors.
And there is anecdotal evidence from women on social media and other blogs who have successfully used seed cycling to improve their hormones and skin.
If you need help with this protocol, then be sure to read this beginners guide to seed cycling for hormone balance. Its got all the details you need to get started.
Is Hormonal Acne Curable
Though hormonal acne is a common form of acne breakout among adults, the cause of hormone acne varies from patient-to-patient. At this point, the world of dermatology has not developed a finite cure for hormonal acne. However, hormonal acne is entirely treatable and, through an active skincare and treatment plan with Dr. Green, hormonal acne can become a thing of the past. Oral medications such as birth control pills or Spironolactone, can keep hormonal acne under control.
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When Does Acne Stop
Its common for acne to start between the ages of 10 and 13 and to last for 5 to 10 years or throughout your adult life . Acne normally goes away with age but may require treatment for at least 5-10 years. Ask your doctor about prescription acne treatment. It beats anythnig they have over-the-counter.
Although these are statistical averages, its impossible to guess how long acne will last for each individual person. Many teens and young adults find that their acne improves as they get older and others have acne into their adult years.
Should I Squeeze Or Pop My Pimples
Popping pimples can be very tempting and satisfying. However, its best if you dont squeeze or pop your pimples. Squeezing pimples can cause several problems, including:
- Introducing bacteria into the pimple opening. Bacteria can cause an infection.
- Irritating your skin. Your skin is sensitive, and your nails are much stronger than your skin. When you use your nails to apply a lot of pressure to your skin to pop a pimple, you can cause inflammation. Pimple-popping tools can also damage your skin. Only a healthcare provider, medical aesthetician or dermatologist should use these tools.
- Scarring your skin. You can draw blood and seriously damage your skin if you apply too much pressure. If pimples are deep in your skin, you may not even extract them.
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Why Adults Are Breaking Out Now More Than Ever
Dr. Estee Williams, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, says the perceived increase in hormonal acne is just perception. More women are reporting their acne to their doctors, but there is no evidence that it is actually on the rise, she says.
Another reason women experience acne as adults is that once they go off birth control, which masks acne, breakouts breakthrough, explains Dr. Doris Day, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. Every time you adjust, go on or stop taking birth control with hormones, the body reacts positively or negatively to the change skin either clears up or erupts like Mount Vesuvius since hormonal fluctuations can cause more-than-normal amounts of oil production.
You Dont Understand Your Acne
To do this, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is my body type?
- Do I produce more oil than the average person?
- Does my acne get worse at certain periods in time ?
- If so, what does triggering event occurs right before an episode occurs?
- Identify how often you experience breakouts on the forehead/jawline versus other areas like cheeks, chin, etc.?
- Are they isolated pimples or cystic bumps that are painful and take longer to heal?
Once you answer these simple questions, identify which category most closely matches your answer.
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Does Birth Control Help With Hormonal Acne
In many cases, birth control may be prescribed to help with hormonal acne. Dr. Stigall told us that birth control and other androgen blocking medications, such as spironolactone, may be helpful in the treatment of hormonal acne.
Although, she also said, birth control is not a one size fits all treatment and may actually make hormonal acne worse. This is why it is important to visit an experienced dermatologist who can help create a personalized acne treatment plan for you.
What Cant I Eat Or Drink If I Have Pimples
Healthcare providers and researchers once believed that certain foods might contribute to the development of pimples, especially skim milk, whey protein and diets high in sugar . However, that may not be true. The research between diet and pimples isnt clear.
But certain vitamins promote healthy skin, which may help prevent pimples. These include:
- Vitamin A: Good sources of vitamin A include leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, fruits, fish and liver.
- Vitamin D: Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish and vitamin-fortified foods, including dairy and nondairy milks, breakfast cereals and orange juice.
- Vitamin E: Good sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables and vegetable oils.
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Glycolic Acid Face Wash
Glycolic acid is another excellent exfoliant when incorporated into a skincare routine. Glycolic acid can help to reveal brighter layers of skin underneath lingering dead skin cells along the surface, and it can help to make the skin feel firmer. Glycolic acid not only helps to reduce clogged pores and zits but also can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Glycolic acid and Salicylic acid are both favored by Dr. Green in her MGSKINLABs acne treatment, and glycolic acid can also be used as an active ingredient in chemical peels to reduce the appearance of acne and inflammation on the skin.
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.
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Does Acne Go Away With Age
“If underlying factors are not addressed, acne may not stop at all,” explains Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, founder of Episciences. “Twenty-six percent of 40-year-olds and 12% of 50-year-olds suffer from acne, and 10% of females have oily skin from puberty on through their whole life.” According to one review, 26% of women aged 31-40 suffered from acne, while 12% of 41-50 year-old women had clinical acne, and the majority of female adult acne sufferers had persistent acne from adolescence on.
“There are several causes of adult acne including hormonal fluctuations, stress, and genetics,” says Dr. Dennis Gross. “Adult acne usually begins in the late 20s to early 30s. Stress is a catalyst that can play a role in aggravating the condition. Genetics plays a large part as well. Hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy can affect adult acne, worsening or improving the condition. Another hormonal change that can affect adult acne is stopping the usage of birth control pills, as well as premenstrual hormonal fluctuation. Also, perimenopausal hormonal changes or fluctuations may change the oil chemistry of the skin, which can lead to adult acne.”
Read on to see whether acne goes away with age.