Even though technically most acne is caused by a fluctuation in hormones, hormonal acne or adult acne is used to describe the breakouts that occur even after your pubescent years. The affliction is more commonly seen in women than men.
Signs your acne is hormonal
There are several signs that can indicate if you are suffering from hormonal acne or not. These may include:
- You are past your teenage years: Acne is a common phenomenon during adolescence. But with adult acne, you will find whiteheads, blackheads, small pimples with a head or cysts cropping up well past your teenage years. In fact, cystic acne is very common with people suffering from this. Cysts are breakouts that are deeply rooted into the skin and do not form heads. They are often painful.
- The location of your acne: This is the best giveaway of hormonal acne. If you find your acne popping up around the lower part of your face, especially the chin and jaw areas, you are most likely to be suffering from adult acne. However, the sides of your face, neck or even your back may break out due to hormonal fluctuations, indicating the same. Acne occurring around the chin area is more common in women than men.
- Your acne follows a cyclical pattern: For many women, breakouts can occur a few days prior to their menses or around the time of ovulation. Others may have persistent acne throughout, with it worsening around their periods or ovulation.
- You suffer from excess facial hair and inflammation: The hormone to blame for this is testosterone. With its increased production, some women may suffer from excess facial hair and inflamed acne. Cysts are very common in people dealing with hormonal acne and these cannot be extracted through normal manual extraction methods. They are often recurring in nature, meaning that they keep cropping up in the same place over and over again, and usually require holistic inner treatment to be cured.
- You suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS leads to the production of testosterone in excess. This causes inflammatory adult acne to pop up on the face, neck and back. PCOS is found in 10-15% of women and is marked by excess facial hair, thinning scalp hair, weight gain and high blood sugar level.
Stress adds to your acne: The stress hormone cortisol triggers acne in many adults. If you break out when you take a lot of stress, your acne might be hormonal.
Hormonal acne causes
The two main factors that cause hormonal acne are:
- Genetics - Believe it or not, genes have quite a lot to do with adult acne. Your genetics dictates how many sebaceous glands you have and their sizes. These are the glands that produce sebum (oil) to retain moisture on the skin. Excess production of sebum clogs pores and causes acne.
- Hormones - The main hormones that play a role in adult acne are estrogen and androgens (testosterone and other hormones). Excess production of androgen causes breakouts while lowered levels of estrogen, especially during the premenstrual period, produce the same breakouts.
- Several factors can contribute to hormonal fluctuations:
- Menstruation - Due to hormonal fluctuations during a menstrual cycle, adult acne can be caused.
- Stress - Excess stress builds up cortisol, which can trigger inflammation in the skin. Apart from this, stress increases the rate of androgen production in the body, leading to breakouts.
- Medication - Some medications like contraceptives may create a disruption in the hormonal balance, causing acne.
- Skincare products - While topical products do not directly disrupt hormones, they can clog the pores leading to excess sebum production, thus causing more acne.
- Pregnancy - Pregnancy can create a lot of hormonal changes in the body, leading to hormonal acne.
- Perimenopause and menopause - Estrogen levels drop during this period, leading to acne in some cases.
The science behind your periods affecting your acne
When menstruation is near, estrogen and progesterone levels fall to their lowest points, while testosterone remains constant. So, before and while menstruating, testosterone remains at a higher level than estrogen and progesterone.
With a higher level of the male hormone, sebum production in the skin starts increasing. Meanwhile, as progesterone starts increasing mid-cycle, the same effect is seen along with the skin starting to swell. The subsequent swelling causes the pores to compress and shut. The trapped sebum in the skin clogs the pores and bacteria build up leads to breakouts in some women.
How to control hormonal acne?
Hormonal acne cannot be completely prevented as it has more to do with the internal endocrine (hormone regulating) system of the body. But, certain foods like vegetables free from starch, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, beans and legumes can contribute to less acne by stabilizing the blood sugar levels and maintaining a hormonal balance.
Apart from this, maintaining a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help keep inflammation in check, reducing the appearance of acne. Antioxidants can help as well. Milk and dairy products are generally best avoided if acne is very persistent.
Hormonal acne treatment
Hormonal acne can be treated in a number of ways that include both topical and internal methods. These can be:
- Medication and treatments: Over-the-skin medical procedures may be opted for such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, phototherapy or laser therapy to treat the top layer of the skin, thereby reducing acne
- Topical skincare: The most important thing to do is to wash your face at least twice a day and refrain from introducing bacteria to your face by constantly touching it. You should also apply sunscreen and opt for non-comedogenic products in small quantities, making sure to avoid too many products at a time. A number of skincare options are available in the market, such as the entire Carmesi Hormonal Acne Range, acting as topical treatments for adult acne. These products should contain some key ingredients such as salicylic acid, Shatavari, green tea, alpha hydroxy acid and tea tree oil, which are known to treat hormonal acne.
- Diet: Apart from medications and topical treatments, dietary changes such as avoiding red meats, sugar, milk and dairy products and refined carbs can be very beneficial for treating acne. Incorporating healthier options like veggies, fruits and whole grains can also help balance out your hormones, thereby reducing breakouts.
When should you see a dermatologist?
If you are suffering from severe acne which is often itchy or painful, you may want to see a dermatologist. Also, it is advisable to consult a doctor before introducing any new product in the routine or if you suffer from allergic reactions or worsened breakouts due to certain products.
Do not let hormonal acne take over your entire life and identity. It is curable with a little patience and by incorporating the right ingredients and following a healthy diet.