Statistics released by the American Academy of Dermatology indicate that more than half of women aged 20 to 29 will suffer from acne, while over a quarter of women aged 40 to 49 will also be affected.
Even though there isn’t one single and proven cure for acne, there are many treatments available that can be tailored to your specific needs and skin type. These include natural remedies, medications, and changes to your diet. Equally, for many women, a type of hormonal therapy may be recommended.
Keep reading to discover what could be causing your acne, what it may look like, and how to get rid of those breakouts once and for all.
What are the Signs of Hormonal Acne?
The T-zone of your face is most commonly affected by hormonal acne during puberty – this includes a hormonal acne chin, nose, and forehead. However, for adult suffers, acne tends to start forming around the lower area of the face, including your jawline and the bottom of your cheeks.
For some, hormonal acne will appear in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, and small pimples that develop a head. Sometimes, these may turn into cysts. Cysts are often painful bumps that form deep beneath your skin and won’t develop a head on the skin’s surface.
The influx of hormones that could be causing your acne may be as a result of:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Increased androgen levels
Androgens are male hormones (like testosterone) but they’re found in both men and women. They can induce an acne flare up by altering how your skin cells develop, while also overstimulating the sebum that’s produced by your skin’s oil glands. In most cases, the androgen levels found in women with acne are at a normal level. However, if your acne is accompanied by a deepening voice, excess body or facial hair, or infrequent/irregular menstrual periods, it may be recommended to undergo hormonal testing.
Your acne can be aggravated by all of the above hormone fluctuations due to:
- Excess sebum (the oil your skin produces) being produced
- Dead skin cells that start to clog up your pores
- Inflamed skin
- The production of Propionibacterium acnes – a bacteria that causes acne
To see just what impact acne can have on your life, watch Sarah’s video on YouTube. She shares her story, her experience with oral contraceptives, and how she tried different natural remedies to try and get rid of her acne.https://www.youtube.com/embed/Td1P0bT_VoA
The majority of women will start to experience menopause during their 40s and 50s. This results in the end of menstruation due to the level of your reproductive hormones naturally declining. During this time, some women do suffer from acne. And this is linked to an increase in androgen hormones or a drop in your estrogen levels (a female hormone).
Furthermore, even if you are using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) you may still experience hormonal acne. That’s because, to replace the progesterone and estrogen your body is losing, some HRTs will use an increased level of progestin, and it’s this hormone that can cause breakouts.
However, in most cases, your menopausal acne can be cleared up by using prescription medication. Or, you may find natural methods just as beneficial. To find out what option is best for you, you should speak to your doctor or dermatologist.
How to Get Rid of Hormonal Acne with Traditional Medications
To balance your hormones and reduce acne, hormonal acne pills (oral medications) may work as they target your breakouts from the inside out. These types of treatments are most commonly found in anti-androgen drugs and oral contraceptives.
These drugs work by reducing androgen (the male hormone). A common form of this treatment is Aldactone (spironolactone). Even though it’s primarily used as a high blood pressure treatment, it can stabilize your hormone levels by preventing your body from producing too much androgen.
Using Oral Contraceptives to Treat Hormonal Acne
If you’re prescribed an oral contraceptive to treat your acne, this will often contain ethinylestradiol along with norethindrone, norgestimate, or drospirenone. Together, a combination of these ingredients can clear up your acne by targeting the hormones that are causing it. This can be particularly helpful when your hormones are reaching peak levels – e.g. during ovulation.
However, if you have a history of breast cancer, high blood pressure, or blood clots, oral contraceptives might not be a suitable option for you. Equally, if you’re a smoker, this treatment isn’t recommended.
Using Retinoids to Treat Hormonal Acne
Topical retinoids are great for treating acne if you only have a mild case of it. These treatments are available as over-the-counter lotions, gels, and creams. However, if you want to clear your skin in the most effective way possible, you might want to speak to your doctor about getting a prescription-strength retinoid.
