Hormonal acne can be frustrating to deal with, but it’s usually treatable. Many products can help reduce the frequency and severity of breakouts, ranging from over-the-counter cleansers and face washes to prescription medications and topical creams. Effective treatment usually depends on the underlying causes of the acne as well as the severity of the breakouts.
What causes hormonal acne?
Hormonal acne is mostly caused by fluctuations in hormone levels. These hormonal imbalances can increase sebum production in the pores, causing oil to build up and trigger acne.
While it can affect anyone, it is most common among women. Common causes may include:
Unlike other types of acne, hormonal acne typically appears on the lower parts of the face, such as the chin and jawline. Breakouts may appear as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, or cysts.
What are treatment options for hormonal acne?
Over-the-counter skin cleansers and face washes may be able to help with mild to moderate acne. Common ingredients to look for include:
- Salicylic acid: Works by targeting the top layer of skin and dissolving dead skin cells, which helps prevent clogged pores.
- Benzoyl peroxide: Helps remove bacteria from the surface of the skin, making it less likely for bacteria to enter clogged pores and cause inflammation.
- Antibiotics: May include clindamycin and erythromycin, which are typically combined with benzoyl peroxide to help keep bacteria on the skin's surface under control.
Your dermatologist may recommend the following to bring hormonal acne under control:
- Retinoid creams: Retinoids are a topical medication derived from vitamin A that are anti-inflammatory and can treat acne of any severity. Retinol creams can be used alone or with other acne medications to treat acne and prevent future breakouts.
- Isotretinoin: Also a derivative of vitamin A, isotretinoin is a pill that can treat more severe cases of acne. This medication works by making sebaceous glands shrink and produce less oil. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps prevent the buildup of dead skin cells around the pores.
- Spironolactone: Used for more severe acne cases, this drug can work against the hormones in the body that increase oil production, thus helping prevent clogged pores.
- Oral antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed to help reduce the growth of bacteria on the skin.
- Birth control pills: Birth control containing progestin and estrogen may help get acne under control.
- Peels and lasers: Chemical peels, such as lactic acid peels, glycolic peels, etc. may be effective in treating acne. In very severe cases, lasers (CO2 and Q-switched) may be recommended as well.
What are natural remedies for hormonal acne?
While there is a lack of evidence supporting their efficacy, some home remedies may help improve mild cases of hormonal acne
- Vitamin D supplements: Research shows that people suffering from hormonal acne are deficient in vitamin D.
- Tea tree oil: Multiple studies have found that tea tree oil is effective in reducing acne, although the oil should be diluted or mixed with another liquid (such as aloe vera gel) before being applied to the skin.
- Plant-derived anti-androgens: Research is underway to determine whether plant substances such as spearmint tea, licorice, or green tea can help with hormonal acne.
What lifestyle changes help with controlling hormonal acne?
Making healthier choices may help you control hormonal acne to a certain extent:
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Bagatin E, Freitas THP, Rivitti-Machado MC, et al. Adult Female Acne: A Guide to Clinical Practice [Published Correction Appears In An Bras Dermatol. 2019 Mar-Apr;94(2):255. Machado MCR [corrected to Rivitti-Machado MC]]. An Bras Dermatol. 2019;94(1):62-75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360964/
Flo Health. Hormonal Acne. https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/health/symptoms-and-diseases/hormonal-acne
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