Does that familiar pimple pop up on your face a few days before your menstrual cycle every month? Well, this is hormonal acne.
Let’s take a look at how hormones play a huge role in contributing to acne and how you can treat it.
What Is Hormonal Acne?
Hormonal acne is linked to a fluctuation in the body’s hormones. You are most likely to experience hormonal acne during puberty. However, it can happen to anybody at any age due to fluctuations in the following hormones:
Also called female sex hormones, they are responsible for reproductive development.
A hormone found in the female body that prepares them for conception and pregnancy.
Also called male sex hormones, they are present in women’s bodies as well, in higher amounts than estrogens. Androgens in women play a vital role in kick-starting the puberty process. A major androgen that plays a vital role in hormonal acne is testosterone.
Disorders in androgen levels can pose a problem for your skin. High levels of androgens are linked to excess sebum production in the skin. This can result in clogged pores and eventually, hormonal acne.
Hormones eventually tend to stabilize in men. Women are usually victims of hormonal acne. Menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause can cause hormonal changes in a woman’s body. This may eventually lead to acne breakouts.
What Causes Hormonal Acne?
Fluctuations in hormones before the beginning of your menstrual cycle may trigger acne (1). A significant number of women reportedly experience premenstrual acne symptoms.
Estrogen and progesterone levels fall as your “time of the month” approaches. Testosterone levels remain constant, making it the dominant hormone during your period. This can contribute to sebum production, causing your skin to break out.
Women experience a reduction in estrogen levels and an increase in androgens during menopause. This can also cause you to break-out.
During puberty, androgen levels increase in men and women to increase bone strength and muscle (2). This can result in an overproduction of sebum, leading to acne breakouts.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome happens during a woman’s child-bearing years. PCOS happens when high levels of androgens prevent the production of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body. This contributes to oily skin and results in hormonal acne symptoms. PCOS can affect a woman’s reproductive cycle and cause her to experience irregular periods as well.
Symptoms Of Hormonal Acne
- During puberty, hormonal acne usually occurs on your forehead and nose bridge. This is because most of your sebaceous glands are located in your T-zone.
- In adults, hormonal acne usually appears on the bottom part of the face. This includes the cheek and jawline area.
Treatments For Hormonal Acne
1. Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy is the main treatment to reduce hormonal acne and is widely used. It works by reducing circulating androgens levels in your body. This therapy has been effective in reducing hormonal acne symptoms for women who don’t respond well to other acne reduction treatments (3) (4).
Drugs used in hormone therapy fall into these categories:
A. Androgen Receptor Blockers
These drugs work by binding themselves to proteins (androgen receptors), to prevent androgens from doing so. This inhibits the effects of androgens in your body that can help reduce sebum production.
B. Oral Contraceptives
These decrease androgen production in your ovaries. This is an effective treatment option for women who are also looking for contraceptive benefits. These pills suppress androgen levels, thus decreasing sebum production in your skin.
These inhibit the production of androgens in your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands release various hormones into your body. This supports your cells to carry out their functions correctly. These glands may overproduce androgens, which may be the cause of your hormonal acne.
While hormone therapy is the first course of action for hormonal acne, here are some other supportive treatments to go along with it:
2. Oral Antibiotics
Oral antibiotics can be taken if your skin doesn’t respond well to topical medication.
Doxycycline is one of the safest drugs to treat acne vulgaris. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are essential in reducing acne symptoms, including redness, swelling and pain. It can also help reduce further break-outs.
Minocycline has proved to be an effective antibiotic to treat acne vulgaris (5).
Isotretinoin is a Vitamin A derivative. It is essential to maintain good skin health. Isotretinoin is used to treat severe cases of cystic acne.
Do not consume it without consulting your dermatologist as it may cause side effects like dryness, itchiness, hair thinning, weight loss and nausea. It is completely prohibited for those who are pregnant or looking to conceive as it can cause some serious birth defects.
3. Topical Treatments
A. Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is a topical treatment for inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne (6). Side effects of Benzoyl peroxide include dryness, irritation and itchiness.
B. Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient of the beauty industry. It has anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to improving symptoms of acne (7).
C. Azelaic Acid
Topical forms of Azelaic acid can be used to treat inflammatory acne. Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory properties that can help improve acne symptoms. Sometimes, they can cause serious side effects like difficulty in breathing, rashes, hives and swelling of the tongue and neck.
D. Topical Retinoids
Topical retinoids contribute to maintaining your overall skin health and improving texture. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce acne (8). Side effects of topical retinoids include dryness, itching and redness.
4. Steroid Injections
These are used to treat inflammatory acne. Steroid shots can provide relief to the inflamed areas of your body. However, it is not a recommended treatment for acne. These shots are more of a quick fix if you want to get rid of that one pimple before a big event or day.
Home Remedies for Hormonal Acne
We are constantly on the outlook for natural alternatives to address our health issues. Here are some natural home remedies that may have a positive effect on reducing symptoms of hormonal acne:
Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties can help improve symptoms of acne (9).
Coriander is packed with anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It can serve as an effective option in treating inflammatory acne (10).
Its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties can help fight against chronic acne.
This hormone-balancing plant has been traditionally used to promote a number of health benefits, especially those concerning the female reproductive system. This makes it capable of treating hormonal acne symptoms (11).
Licorice extract has been shown to have anti-androgen effects. It promotes hormonal balance and can be used to reduce hormonal acne symptoms (12).
Diet Dos and Don’ts For Hormonal Acne
Certain foods can cause a rise in your blood sugar levels. This releases a hormone called insulin in your body that is linked to an overproduction of sebum.
Foods that may contribute to insulin spikes:
- White bread
- White rice
If you consume these foods regularly, you may be putting your skin at risk.
Consuming foods that fight inflammation can reduce symptoms of acne. These include:
- Foods rich in antioxidants
- Whole grains
- Vitamin A supplements and foods
- Fiber-rich foods
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