Spotting fresh acne when you have been following a good skin care routine can be pretty annoying. After all, you spend so much time and money on giving your skin the best care possible. However, sometimes, even after using the best products your skin will still break out, and the reason is your hormones. Acne that is triggered by fluctuating hormones is termed as hormonal acne. If you notice a pimple that usually pops on a particular area of your face right before your menstrual cycle, then that sounds a lot like hormonal acne. While it usually affects those in their teenage years due to puberty, hormonal acne can sometimes also affect those in their 20s. It is more common amongst women, factors such as menstruation and menopause are responsible for it.

Hormonal acne is far more difficult to manage and it is best to consult a dermatologist to understand the best way to tackle it. A lot of factors need to be taken into consideration while dealing with this type of acne. Therefore, to understand hormonal acne better and learn a few tips to deal with it, we consulted cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi, Owner & Director - Shine Skin, Hair & Laser Clinic, Mumbai. Here’s what she has to say about it.


1. What is hormonal acne?

What is hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne is very common and usually affects women between 20-40 years of age. It is linked to hormonal imbalances in the body. Fluctuations in progesterone and estrogen during periods are the most common cause of this type of acne. An increase in testosterone levels and deranged prolactin levels are also common reasons for developing hormonal acne. Young girls and women dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Disorder or PCOD can also experience hormonal acne for a major part of their lives. The stress hormone serum cortisol is also responsible for an acne flare-up.


2. Symptoms of hormonal acne

Symptoms of hormonal acne

Although common, there are certain characteristics or symptoms associated with this type of acne. It will help you understand whether your acne is hormonal or triggered by some other factor like unhealthy eating habits or poor skincare routines. Below are a few characteristics mentioned by Dr. Modi that you can look at to find out if you are dealing with hormonal acne.

Appears around the lower part of the face:

Hormonal acne is characterised by cystic acne around the chin and jawline. It erupts right before your periods are about to start or when there’s a hormonal imbalance in the body due to medication, stress or PCOD.

Comes around that time of the month:

Another sign of hormonal acne is that it usually comes around the time of monthly cycles. Although for most girls this acne settles down post-teenage years, for many others it continues well after their 20s.

Painful cysts:

Hormonal acne is usually very painful and causes a lot of discomforts. It starts off as a painful bump and then turns into acne. A woman can get one or many acne spots all at once on the lower half of her face. This nodulocystic acne also leaves the skin severely scarred. It is best not to touch or pop them and let them heal on their own.

May appear on other parts of the body:

While the lower part of the face is the most common area where hormonal acne usually makes an appearance, at times, it can also be present on other areas of the body. If you have acne or tiny breakouts on the neck, shoulders and chest area that could also indicate hormonal acne.


3. How to treat hormonal acne?

How to treat hormonal acne?

First of all, a proper diagnosis should be made to confirm that the acne is hormonal. A dermatologist may recommend a hormonal blood profile to confirm. The hormonal blood test is usually conducted on the second day of the period. Those with PCOD and PCOS may have to undergo a USG for the abdomen and pelvis to find out about any forms of cysts. The treatment plan for hormonal acne is detailed below.

Topical creams:

Topical creams may work in some cases. A dermatologist will recommend creams like clindamycin, benzoyl peroxide, adapalene and tretinoin to subside hormonal acne.

Oral tablets:

Your skin expert may also advise isotretinoin for hormonal acne. If the acne is very cystic and painful, then antibiotics will be added to the treatment plan. Oral minocycline, azithromycin, doxycycline, tetracycline, etc., are commonly recommended for this type of acne.

Localised treatment:

Although rare, sometimes a localised treatment plan like injecting triamcinolone acetonide directly into the cystic acne helps and subsides hormonal acne to a great extent.

Chemical peels:

One of the most common treatment plans for those with any type of acne is chemical peels. It works for hormonal acne too. The dermatologist will use glycolic peels or salicylic acid peels to lessen the acne and the scars and pigmentation associated with it.

Dermarollers or microdermabrasion:

Other in-office treatment plans include derma rollers and microdermabrasion to treat scars and pigmentation caused by hormonal cystic acne. Depending on the severity of the condition, the expert may or may not recommend this treatment option.

Oral contraceptive pills:

In some cases, treatment includes taking oral contraceptive pills or anti-androgens like spironolactone to reduce hormonal acne.


4. Ways to treat hormonal acne naturally

Ways to treat hormonal acne naturally

Mild hormonal acne can be cleared with the help of a few natural ingredients at home. These natural treatments do not have any side effects, but they might not be as effective as in-office treatments and topical creams. You can try a few natural treatment options and decide if it works for you.

Use a salicylic acid face wash:

Keep the face clean and wash it often to get rid of excess oil. Those with a hormonal imbalance often have overactive oil glands that produce excess sebum and clog pores. Using a salicylic acid-based face wash can help tackle this problem and reduce acne.

Tea tree oil:

Products with tea tree oil usually help those with oily and acne-prone skin. This oil contains antibacterial and antiseptic properties that kill acne-causing bacteria as well as accelerate the healing process.

Diet plays a very important role:

Reduce refined carbohydrates in the diet and increase fibre. Avoid dairy as much as possible, as milk and milk-based products can cause hormonal imbalance in the body and lead to acne. Keep junk food, caffeine, aerated drinks, artificial sugars, processed foods at bay if you want to tackle hormonal acne.

Maintain a healthy weight:

Obesity and hormonal acne are often linked. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain your ideal weight by exercising and following a healthy lifestyle to regularise hormones.


5. FAQs about hormonal acne

FAQs about hormonal acne

1) Which foods trigger hormonal acne?

A. Food does play an important role in triggering hormonal acne. Some of these foods like white bread, soda, pasta, dairy, refined flour, etc., can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels leading to hormonal acne.

2) How to fix hormonal imbalance?

A. Include a good amount of protein in every meal, exercise regularly to keep the body active. Apart from this, learn to manage stress by practicing yoga, meditation and following healthy sleeping habits. Drink green tea and include fatty fish in your diet.

3) What is the best face wash for hormonal acne?

A. While there are many face washes available in the market for acne, when it comes to hormonal acne, look for a salicylic acid-based face wash. It will remove excess sebum and oil from the skin and prevent pores from clogging. This prevents hormonal acne.