Hormonal Acne: Causes and Effective Skincare Remedies

Written by: Lisa Benner


For many, the journey to clear skin feels like a never-ending roller coaster of breakouts and flare-ups, often made more perplexing by the mystique of hormonal acne. But what exactly triggers these persistent blemishes, and how can we equip our skincare arsenal to combat them effectively? 


Dive into our comprehensive guide on "Hormonal Acne: Causes and Effective Skincare Remedies" to unveil the science behind these unruly breakouts and discover how to take control and treat hormonal acne. Let's reclaim your radiant complexion together!

Understanding Acne and Its Relation to Hormones

If you've ever questioned, "What is acne?" - let's clarify. Acne, as defined by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It often leads to whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples. This common skin condition isn't just about surface-level blemishes; it can indicate deeper imbalances within our bodies, specifically related to hormones.

The Role of Hormones in Skin Health

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a potent hormone derived from testosterone, known for its diverse impact on our bodies. DHT plays a crucial role in influencing hair growth and maintaining skin health. Particularly, it affects the sebaceous glands responsible for producing the skin's natural oils. When DHT levels are too high, these glands go into overdrive, producing excess sebum.

Unfortunately, this excess sebum can clog pores and create an ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive. The buildup of sebum and dead skin cells and bacteria can lead to the frustrating presence of pimples, blackheads, and other types of acne. For those dealing with persistent acne, managing DHT levels becomes an important strategy in the fight against breakouts.

When Do Hormonal Fluctuations Occur?

Every woman's journey through life is punctuated by significant hormonal shifts, each with its unique set of blessings and challenges. One of the more frustrating manifestations of these fluctuations can be hormonal acne. Starting in puberty, surges in estrogen and progesterone prime the body for menstruation, but they can also stimulate the sebaceous glands, leading to breakouts. Many women notice a cyclical pattern to their acne, with blemishes appearing in the lead-up to their menstrual period.

Pregnancy, another major hormonal event, can alleviate or exacerbate acne depending on the unique interplay of hormones in a woman's body. Later, as women approach menopause, declining estrogen levels can cause the skin to produce more oil, again providing an opportune environment for acne. Additionally, conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can lead to an overproduction of androgens, resulting in persistent and often severe acne.

Recognizing these hormonal milestones is essential in tailoring acne treatments and interventions specific to a woman's stage in life.

The Acne-Hormone Connection: It’s All About Balance

The intricate dance between our hormones and skin is delicate, with even minor imbalances capable of setting off a cascade of unwelcome events. Many of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced the tell-tale signs: a sudden breakout before a significant event or the cyclic monthly blemish that syncs too perfectly with our cycle. The connection between acne and hormones isn't just anecdotal—it's rooted in science. Hormones such as androgens, including testosterone and its potent derivative DHT, can overstimulate the sebaceous glands, producing excessive oil.

Meanwhile, hormones like estrogen and progesterone affect everything from the skin's elasticity to moisture levels. Understanding this acne-hormone connection is pivotal. By striving for hormonal equilibrium through dietary changes, skincare routines, or medical interventions, we can aim for clearer, more radiant skin. Balance is the key to internal health and the secret to a glowing complexion.

Key Takeaways:

While the physical effects of acne can be frustrating, it's important to remember that this condition often reflects internal imbalances, particularly hormonal ones. As we navigate through different stages in life, like puberty or menopause, our hormone levels fluctuate dramatically - and these shifts can spur oil production, resulting in acne breakouts. But you can manage these challenges more effectively with patience and care for your skin health.

Key Causes of Hormonal Acne

Hormonal imbalances can disrupt the skin's equilibrium, leading to adult acne. But when they're out of balance, it can lead to an unwanted guest: acne. Here's how various stages in life trigger hormonal shifts that might be causing your breakouts.

Puberty and Adolescence

The journey from childhood to adulthood is full of physical and emotional changes. Puberty, when the body starts producing sex hormones, is a key part of this transformation. These hormones, especially testosterone, affect boys and girls by causing growth spurts, voice changes, and the development of secondary sexual characteristics. However, one common side effect that many teenagers face is acne.

