How To Treat Hormonal Acne

Skin Condition 101

How To Treat Hormonal Acne

By Hanna Yowell

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Hormonal Acne, Defined

What it looks like: Commonly around the jaw, mouth, or cheek area, hormonal acne manifests as inflamed acne (sometimes “deeper”, cystic acne). It often occurs in cyclical patterns that may be exacerbated by one’s menstrual cycle or other fluctuations in hormone levels.

Why it happens: Hormone levels are pretty much always in flux. However, specific imbalances can manifest in these cyclical, often painful acne breakouts. Hormones control the skin’s oil-producing sebaceous glands. So, when certain cycles, conditions, or lifestyle habits cause our levels to shift (namely a spike in cortisol or testosterone levels, or dip in estrogen levels), this can cause our skin to produce more oil — leading to inflammation and breakouts.

The good news is that it’s not all bad. In fact, this is your body’s way of letting you know (via external communicators like acne!) that something may not be aligned internally.

Because many things can trigger hormonal fluctuations, it can be a journey to pinpoint exactly what’s going on. The cause of your hormone fluctuations could include:

  • Increase in stress levels
  • Puberty
  • Menstruation
  • Perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hormone therapy
  • Birth control medications
  • Increase in stress levels
  • Body’s reaction to something in your diet

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list, and each condition does not always lead to acne. Everyone’s bodies are also different, so the degree to which you experience a breakout (or not!) will vary from person to person.

How To Treat Hormonal Acne:

Now that you know why it happens, let’s figure out why it’s happening to you.

1. Keep A Journal

No matter what you end up doing next, the expert(s) you end up working with will likely appreciate a couple weeks of this day-to-day data. Each day, jot down something like:

  • How your skin looks and feels
  • Medications and/or supplements you take
  • How much water you drink
  • What foods you eat (disclaimer: if food journaling is triggering to you — feel free to skip this point; it’s just one piece of the puzzle!)
  • If you’re menstruating and what stage of your cycle you’re at
  • Any signs and symptoms you’re experiencing
2. Work With An Expert To Get To The Root Cause

Generally when we’re talking about deep, “hormonal” acne, topical products alone aren’t going to do the trick. Maybe you’ve noticed a through line in your journal, or have an upcoming OB/GYN appointment scheduled soon anyways. Regardless, talking to an expert is a great first step!

  • Physician, OB/GYN, and/or Endocrinologist: May do blood work, physical exams, or screenings to check for hormone levels or other conditions that could be triggering hormonal acne.
  • Dietician: May make recommendations for dietary swaps to reduce inflammatory foods.
  • Dermatologist: May do a full skin exam, prescribe a topical or oral medication, or recommend skincare routine changes.
  • Esthetician: May do a routine and skin analysis and recommend skincare routine changes, plus provide skin-supporting facial services.
3. Treat Sensitivity + Inflammation

While you’re getting to the bottom of things, maintaining a strong, hydrated skin barrier and treating inflammation is key.

4. Holistic Methods To Incorporate
  • Drink spearmint tea: Studies indicate spearmint to have an anti-androgenic effect, which reduces hormonal acne-causing sebum production.
  • Try seed cycling: Incorporating specific seeds into your diet (along with other hormone supportive practices) may be an effective way to balance your hormones during your menstrual cycle.
  • Get enough vitamin D: Studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may be a root cause of acne.
A Hormonal Acne Skincare Routine:

Routine Staples:

For Each Stage Of A Breakout:

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