What Is Hormonal Acne?
As its name suggests, this form of acne appears due to an imbalance of hormones and usually manifests itself through under-the-skin bumps that are often painful to the touch. They’re particularly frustrating as everything sits under the surface as opposed to coming to a head like usual spots or blackheads, and they can also linger for several days or even weeks, making them tougher to budge than your average blemish. In adults, they commonly appear around the chin, mouth and jawline.
What Causes Hormonal Acne?
“Hormonal acne is affected by the levels of oestrogen and testosterone hormones in the body,” says Jon Rummins, head of training at Rodial. “When the levels of testosterone are increased, the skin reacts by producing more oil – this excess oil can then block pores, leading to blemishes and acne”. Unfortunately, women tend to suffer with this more than men, as menstruation and menopause are two key bodily changes responsible for fluctuating hormone levels and rising testosterone.
And, while it can appear at any age, hormonal acne usually affects people in their twenties to forties. However “food, dietary issues, stress, lack of exercise and a lack of sleep can also trigger it,” notes Dr Lancer, dermatologist and founder of Lancer skincare.
What Preventative Measures Can I Take?
“Thinking about your lifestyle is the number one way to deal with hormonal acne,” says Dr Lancer, and of course diet is hugely important when it comes to your skin. “Try to reduce the level of stimulants which can raise levels of cortisol (the ‘stress chemical’),” recommends Jon. “Sugar, dairy, caffeine and red meat can all lead to higher levels of inflammation.”
So, what should you eat? Jon suggests trying to stick to anti-inflammatory, plant-based foods where possible; leafy greens, berries and avocados are all great options when you need to calm your skin and boost your antioxidant intake. Stress can also impact the skin and lead to hormonal-related breakouts, so it’s important to manage. “Try and think about ways to reduce stress levels, whether it be through mindfulness, exercise or deeper meditation,” says Claire Vero, founder and CEO of probiotic skincare brand Aurelia Probiotics.
How Can I Treat Hormonal Acne
Experts agree that consistency is the number one rule when it comes to treating hormonal acne, so find a skincare routine that works and stick to it long-term. Where possible, go for products that are natural and simple; it’s about keeping skin clean and nourished within an ongoing routine. Dr Dennis Gross, dermatologist and creator of the eponymous range, suggests committing to a rigorous 6-step routine: cleanse, steam, peel, serum, treat and hydrate.
“Cleansing the right way is essential,” agrees Jon. “Avoid harsh, drying cleansers and soaps which strip the skin’s moisture balance and lead to an over-production of oil”. Try using Rodial Dragon’s Blood Cleansing Water, £33.00 as your first cleanse, and then a mud-based balm such as .
Next, steam your face twice weekly “to further decongest pores,” says Dr Dennis, and then follow your steam with a peel (such as the Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel) to remove dead skin and oil gland blockage.
Retinol “is proven to speed up cell turnover, helping to clear blemishes and repair acne scarring” says Jon, so reach for Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment, £12.00, or Allies of Skin Retinal & Peptides Repair Night Cream, £105.00.
For the ‘treatment’ step in your skincare regime, opt for one of three products: an oil, a mask or a salicylic acid-based product. A calming oil can ease inflammation and reduce scarring left from acne, while a targeted clay-based mask will draw out impurities.
We also recommend incorporating a balancing treatment, such as Caudalie Vinopure Blemish Control Infusion Serum, £20.50, which is designed specifically to treat acne and contains salicylic acid to manage oil production. Keep a concentrated salicylic treatment on hand, too for when surprise breakouts hit.
As well as finding an effective skincare routine, it’s important to leave your spots alone: “Try not to pick or squeeze hormonal acne breakouts as they can scar, leaving a worse mark than the original breakout itself,” says Claire. And if you really struggle to keep your hormonal acne at bay, it might be time to see a professional. Dermatologists can help to discover the root cause of your spots, which in turn will lead to an appropriate treatment method. Changes to contraception or other medication may also affect the way your skin acts, so speak to your GP about your options here too.