What Women Should Know About Hormonal Acne
According to the latest dermatology research, using the term hormonal acne to refer to acne in adult women is a misnomer. It’s not that your acne isn’t caused by hormones rather, all acne is inherently hormonal!
From acne that occurs during puberty to adult premenstrual acne, all acne patients are sensitive to hormones. In fact, one study also found that women over age 20 are significantly more likely to deal with acne compared to men. The reason? You guessed it our hormones.
However, hormones aren’t the only culprit, either. The primary causes of acne include:
- Excessive sebum production
- Follicular hyperkeratosis
Causes Of Acne On The Chin
Hormonal acne is caused by raised levels of androgens. Androgens are male hormones such as testosterone that increase the production of sebum, your skins natural oil.
Hormonal acne can occur in both genders during puberty and can continue to be an issue for adult women when androgen levels increase in the days leading up to menstruation.
Acne on the chin can also be caused by diet, genetics and poor skin care practices.
For men who shave, chin pimples may in fact be ingrown hairs. An ingrown hair is a hair that grows back into the skin causing a painful red bump resembling a pimple.
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The Underling Causes Of Hormonal Acne
As common as hormonal acne is, surprisingly, doctors and scientists will say we still arent entirely clear what causes it. But if you spend even just a little time in the medical literature, there’s quite a lot we can learn. Following are the main factors thought to cause or contribute to hormonal acne.
Androgens: Hormonal acne is definitely tied to monthly hormonal fluctuations, explaining why 83% of women with acne experience a premenstrual flare. Androgens are a class of hormones that include testosterone, which like men, women also produce, just typically in lesser amounts. Some women, however, either produce excess testosterone, or are more sensitive to even normal amounts. A major theory is that increased androgen production premenstrually causes increased sebum production leading to acne. Women with elevated testosterone have a higher rate of converting testosterone to a more potent androgen, dihydrotestosterone , which is associated with sebum production and therefore, potentially, acne. Even women with normal androgen levels can have androgen-caused acne due to increased androgen sensitivity. The most common cause of elevated androgens or heightened androgen sensitivity is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome , which many women dont know they have. Even women without PCOS, and who have normal androgen levels when measured, may be more sensitive to androgens and as a result, more prone to acne.
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Causes Of Hormonal Acne
There are two main indicators: Your breakouts happen along the lower third of your face, and they get worse before your period when there is an excess build-up of testosterone, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
Besides Aunt Flow, there are a few other hormonal acne causes. Pregnancy and the fluctuating hormones that come along with it, for one. Also, the decline in reproductive hormones can cause hormonal acne due to your body adjusting to fluctuating levels. Polycystic ovary syndrome is another culprit. It can occur in women at a reproductive age and causes a fluctuation in hormones that can increase the length of your menstrual cycle, cause obesity, and result in breakouts.
Stay Away From Cows Dairy :
Research shows that dairy can cause acne due to high levels of iodine. While milk itself does not naturally contain iodine, farmers give their cows iodine-fortified feed to prevent infection. They also use iodine solutions to sanitize cow udders and milking equipment. As a result, the iodine gets into the milk itself.
According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology consuming dairy specifically, low fat/skim milk is much higher in teenagers who have acne. Safer options are goat and sheep milk.
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Should You Squeeze Papules
When acne papules cause a lot of pressure under your skin, you may want to squeeze them. However, it would be best if you didnt squeeze your papules. There isnt any pus to remove, and squeezing can several problems:
- You may open your skin and introduce bacteria into the opening. Bacteria can cause an infection.
- You may irritate your skin. Your skin is sensitive, and your nails are stronger than your skin. When you use your nails to apply a lot of pressure to your skin to try to pop a papule, you can cause inflammation.
- You may scar your skin. You can seriously damage your skin and cause permanent scarring if you apply too much pressure.
Lower Your Caffeine Intake
Studieshave found thattoo muchcaffeine increases the level of cortisol your body produces. When your body produces too much cortisol, the effects can be harmful and your hormonal acne may worsen.
It goes back to sebum production. When your body is producing too much cortisol, it may start to produce excess sebum.
But thats not the only way that caffeine could be causing your hormonal acne.
Too much caffeine may interfere with your sleep patterns.Lack of quality sleep can lead to your body producing unnecessary amounts of cortisol.
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Foods And Beverages With A High Sugar Content
Lets go back to talking about foods with a high glycemic index.
If your diet is full of foods and drinks with a higher glycemic index like
- White bread
- Sweetened dairy products like yogurt
- Chips, potatoes, french fries
- Tofu and
- Healthy grains like rolled oats
…take longer to break down, can help stabilize blood sugar levels, and decrease the likelihood ofhormonal imbalancesthat cause breakouts.
