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Decoding hormonal acne

Understanding the connection between hormones and skin health is vital for the effective management and treatment of hormonal acne.

Hormonal acne, a prevalent skin condition, is deeply intertwined with the complex interplay of hormones and skin health. The skin, as the body’s largest organ, often acts as a mirror reflecting internal changes. Fluctuations in hormone levels can lea...

Understanding the connection between hormones and skin health is vital for the effective management and treatment of hormonal acne.

Symptoms of hormonal acne

Site of lesions: Hormonal acne typically manifests as red, inflamed scars, along with whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules, particularly along the jawline, chin, and cheeks.

Cystic lesions: Deeper, painful cysts may form beneath the skin’s surface, causing tenderness and leaving behind scars. Timing: Breakouts often coincide with the menstrual cycle, with flare-ups more common during the premenstrual phase.

Adult-onset acne: Hormonal acne can also affect adults, especially women, during periods of hormonal flux such as pregnancy, postpartum, and perimenopause.

Causes of hormonal acne

Androgens: Hormones like testosterone stimulate oil glands, leading to increased sebum production, which, when combined with dead skin cells, can clog pores and foster bacterial growth.

Menstrual cycle: Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle can trigger acne, especially before menstruation.

Benzoyl peroxide: It kills acne-causing bacteria and helps unclog pores.

Salicylic acid: It can help with controlling sebum production.

Some oral medications include:

Birth control pills: Hormonal birth control pills can regulate androgen levels, reducing acne in some cases.

Anti-androgen drugs: Medications like spironolactone can directly block androgen receptors, curbing excess oil production.

Antibiotics: In cases of inflammation, antibiotics may be prescribed to target bacterial growth.

Lifestyle adjustments

Diet: A balanced diet low in processed foods and sugars can help manage hormone levels and reduce inflammation.

Stress management: Techniques such as meditation, exercise, and adequate sleep can lower stress hormone levels.

Skincare routine: Using gentle, non-comedogenic products and avoiding harsh scrubs can minimise irritation and prevent further breakouts.


Chemical peels: Mild acids are applied to the skin to exfoliate and unclog pores, improving the skin’s texture.

Laser therapy: Intense light or laser energy targets and destroys acne-causing bacteria, reducing inflammation.

Extraction and aspiration: Dermatologists can safely extract comedones (black and whiteheads). Fluctuant cystic lesions can be aspirated to alleviate pain and promote faster healing.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle modifications also play a pivotal role in managing hormonal acne. A balanced diet, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, supports overall skin health. Regular exercise and stress management techniques can help regulate hormones and minimise acne triggers. Adequate sleep and a consistent skincare routine tailored to one’s skin type are also essential components of acne management.

Managing hormonal acne

Hormonal acne underscores the intricate relationship between hormones and skin health.

The emergence of acne is often a manifestation of internal changes, with hormone fluctuations playing a pivotal role. Recognising the symptoms, understanding the underlying causes, and employing appropriate treatments can aid in managing and even preventing hormonal acne.

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