The increased hormone activity triggers the skin's sebaceous glands to produce more oil, leading to clogged pores. When combined with dead skin cells and bacteria on the skin, this can result in pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Knowing that unavoidable hormonal changes mainly cause acne during puberty can provide comfort. The real challenge is finding effective treatments and skincare routines to minimize the impact during these important years of growth and change.

The Menstrual Cycle’s Role

Get ready for a monthly skin battle! When it's that time of the month, many women not only expect their period but also dread acne. This is because hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle cause an increase in oily sebum production, leading to clogged pores and pesky pimples. By understanding this pattern, women can take control of their skincare routine and combat breakouts. The right products and treatments make managing skin health during menstruation easier. Say goodbye to acne and hello to empowered skin!

PCOS’ Impact on Skin Health

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects women worldwide. It can cause various symptoms, from irregular periods to thinning hair. However, one of PCOS's most noticeable and troubling effects is its impact on the skin. Persistent acne is a common issue for women with PCOS, caused by an imbalance of hormones, particularly elevated levels of androgens.

Androgen levels, often referred to as "male hormones," even though present in both genders, stimulate the skin's oil-producing glands. This leads to an overproduction of sebum, which, combined with the natural shedding of skin cells, can clog pores and create a perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria.

Many women with PCOS find that typical acne treatments aren't effective, highlighting the importance of addressing the hormonal imbalance at the root of the issue. Working closely with healthcare professionals to develop a personalized plan for managing both skin health and overall well-being is crucial.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries and cysts. This condition increases testosterone levels, which in turn fuels acne.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Period

Bringing a new life into the world is a miraculous journey accompanied by a symphony of hormonal shifts. A woman's body goes through profound changes throughout pregnancy and the postpartum phase, greatly affecting the skin. Hormones like progesterone surge during pregnancy, leading to increased oil production and a potential for breakouts. The body's increased blood volume can also cause the skin to stretch and retain more moisture, resulting in a radiant 'pregnancy glow' for some but an oilier complexion and acne for others.

The postpartum phase brings its challenges as hormone levels return to normal. Skin health can fluctuate, causing dryness, breakouts, or even conditions like melasma. Taking care of the skin during pregnancy and postpartum requires special attention to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby. Embracing the ever-changing journey of motherhood means understanding and caring for the skin during these transformative times.

The Menopause Connection

Menopause can wreak havoc on your skin, leading to unexpected breakouts and stubborn acne scars. As your hormones shift, your skin's oil production goes into overdrive, setting the stage for acne to return. But that's not all -- menopause also causes thinning and less elastic skin, making it prone to inflammation and sluggish healing. Don't let these skin challenges hold you back. Arm yourself with the knowledge to make informed skincare choices and explore hormone-balancing therapies. Embrace this new chapter of life with confidence and a radiant complexion.

Identifying Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne isn't just a teen issue; it can affect any woman with hormonal fluctuations. But how do you know if your breakouts are hormone-related? Here, we'll help you recognize this common skin concern.

Differences between Hormonal and Regular Acne

Acne affects many women, but not all acne is the same. There are two main types: hormonal acne and regular acne. Although they may look similar, they have different causes and require different treatments. Regular acne can be caused by bacteria, clogged pores, and skin inflammation; factors like diet, hygiene, and environment can contribute to it. It can occur at any age. Read more about adult acne here.

On the other hand, hormonal acne is triggered by fluctuations in hormone levels. It often appears as deep, painful cysts along the jawline, chin, and lower face and is more common in women during different stages of life or specific conditions. To effectively treat acne, it's important to understand the distinction between the two types. Regular acne can usually be treated with topical products and cleansers, while hormonal acne often requires hormone therapies or medications to address the underlying imbalance. 

By recognizing the unique characteristics of each type, you can take the first step towards personalized and effective skincare.

Common Areas Affected by Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne can be more than just an occasional nuisance for many women. It often follows a predictable pattern, appearing in specific areas of the face and recurring with hormonal changes. Unlike regular acne, hormonal acne focuses on the jawline, chin, and lower cheeks, causing deep, painful cysts instead of surface-level pimples. These cystic blemishes are not only more inflamed and longer-lasting, but they also tend to leave scars or dark spots.