How Should I Manage My Pimples
If you have pimples, be careful managing them to avoid irritation. You can do this by:
- Not touching or picking at your pimples.
- Being careful around your pimples while shaving.
- Regularly cleaning items that touch your face, including your cell phone, sports helmets, sunglasses, clothing and pillowcases.
You can also use over-the-counter acne medications like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These come in many forms. A wash is the least irritating.
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Swap Sugary Drinks For Water Or Green Tea
Sweetened drinks, specifically sodas, tend to be loaded with sugar were talking up to 30 grams of sugar per serving.
Avoid blood sugar spikes by switching out that can of soda every day for an 8-ounce glass of water.
If you need an energy boost and a little more flavor, try making some green tea. To subdue a sweet tooth, consider addinghoneyas a sweetener instead of sugar.
Studies show thatpolyphenols found in green teacan reduce the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands perfect for preventing and treating hormonal acne.
Is It Worse For Men Or Women
Boys tend to have more severe hormonal acne during puberty because of their peaked testosterone levels. But its worse for women overall. The good news for men is that these hormones eventually level out. Male androgens peak around 18, then they slowly decline throughout adulthood. Although high testosterone can cause acne, low levels dont have much effect.
No surprise, this isnt true for women. As I said before, estrogen levels never stop shifting. Especially during periods. So this is why hormonal acne is worse for women overall. We have to deal with our crazy bodies every month, and it only gets worse when menopause hits. Its a lose lose situation.
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How Can You Tell Apart Hormonal Acne From Regular Pimples
Hormonal acne tends to develop differently form ordinary zits. Although hormonal acne can appear as a blackhead, which is caused by clogged hair follicles, or as a whitehead thats caused by dead skin cells and excess sebum production , hormonal acne often appears as a painful cyst. Cystic acne is a variety of severe acne that form deep under the skins surface, and cannot be extracted by ordinary means. Cysts caused by hormonal shifts also can reappear in the same location over and over.
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Foods To Prevent Hormonal Acne
Weve talked about the foods that cause hormonal acne, but are there foods that can help prevent hormonal acne from occurring? Or help clear the breakouts when they happen?
The answer is: Yes.
A healthy diet may be the key to helping balance hormone levels and reduce the risk of future hormonal breakouts.
Are you suffering from hormonal acne? Foods to eat to prevent hormonal acne include the following:
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Causes Of Pimples On Chin
Both adolescents and adults can develop acne on their chin. Teen acne most often appears in the T-zone, which includes the chin as well as the nose and forehead. Adult-onset acne often results from hormone fluctuations and appears along the jawline. Women are significantly more likely than men to develop adult acne.
Causes of pimples on the chin include:
- Oily skin
- Certain medications
- Hair and skincare products
Sports equipment and facial masks can contribute to acne and should be washed regularly. Makeup and coarse fabrics can also worsen your acne.
How Long Does It Take For Hormonal Acne To Clear Up
“Hormonal acne may resolve on its own once hormone levels in the body become balanced, though it is common to experience hormonal acne breakouts in cyclic episodes as hormones fluctuate overtime,” says Green.
So while your pimples may disappear in as little as one week, Green says they’re likely to return and can even cause permanent scarring if left untreated. “For patients who forgo evaluation and treatment with a dermatologist, their hormonal acne can last for years,” she says.
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Experiment With Acne Lasers
There are a few different types of in-office lasers your dermatologist can use to target and destroy bacteria within your skin, the most popular of which is Aerolase. Aerolase penetrates the skin, kills bacteria thats involved with acne, and also delivers whats called a heat shock that shrinks the oil glands and helps cut down on oil production, says Dr. Howe.
Its not overly painful, and it can be effective on some types of acnebut only to a certain degree, and not on everyone. I always warn patients that its expensive, around $300 to $400 per session, and results will depend on their acne, says Dr. Howe, who uses Aerolase in conjunction with a tried-and-true hormonal acne treatments, like a topical prescription and/or an oral prescription. Just know that lasers are not a long-term fix: Almost all patients will need a monthly maintenance treatment, he says.
What These Research Findings Mean For You
While more research is needed to know whether certain foods can worsen acne, there is something that you can do right now if you think your diet affects your acne.
Dermatologists recommend that you pay attention to your breakouts, and ask yourself these questions:
Does any food or beverage seem to trigger a breakout or worsen your existing acne?
If something seems to trigger a breakout, what happens when you dont have that food or beverage for a day, a week, or a month?
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What Does Hormonal Acne Look Like
“Hormonal acne is almost always cystic and inflammatory in nature, says Love. It presents with painful red papules, pustules, and deep cysts on the lower face, and it can create long-term scarring . At its mildest form, hormonal acne presents with a breakout or two near menstruation, but for many, it can persist all month long.
