Hormonal acne (also known as adult acne) is notoriously tricky to manage – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be helped. As with all unpredictable skin conditions, the more you know about it, the better you can deal with it.
So here’s our ultimate guide to hormonal acne causes, triggers and symptoms, and what you can do about it no matter how sensitive your skin…
What is hormonal acne?
Put simply, hormonal acne is caused by a fluctuation or imbalance in your hormone levels. Unlike other types of acne and breakouts, it’s not caused by things like poor cleansing or a reaction to a product. It’s directly down to what’s going on underneath the surface, and in your body as a whole.
Hormonal acne can present itself as blackheads and whiteheads, but often causes deeper red nodules or cysts, which can feel painful or tender to touch.
What affects your hormones?
Balancing hormones is like walking a thin tightrope. Anything from what we eat to how we feel can have an impact on hormone levels.
There are obvious factors that cause fluctuations in our hormones, like the time of the month or bigger hormonal shifts during puberty, pregnancy or the menopause.
However, if your hormones are already imbalanced or prone to irregular fluctuation, then other factors may also make this worse. These are the main hormone-disrupting culprits…
When we’re stressed or have continually high stress levels, our bodies are flooded with high levels of cortisol.
Short term, heightened levels of cortisol can cause spikes in hormone production – all of which shows up on your skin.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but refined sugar may well be making your hormonal acne worse. Too much refined sugar can increase oestrogen production – a hormone which directly influences your sebum production. Simply put, excess sugar can equal excess oil, leading to congestion and breakouts.
Many people find quitting or scaling back their dairy intake can really help acne-prone problem skin. Milk and other dairy products can cause hormonal imbalances that stimulate the overproduction of sebum, leading to blocked pores and congestion.
Remember, don’t fully eliminate anything from your diet until you speak to your doctor or naturopath.
The contraceptive pill
The pill – or more specifically coming off the pill – is one of the biggest disruptions to a healthy hormone balance.
In the most basic terms, when you are taking the contraceptive pill your hormone levels are controlled to prevent pregnancy. When you stop taking the pill, the carefully maintained hormone levels are thrown off balance – and these disruptions play out on your skin.
Unfortunately for most people it’s a case of waiting until things settle down, which can take anything from a couple of months to a couple of years. It’s best to seek advice from a naturopath or doctor if you think this could be a factor in your skin troubles.
The best products for hormonal acne
No topical product will ‘fix’ hormonal acne. To clear it up you really need to get to the root of the problem – however, having a great basic regime in place will help to keep skin as healthy as possible.
Cleansing is key. Our cream cleanser - Middlemist Seven - is a great start as it effectively cleanses without ever stripping the skin or disrupting the skin’s delicate oil and pH balance. If you're a fan of foam texture, try Phaze - our PHA-powered clarifying cleanser to gently exfoliate and lock in hydration.
Sticking to an alcohol-free moisturiser like The Pioneer will also help keep skin comfortable and hydrated, without feeling heavy or blocking pores. For more of a targeted treatment, our blemish serum is ideal for angry, unpredictable skin. It contains a triple action anti-acne complex, which actively targets spots to reduce inflammation, redness and bacteria, and can also be used as an on-the-spot treatment when a pesky blemish flares.
At night, a detoxifying face oil like Carbon Star can fight acne-causing bacteria, help clear imperfections and keep sebum production under control – which means warding off future breakouts too.
Finally, remember it can take a long time to heal and balance skin. Work with your skin and pay attention to your diet, lifestyle and general wellbeing – you should begin to see an improvement.
If you’re looking for more advice about dealing with hormonal acne, book in for a free online skin consultation with one of Pai’s Skin Coaches.