For women familiar with this pattern, the appearance of these blemishes in these areas can serve as a clear indication of hormonal fluctuations caused by the menstrual cycle, conditions like PCOS, or other life stages. By recognizing these vulnerable zones, women can proactively address breakouts using customized treatments and strategies before they fully develop.

Effective Skincare Remedies for Hormonal Acne

There are many effective remedies to tackle this common skin issue. Here's the scoop on three main categories: over-the-counter solutions, prescription treatments, and natural remedies.

Over-The-Counter Solutions (OTC)

Your local pharmacy's shelves offer various options for hormonal acne treatment. WebMD recommends products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as first-line OTC options.

Benzoyl peroxide works by reducing inflammation and killing bacteria beneath the skin that cause acne breakouts. Salicylic acid helps prevent pores from becoming clogged by shedding dead skin cells more effectively.

If you're new to these ingredients, start with lower concentrations to let your skin adjust and avoid potential irritation. Always follow product instructions closely for best results.

Dermatologist-Recommended Treatments

Find relief from hormonal acne with the help of your dermatologist. They have a variety of targeted treatments at their disposal to address this frustrating skin concern. Spironolactone, a medication originally used for high blood pressure, has proven effective in reducing acne by blocking androgen receptors that contribute to excessive oil production. Birth control pills can also help regulate hormones and decrease the presence of acne-causing androgens.

While topical treatments like retinoids and benzoyl peroxide can provide relief, they may only address the symptoms, not the underlying cause. In-office treatments like corticosteroid injections for severe cystic acne can reduce inflammation and promote faster healing. Keep in mind that everyone's skin and hormone balance are unique. By working closely with a dermatologist, you can customize a treatment plan that will lead to clearer and healthier skin.

Natural Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

In skincare, there's a growing appreciation for merging the age-old wisdom of natural remedies with mindful lifestyle changes to address hormonal acne. Among the treasure trove of nature's ingredients, tea tree oil stands out for its potent antibacterial properties, helping to combat acne-causing bacteria. Evening primrose oil, rich in omega-6 fatty acids, has been championed for its ability to soothe skin and reduce acne-induced redness. Additionally, the adaptogenic wonders of spearmint tea can subtly modulate hormone levels, potentially reducing the severity of breakouts.

Beyond ingredients, lifestyle plays a pivotal role. Managing stress through meditation, yoga, or simple deep-breathing exercises can have profound effects, given the intimate connection between stress hormones and acne flare-ups. Similarly, a balanced diet emphasizing whole foods and reducing dairy and refined sugars can harmonize internal health, helping to create a radiant, clearer complexion. Embracing these natural strategies doesn't just tackle the symptoms of hormonal acne but fosters a holistic approach to skin and overall well-being.

Hormonal Acne Prevention Tips

Preventing hormonal acne may feel like an uphill battle, but it's not impossible. Here are three key strategies: diet changes, stress management, and skincare routines.

Diet Changes for Clear Skin

They say you are what you eat - and it's certainly true when considering your skin. When it comes to your skin health, this couldn't be truer. A study in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets high in sugar and unhealthy fats can exacerbate acne.

Aim for a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables to keep breakouts at bay. Foods rich in zinc (like chickpeas), omega-3 fatty acids (think salmon), and antioxidants (hello blueberries) help reduce inflammation, which is a key culprit behind those stubborn pimples.

The Connection Between Stress And Acne

Ever noticed how zits pop up just when you're stressed? It's not just bad luck; there's science behind it. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, stress causes our bodies to produce more hormones like cortisol that stimulate oil glands, leading to more breakouts or making existing acne worse. 

Meditation techniques such as mindfulness or yoga could become your secret weapon against these unwanted guests on your face. These practices have been shown by various studies to reduce stress and its effects on your skin.

The Best Skincare Routines for Hormonal Skin

Struggling with hormonal acne? We've got you covered. By following a strategic and consistent skincare routine, you can take control and achieve clearer skin.

Step 1: Start with a gentle face wash. Say goodbye to impurities without stripping your skin's natural oils. Look for sulfate-free options that won't leave your skin feeling dry.

Step 2: Unclog those pores. Incorporate chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. These powerhouses accelerate cell turnover, preventing blemishes from taking over.

Step 3: Meet niacinamide. This form of vitamin B3 is a game-changer. Its inflammation-reducing and sebum-controlling properties will help you win the battle against hormonal acne.

Step 4: Don't skip the moisturizer. Even oily skin needs hydration. Opt for lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizers that keep your pores clear and your skin balanced. You may prefer to use a retinol moisturizer to refine skin texture, tighten pores, and boost collagen production.

Step 5: Shield your skin. SPF is essential for everyone. Protect your skin from UV-induced inflammation and prevent post-acne dark spots from worsening.

Step 6: Unleash the power of a purifying charcoal mask. Use it once a week to draw out impurities and regulate oil production. Your skin will thank you for it.

Remember, gentleness is key when managing breakouts. Avoid overly aggressive routines that can make things worse. Regularly evaluate and adjust your routine with the help of a skincare professional to keep up with your skin's changing needs.

Get ready to say goodbye to hormonal acne and hello to clearer, smoother skin.

Key Takeaways:

Conquering hormonal acne isn't out of reach with the right strategies. Adopt a balanced diet filled with zinc, omega-3s, and antioxidants to curb inflammation and ward off breakouts. Manage stress through mindfulness or yoga techniques to reduce hormone-induced oil production on your skin. And don't forget - an effective skincare routine is key. Make sure it includes gentle cleansing and pH-balancing toning for best results.

Hormonal Acne FAQs

What is hormonal acne?

This form of acne refers to breakouts caused by fluctuations in hormones, typically seen around the jawline, chin, and mouth, and can occur at any age.

How is hormonal acne different from other types of acne?

While all acne is influenced by hormones to some extent, hormonal acne is specifically caused by fluctuations in androgens and often flares up at predictable times like menstruation, pregnancy, or due to conditions like PCOS.

Why do women often experience hormonal acne more than men?

Women undergo more hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives, including taking birth control, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause, making them more susceptible to hormonal acne.

How can I identify if my acne is hormone-related?

Hormonal acne often appears in the lower third of the face (jawline and chin) and tends to flare up at consistent, predictable times. It may also be more resistant to conventional acne treatments.

Can diet influence hormonal acne?

Certain foods, especially dairy and high-glycemic-index foods, can potentially influence hormonal balance and exacerbate acne for some people.

What over-the-counter treatments work best for hormonal acne?

Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and alpha hydroxy acids are commonly recommended OTC treatments. However, the effectiveness can vary from person to person.

Are there prescription treatments for severe hormonal acne?

Dermatologists might prescribe oral contraceptives, anti-androgen drugs, or retinoids for severe cases.

Can natural remedies help with hormonal acne?

Some people find relief using natural remedies like tea tree oil, green tea extracts, or dietary changes. However, their effectiveness can vary and may not replace medical treatments.

Is stress a factor in hormonal acne?

Yes, stress can influence hormone levels and potentially exacerbate hormonal acne.

Will hormonal acne ever go away on its own?

Hormonal acne can fluctuate based on life stages and changes. For some, it may decrease with age or after hormonal events like pregnancy, but others might experience it persistently without intervention.


Hormonal acne can be a real headache, but understanding its causes is half the battle won.

From puberty to menopause, hormones are pulling the strings behind these breakouts. They don't discriminate - affecting both males and females alike during different life stages.

Recognizing hormonal acne from regular acne is crucial, too. It's all about location and signs! So be sure to work with your Dermatologist so you know you're taking the right approach.

A wide range of skincare remedies are available from OTC solutions to dermatologist-recommended treatments. And let’s not forget natural remedies for that gentle touch on your skin.

Last but not least: prevention. A healthy diet, stress management techniques, and an effective skincare routine are game-changers in this fight against hormonal acne.