How to deal with hormonal acne, according to an expert
Hormonal fluctuations occur naturally, but they can also cause all kinds of health problems, including hormonal acne. Characterised by deep, tender blind pimples, this severe acne can be both emotionally and physically painful – not to mention difficult to treat.
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Wondering how to get rid of hormonal acne once and for all? We turned to dermatologist Dr Jo-Ann See for some advice. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about hormonal acne, including how it relates to adult acne and hormonal acne treatment options…
Hormonal acne, explained
While bacteria and inflammation are two of the main culprits, acne can also be influenced by hormones. What hormones, you ask? Well, as Dr Jo-Ann explains, it has to do with our androgen hormones (or male hormones). “These hormones drive the oil gland and if they are out of balance, they can trigger excess oil production, causing breakouts,” says Dr Jo-Ann.
While hormonal acne affects both men and women, the skin condition has been shown to affect adult women in particular. Men are more likely to develop severe forms of acne (including inflammatory and cystic) during adolescence, but as Dr Jo-Ann explains, “women often develop it in their 20s or 30s, or even later in life.” This is due to a variety of factors, including the hormonal changes associated with menstruation and pregnancy, and changing methods of contraception. For female sufferers, hormonal acne can also be a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, a complex hormonal condition that is also associated with irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth and reduced fertility.
Think you could be struggling with a case of hormonal acne? Well, you’re not alone. As Dr Jo-Ann explains, “acne in general appears to be increasing in incidence globally, in both younger and older age groups.” The dermatologist sees many patients seeking hormonal acne treatment at Central Sydney Dermatology, including university students, young professionals and older women. In the media, Cameron Diaz and Victoria Beckham have also, notably, suffered.
How do I know if my acne is hormonal?
Hormonal acne is often recognisable. “Studies have shown that hormonal acne tends to present on the lower third of the face, on the cheek, jawline and neck area,” says Dr Jo-Ann. Hormonal acne also tends to be more severe acne. As the expert explains, “the pimples are sore, tender, deeper and last longer than average pimples”.
If your acne fits this description and you are also experiencing one or more of the risk factors (significant levels of stress, pregnancy, etc), there is a good chance your acne is hormone-related.
How to treat hormonal acne
Dr Jo-Ann recommends seeking expert advice when it comes to treatment for hormonal acne. “If you have been struggling with hormonal acne for three to six months, see a dermatologist for Individualised treatment,” she says. The dermatologist may encourage you to take a blood test to rule out any significant hormonal problems.The following is also recommended:
- A low-GI diet (which has been shown to help improve symptoms in acne patients)
- Stopping use of thick or gluggy cosmetics
- Stopping smoking
In addition to the above, Dr Jo-Ann says dermatologists may recommend going on the pill, as this can help regulate the level of circulating androgens in the body. The expert also recommends ACZONE® – a new prescription medicine that is anti-inflammatory – for females with hormonal acne.
While laser and light treatments may also help to improve hormonal acne symptoms in the short term, Dr Jo-Ann warns against spending a fortune on them – at least in the beginning. As the dermatologist explains, hormonal acne “tends to grumble on” and is likely to come back again eventually if the root cause isn’t eradicated, so this should be your focus.
Appropriate skin care products are also vital to hormonal acne treatment. Dr Jo-Ann recommends “over-the-counter products that are formulated to unclog blocked pores and promote skin cell turnover,” using ingredients such as lactic acid, salicylic acid and retinol.
Keep scrolling for some of beautyheaven’s favourite hormonal acne treatment products…