Between puberty, periods, pregnancy and menopause, there isn’t really a time when women are not going through hormonal changes. This because oestrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate throughout your monthly cycle and they drop just before your period. When oestrogen and progesterone levels drop then the levels of androgens (male hormones which women have too) are higher. Testosterone (an androgen) makes skin oilier which can lead to hormonal acne. Discover more about hormonal acne treatment.
Androgens & Acne
Androgens send messages to our sebaceous glands to produce oil. Sebaceous glands sit under each of your pores. When the sebaceous glands produce more oil, the oil fills into the pore. The pore swells and can become inflamed. It is for this reason that many acne sufferers will have an outbreak around a week before their period.
Then their health conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (or PCOS), endometriosis and severe stress which can wreak havoc on our hormones for years.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PCOS is closely linked with elevated levels of androgens. Hence woman with this condition are likely to experience long-lasting acne due to this above effect of androgens in the skin. PCOS acne is also more likely to appear on your chin, the sides of your mouth, lower jaw line, chest and upper back – because these are the area’s most densely populated with the sebaceous glands.
Endometriosis has been linked to acne because of hormonal imbalances and also common sensitivities that endometriosis patients often experience.
With hormonal acne, you can guarantee a breakout before an important event, because any stress increases cortisol levels which further stimulates the androgens. Hence hormonal acne can cause emotional upset. However, with the correct skin routine, diet and treatment the skin can look beautiful and be clear with only the occasional breakout.
How do you know if you have hormonal acne?
You are no longer in your teens
While we’d love to leave acne behind (along with our braces and boy band posters) once we enter our 20s and 30’s, the reality is flare-ups are possible at any time. Hormonal acne is most likely to become noticeable in your 20’s. That’s’ because these are the years when women are most hormonally active. The 20s and 30’s is often the peak childbearing age, making women more prone to the intense hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation (breastfeeding).
Your pimples pop up around your chin and jawline.
One of the tell-tale signs of a hormonal breakout is its location. If you’re noticing inflamed cysts around your chin and jawline area, it’s probably hormonal acne. This is because these excess hormones in your body stimulate the sebaceous glands—many of which are around your chin area. Though the chin and jawline are extremely common places for hormonal acne, it may also pop up along the side of your face or down your neck.
Your breakouts occur once a month.
Hormonal acne often manifests in a cyclical pattern, much like women’s menstrual cycles,. This is true even in menopausal or postmenopausal women, because these women still experience monthly fluctuations in their oestrogen and progesterone levels, albeit lower than pre-menopausal women.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, can affect all your other hormones too.
You have painful cysts (versus blackheads and whiteheads).
Those surface-level brownish spots that typically yield more gunk than you expected are not in the same category as hormonal acne, which can come in the form of painful cysts. These painful cysts manifest as deeper bumps that are under the skin’s surface and cannot be extracted with normal manual extraction. These bumps are usually tender to the touch because they’ve accumulated oil over a period of days or weeks that then causes an inflammatory reaction. For these you will need a deep pore cleansing mask.
Hormonal Acne Treatment
Before you get downtrodden about hormonal acne, know first that it’s pesky, but perfectly normal. So normal, in fact, that there are many methods to help treat it.
The hormonal acne treatment pyramid starts with good cleanser. A good cleanser clears away the excess oil without drying the skin.
For those deeper cysts it is important to use a deep cleansing mask at least once weekly. You can use this more often when menstruating.
Use a water-based gel to nourish and heal the skin. This helps balance oil production and helps prevent future breakouts.