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Hormonal Acne: Causes, Treatment And Prevention

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Hormonal acne, as the name suggests, is caused due to the fluctuation of hormones in the body. The influence of androgens on the oil glands leads to acne breakouts. This skin condition can occur even after puberty but is more commonly associated with women over 25.

What Is Hormonal Acne?

The rise in hormone levels in the body can cause an increase in natural oil production leading to an increase in acne formation. Due to the presence of oil glands all over the body, the breakouts may form on all four zones of the face, back, chest, shoulders, and buttocks. In the case of hormonal acne, it is usually limited on the lower part of the face, on the chin and jawline area, and occasionally on the sides of cheeks and neck. Hormonal acne may be painful and with nodules rooted deep in the skin.

Also Read: Safe And Effective Treatment For Pimples

What Are The Symptoms Of Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne looks slightly different from regular acne. Most common hormonal acne symptoms include –

  • Painful lesions, due to inflammation or swelling, form on the cheeks and jawline.
  • Formation of cysts or papules
  • Sore lesions that have transient redness
  • The area around lesions is slightly raised or bumpy

What Causes Hormonal Acne?

Our body maintains the hormonal levels to ensure all body functions perform optimally. Here are various factors responsible for triggering hormonal acne due to hormonal imbalances or can worsen the condition further –

  • Excessive production of testosterone – Increased androgen levels in the body is the primary reason behind hormonal acne. A component of androgen is testosterone which is a male hormone that triggers excessive sebum production causing an acne breakout.
  • Menstruation – A woman’s body goes through the periodic fluctuation of hormones during her menstrual cycle. This fluctuation is the reason behind some women experiencing frequent breakouts when they are expecting their monthly period.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – When diagnosed with PCOS, cysts form in the ovaries preventing the release of the ovum. As a result, the cysts enlarge and the excessive male hormones lead to acne breakouts on areas like the face, chest, and upper back.
  • Menopause – During menopause, there is an inevitable decrease in the production of female reproductive hormones as the ovaries stop producing eggs. Due to such hormonal changes in the body and an increase in androgens, some women tend to experience acne during their 40s or 50s.
  • Steroids – Hormonal acne flares when people take an excessive quantity of steroids in the form of pills. It might be due to already an existing illness or a medical condition such as diabetes or obesity. These pills alter the hormonal balance of the body and trigger breakouts. Also, DHEAS or Dehydroepiandrosterone is an endogenous steroid hormone which can lead to hormonal acne.
  • Excessive Sebum – Sebum is necessary to nourish the skin and enforce the removal of dead cells. However, hormonal changes lead to excessive testosterone secretion which triggers the sebaceous glands in the skin to expand and produce unnecessary amounts of sebum.
  • Stress – Stress is a precursor of hormonal changes in the body. During periods of stress, our body releases a hormone called cortisol which causes hormonal fluxes and over stimulates the sebaceous glands present in the skin.
  • Lifestyle – Certain unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking can lead to an increase in free testosterone levels in the body. This is one of the leading causes of hormonal acne in men.
  • Certain Medical Conditions – People suffering from high blood pressure or sugar are also prone to getting hormonal acne. Blood sugar spikes are known to cause hormonal fluctuations which in turn leads to acne.

Also Read: Cystic Acne – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options

Best Treatments For Hormonal Acne

Treatment For Mild To Moderate Outbreak:

Mild to moderate acne can be treated fairly easily. The dermatologist or skin expert may prescribe medication or products to treat moderate acne. Here are various treatment options prescribed by the dermatologists –

  • Medicated cleanser – The doctors usually prescribe a medicated cleanser during treatment to heal hormonal acne faster. These cleansers contain benzoyl peroxide as an active ingredient to wash away dead skin cells and excessive sebum.
  • Oral Contraceptives – Oral contraceptive pills or birth control pills are a proven and successful hormonal acne solution.
  • Anti-Androgen Drugs – This is another effective hormonal acne medication that is proven to work by acting against the male androgen hormone and bringing it to an acceptable level in the female body.
  • Retinoids – Topical retinoids are helpful in cases of mild to moderate levels of hormonal acne. These are mainly derived from vitamin A and are present as an active ingredient in several OTC gels and lotions for acne clearance. The consistent use of retinoids is required to see any visible results.

Advanced Treatments For Severe Hormonal Acne: 

Severe hormonal acne is not easily treated using OTC medication. Very often, the dermatologist will prescribe prescription grade medication in conjunction with advanced treatment for successful results.

  • Chemical Peels – Chemical peels are used to treat cases of hormonal acne by removing dead skin layers and also keeping excess sebum production in check.
  • Isotretinoin – This is an effective prescription medicine to control sebum secretion and is taken orally. It is advised to visit a dermatologist to ascertain the appropriate dose.
  • Corticosteroid Injections – Severe forms of hormonal acne, such as cystic acne, is usually treated using corticosteroid injections. Triamcinolone injections are used to reduce inflammation and persistent redness. It is injected into the lesions, and its effect shows within a few days through reduced swelling and scarring.
  • Extraction – Extraction is performed in cases of severe and painful cystic acne or nodules. The extraction procedure uses a specialized extractor tool which aims to decrease the size of a large cyst by extracting and draining dead cell debris. It reduces the swelling instantly and lets the cysts heal faster.

Also Read: Acne Vulgaris – Causes And Symptoms

How To Prevent Hormonal Acne?

These preventive tips should be followed to keep hormonal acne at bay–

  • Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser to ensure your skin is thoroughly cleaned of impurities.
  • Avoid makeup or skin care products that may clog your pores. Always buy non-comedogenic or oil-free products.
  • Always use sunscreen to shield the skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle and pay attention to your dietary habits. Avoid dairy products and products with high glycemic content.
  • Keep the skin thoroughly hydrated to prevent it from breaking out.
  • Avoid weight gain. Get a hormonal evaluation performed by a dermatologist.

Hormonal acne is tricky and is treated based on its severity. A dermatologist is the best person to evaluate hormonal acne and recommend suitable treatment from a plethora of advanced dermatological treatments.

For more information, contact the nearest branch of Oliva Skin & Hair Clinic. We have clinics in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Kochi and Vizag.

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About The Author

Dr. T N Rekha Singh

Dr. T N Rekha Singh

Dr TN Rekha Singh is an MBBS, MD in Dermatology, Venerealogy and Leprology from Andhra Pradesh with over 10 years of experience in the areas of dermatology and trichology. Working as a Senior Consultant Cosmetic Dermatologist and Trichologist with Oliva Clinics for 8 years now, she has trained over 60 Doctors in the areas of skin and hair care. One of the pioneer dermatologists with Oliva, she has been exemplary in bringing clinical marvels in addition to mentoring MD dermatologists and therapists. She was awarded for her research at the AP state conference, and has participated and presented papers at many national and international dermatology conferences. She is dedicated in bringing beauty and wellness through real science of transformation, giving real results. She enjoys reading, travelling and cooking. She lives with her husband and two kids in Hyderabad.


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