Hormonal acne can take a toll on your skin and your confidence. Discover what causes this type of acne and how to treat it so you can be you again.

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Hormonal Acne: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

04/14/20228 min read

You know the drill. Every month, like clockwork, your skin goes crazy. Pimples show up everywhere — on your chin, forehead, and even around your nose. You've tried every remedy you can think of for your hormonal acne, but nothing works.

You’re tired of hiding your breakouts with makeup, and you’re sick of feeling self-conscious about your skin. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Hormonal acne is a widespread skin condition — the most common one in the United States.

To help you put your best face forward, we've created this comprehensive guide to hormonal acne. We'll explain what it is, what causes it, and how you can treat and prevent it.

Table Of Contents

What Is Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne on a woman’s face

It turns out that hormones can cause those pesky zits, especially the hormone testosterone. When testosterone levels increase, it causes the sebaceous glands (which produce oil) to get bigger and produce more sebum.

Sebum is a waxy substance that can clog pores and trap bacteria. When this happens, it leads to inflammation and the formation of pimples.

Since your hormone levels rise and fall throughout the month, your skin goes through breakouts and clear skin cycles. That’s why you tend to get pimples around the same time every month.

Risk Factors

Contrary to popular belief, acne isn't just a problem for teenagers. Hormonal acne is also called adult acne because it affects people of all ages.

No matter how old you are, certain factors can increase your risk of developing hormonal acne. For example, if you have a family history of acne, you're more likely to get it yourself.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being a woman: Women are more likely to get hormonal acne because of the fluctuations in their hormone levels.
  • Certain medications: Some birth control pills and other drugs can increase your testosterone levels and cause breakouts.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): This condition causes the ovaries to produce too much testosterone.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): This condition causes the ovaries to produce too much testosterone.
  • Pregnancy: Many women experience acne during pregnancy due to hormone changes.
  • Menopause: During menopause, estrogen levels drop, which can cause an increase in testosterone and lead to breakouts.
  • Other medical conditions: Conditions such as stress, obesity, and diabetes can also increase your risk of hormonal acne.

However, anyone can get hormonal acne, even if they don't have any risk factors.


Man with hormonal acne on his face

Hormonal acne can present itself in a few different ways. The most common symptom is pimples around the mouth, chin, and jawline. They can also show up on your nose, forehead, back, and other body parts.

These pimples are often called "nodules" or "cysts." They're larger than your average pimple and tend to be painful.

Other symptoms of hormonal acne include:

  • Whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Excess oil production
  • Excess oil production
  • Enlarged pores

If you have any of these symptoms, it's important to see a dermatologist. They can help you figure out if you have hormonal acne and develop an individualized treatment plan if you do.

Causes Of Hormonal Acne

Now that you know what hormonal acne is, let's look at what causes this condition. As we mentioned, the leading cause is changing testosterone levels, but other factors can contribute to hormonal acne as well.

For example, if your mother or father had acne, you're more likely to get it yourself. This is because your genetic disposition plays a role in developing hormonal acne.

Stress can also cause several different skin problems, including acne. When you're stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone can increase oil production and lead to breakouts.

In addition, acne often gets worse around the time of a woman's period. That’s because hormone levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle.

Not getting enough sleep can also lead to breakouts. Sleep deprivation can cause stress, which, as we’ve discussed, increases your hormone levels and leads to pimples.

You can't do anything about some of these causes (such as your genes or menstrual cycle). However, there are other causes that you can control.

Adult Acne Triggers

Woman with acne on her back

If you have hormonal acne, a few things can trigger a breakout. Let's look at the most common factors.

Dirty Phones

Believe it or not, your phone can be a source of bacteria. Any bacteria that builds up on your phone can transfer to your face and cause breakouts.


Sweat can clog pores and lead to acne. If you're working out, be sure to shower as soon as possible after your workout to help prevent breakouts.

Beauty Products

Some cosmetics and skincare products can clog your pores and cause acne. If you're using products that seem to be triggering breakouts, try switching to a different brand.

High Humidity

If you live in a humid climate, you may be more susceptible to acne. Humidity can cause sweat and oil to build up on your skin, which clogs your pores.

Squeezing Or Popping Blemishes

We know it's tempting, but resist the urge to pop your pimples. Playing with your zits leads to infection and scarring.

Poor Diet

Lastly, eating a lot of processed foods can cause breakouts. These foods are high in sugar and other ingredients that can trigger acne for some people.

Hormonal Acne Treatment Options

Woman treating hormonal acne

Several treatments help improve hormonal acne. The best choice for you depends on the severity of your symptoms and your skin type.

Over-The-Counter Products

If your acne is mild, you may be able to treat it with over-the-counter products. These products usually contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which can help kill bacteria and dry up excess oil.

These formulas are typically available in a cream, ointment, or spray. Applying them to your skin on a regular basis can help reduce the number of breakouts you get.

Prescription Medications

If over-the-counter products don't seem to be working, your dermatologist may prescribe a medication, such as birth control pills, a topical steroid, spironolactone, or an antibiotic.

Birth control pills can help regulate hormone levels and reduce acne. Doctors tend to prescribe topical steroids to reduce inflammation and redness.

Spironolactone is a medication often used to treat high blood pressure, but it is also effective in treating hormonal acne. This medication works by blocking testosterone receptors.

Finally, antibiotics can kill bacteria and reduce inflammation throughout your body.

Lifestyle Changes

Making a few lifestyle changes is sometimes all you need to do to help reduce hormonal acne.

For example, wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser. Cleansing well helps remove dirt, oil, and bacteria from your skin, which can minimize your chances of getting pimples.

Light Therapy

Woman receiving light therapy

Light therapy is a treatment that uses LED light to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation and is often effective on acne. The therapy is done in a dermatologist's office, and each session usually takes about 15 minutes.

Natural Remedies

If you prefer to take care of your skin at home, try one of several non-pharmacologic treatments thought to reduce hormonal acne.

For example, cucumber face masks are a great option. Simply blend a small cucumber with a cup of oatmeal into a smooth paste. Next, combine a teaspoon of this mixture with a teaspoon of plain yogurt. Then, rub the mixture over your face and let it sit for 30 minutes/

The cucumber in this mask contains Vitamin C, which helps reduce inflammation, and the oatmeal helps soothe your skin and absorb excess oil.

If you don’t need a remedy for your entire face, spot treatment works well. An easy spot treatment recipe is to mix one tablespoon of honey with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Apply this mixture to your blemishes, and let it sit for 15 minutes before washing your face.

Other natural treatments include:

  • Using a green tea bag as a compress
  • Applying aloe vera to your skin
  • Rubbing a slice of raw potato on your blemish

Since everyone’s skin is different, you might need to experiment with a few remedies before finding one that works for you.

Preventing Hormonal Acne

Fortunately, you can do a few things to help prevent hormonal acne breakouts.

Start by washing your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and bacteria. Make sure you're also using a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

Avoid touching your face throughout the day, as this can transfer bacteria and dirt from your hands onto your skin. Also, shower regularly to keep your skin clean, but avoid taking long, hot showers that can dry out your skin and cause your body to produce more oil.

Finally, make sure you’re taking care of your whole body. Try to eat a balanced diet low in processed foods and sugar and high in healthy vegetables. Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep to reduce your stress levels.

If you’ve tried it all and are still experiencing breakouts, it’s probably time to seek professional help and speak to a dermatologist about your options.

Soothe Pesky Pimples

Woman looking into a mirror

Hormonal acne can be isolating and painful, but treatments are available to help reduce breakouts. No matter what causes your hormonal acne, with the right treatment plan and lifestyle habits, better skin days are ahead!

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