It’s important to remember that, if you are starting to use a topical retinoid, you should use sunscreen on a daily basis too. That’s because retinoids increase your risk of sunburn.
Some people also find that mild hormonal acne can be treated using a plant-based treatment. These treatments are often free of any of the side effects that the prescribed options come with, but they might not be as effective.
At present, the amount of research that has been carried out on these natural acne treatments is lacking, which means there are no proven remedies. Therefore, you should always speak with your dermatologist or doctor before going ahead with a treatment to make sure it won’t affect the medication you are taking.
Using Alpha Hydroxy Acid as a Hormonal Acne Treatment
These plant acids are mostly found in citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, and oranges. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can help prevent dead skin cells from blocking your pores, while also minimizing the appearance of scars that are caused by your acne.
A lot of creams and masks that you buy over the counter contain AHAs. And, like with retinoids, you do need to use sunscreen when using these products as your skin becomes even more sensitive to the sun.
Using Green Tea as a Hormonal Acne Treatment
Inflammation within the body can be reduced by green tea. Therefore, if you’d like to adopt a holistic approach to your acne treatment, you may want to try drinking a few cups of green tea per day while also undergoing your topical skin care treatment. You might also find gels and lotions that contain 2% of green tea extract useful.
Using Tea Tree Oil as a Hormonal Acne Treatment
The inflammation that can contribute to your acne may be decreased by tea tree oil. In fact, a recent study found that, participants who were suffering from mild to moderate acne, had their symptoms relieved by using a 5% topical tea tree oil.
Due to its natural benefits, many skin care products, such as toners and cleansers, contain tea tree oil. And, for a direct spot treatment tea tree essential oil can also be used.
However, before using tea tree essential oil, you should always dilute it with a carrier oil (e.g. olive, jojoba, or coconut oil). As a general rule of thumb you should use one to two drops of tea tree essential oil per 12 drops of the carrier oil.
Before using your diluted mixture you should also carry out a skin patch test on the inside of your forearm. Do this 24 hours before use, and, if you don’t have any reaction to this, it should be safe to use on your face or other areas affected by acne.
Creating a Successful Hormonal Acne Diet
Even though the relationship between hormonal acne and your diet isn’t fully understood, there are some foods that are thought to help fight acne – especially those that help reduce inflammation.
You may be able to induce clearer skin while reducing inflammation by eating plant-based foods that are full of antioxidants. These include blueberries, strawberries, kale, spinach, beets, and eggplant. Equally, you may decrease the inflammation of your skin by eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids – e.g. fish, eggs, milk, seeds, nuts, grains, and oils.
Furthermore, although eating junk food is never the sole cause of your acne, you can increase inflammation by eating too much:
- Red meats
- Refined carbs – e.g. pasta and white bread
Adopting these changes in your diet along with natural treatments or prescribed medications may help you to tackle your acne and reduce the risk of future breakouts.
Additional Advice for Treating Hormonal Acne
Here are some tips as to what you can do:
- Wash your face twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) using a sensitive-skin or non-comedogenic product
- Avoid skin care products and cleansers that have a gritty texture or contain scrubbing particles as these may irritate your skin further
- Opt for a non-comedogenic moisturizer, which you use every day
- Apply the recommended amount of topical acne medications (this is normally the size of a pea). Using more than directed won’t improve the outcome but may dry your skin out or cause more irritation
- Avoid popping, squeezing, or picking at your spots to reduce the risk of bacterial infections and scarring
Whatever hormonal acne treatment you choose, it’s important to remember that you won’t see results overnight. Many of these therapies take their time to work, and you may find that your skin gets worse before it gets better. However, after around eight to 10 weeks, most people will start to see some results.
However, by teaming your acne treatment with a healthy diet and great skin care, you should hopefully start to enjoy beautiful-looking skin that you no longer feel embarrassed about.
Have you suffered from hormonal acne? What treatments did you try and what was most effective? Please share your comments with us and our readers below!