She explains that hormonal acne most commonly occurs on the lower face and body , but can also present between the brows.
Laboratory Tests In Patients With Suspected Hormonal Acne
For patients signs of hyperandrogenism, failure to respond to conventional therapies, and with irregular menses, endocrinal evaluation is required at the early menstrual phase . Other hormonal treatments such as oral contraceptives should be terminated and stopped 1 month before laboratory investigations to avoid false results.
Testosterone : minimal to modest elevations of < 200 ng/dL are suggestive of a benign cause of ovarian or adrenal cause while above this level neoplasia of ovarian or adrenal origin should be suspected.
Androstenedione: secreted equally by ovaries and adrenals and follows a circadian rhythm making early morning samples, the best to analyze.
DHEA: high levels of DHEA > 8,000 ng/dL and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate should raise concern of adrenal tumors, while levels of DHEAS indicate benign adrenal hyperplasia.
SHBG: decreased levels of SHBG lead to free unbound testosterone in excess, resulting in more manifested signs.
Prolactin: elevated prolactin could point out to hypothalamic or pituitary causes for further assessment and investigation.
17-Hydroxy progesterone: elevated in congenital adrenal hyperplasia or nonclassic congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to deficiency or absence of 21-hydroxylase.
Luteinizing hormone : follicle-stimulating hormone ratio: a ratio of > 2 is indicative of possible PCOS.
Fasting and postprandial insulin: overweight and obese patients should be checked for insulin levels.
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Supporting Your Hormone Health Is A Lifestyle
Your diet is a holistic experience-you have to take the rest of it into consideration, Vitti says. Are any of the above a surefire fix for hormonal acne? No, she states. But can they start to give you a sense that if you change more of your diet, you can get more results? Yes.
The hormone expert recommends tracking your symptoms and successes in a period-tracking app like MyFLO and using her books WomanCode and In The Flo to create a hormone-healthy diet that works for you and your lifestyle. You may also want to visit a professional to have your levels checked, work on lowering your stress levels, and avoid using cosmetics and cleaning products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Yes, its a lot-but to see meaningful change, you need to get committed to helping your hormones, Vitti says. Its only fair. After all, as your hormonal acne proves, theyre committed to helping you.
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Other Natural Hormonal Acne Treatment
Diet is just one of many lifestyle factors that can trigger hormonal acne. If eating anti-inflammatory foods and reducing stress dont help, consider these gentle options:
- Check your cleanser. Skip the exfoliators and gently cleanse your face with a pH-balanced soap each morning and night.
- Try green tea. In a small 2016 study, taking green tea extract helped women with acne reduce the number of zits at any given time.
- Pop some vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to acne, but you should still chat with your doc before adding a supplement to your daily routine.
- Take zinc. This mineral is essential for healthy skin. Some people report banishing breakouts with zinc.
- Try probiotics.Preliminary research suggests that probiotics can soothe skin inflammation.
- Go for chasteberry. This plant is known to influence hormones before your flow, so it *might* help with hormonal acne.
- Cash in on CBD.CBD face creams might calm your skin and help with breakouts.
- Try topicals.Tea tree oil, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid are all known to help zap zits.
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Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel
Best hormonal acne treatment for oily skin
This gel contains salicylic acid to help to clear dead skin cells from pores, as well as Laminaria saccharina extract to control oil buildup and witch hazel to tighten pores.
The company says that its product is as strong as prescription treatments and free from oil, parabens, synthetic colors, fragrances, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and gluten.
A 0.5-oz bottle costs $19.
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How Do I Get Rid Of Hormonal Acne
Listen, as someone who has been through almost all of the options for hormonal acne, Ill be honest with you: Youre going to have to see a dermatologist if youre dealing with cystic acne or inflammatory acne . No, dont freakits a good thing, because it means getting a treatment plan faster, which means less scarring and ~emotional damage~ for you.
If youre dealing with mild-to-moderate blackheads and whiteheads, you should see some success with at-home efforts, but if youre dealing with cystic acne, youll need to incorporate prescription medications . Think about it: Your entire genetic makeup is causing your hormonal acne, so its unrealistic to think some drugstore face wash or toner can have a huge impact, you know?
In fact, your risk of developing cystic acne only partially has to do with how you take care of your skin, says Dr. Gohara. But if youre here, youre probably desperatewhich, yup, I live thereso lets break down the at-home options and professional options :
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So What Exactly Is Hormonal Acne
Zits form when pores are clogged by excess oil and other stuff, so it makes total sense that most breakouts happen on your face, back, chest, neck, and upper arms. These areas have the most sebaceous glands hormone-influenced glands that produce oil on demand.
Breakouts are common in the teen years because thats when hormones fluctuate the most. But that doesnt mean adult acne isnt a thing.
A whole mess of factors can cause plugged pores, including: