i’ve tried writing this post at least a dozen times. it’s such a vast topic that’s still evolving for me. balancing hormonal acne is something that takes trial & error. as someone who never dealt with teen acne, i suddenly began having breakouts that would reappear every month in the same place, usually consisting of 2-3 along the chin. while my case was not severe, it was still a struggle and not one i was familiar with. the worst part is that they would linger, giving me maybe one cyst-free week a month. thankfully, i’ve gotten to a place where i rarely have a cystic breakout and when i do, it’s much less severe and gone in a few days

here’s what i’ve learned… 

what causes hormonal acne?

first of all, hormonal acne is technically just regular acne that develops in response to hormonal changes. when your hormones change, it can lead to an increase in oil production- the biggest culprit. certain hormones, particularly testosterone (which increases pre-period), can cause more oil production, while other hormones like estrogen cause less. oil can also get thicker due to the imbalance of hormones, making it the ideal environment for breakouts. progesterone, however, does not increase oil, but it does cause water retention which is why you feel puffy & bloated during that time of the month

what causes pores to become clogged?

when too much oil/sebum is produced in the hair follicle, it can become clogged with bacteria, debris & dead skin cells, leading to inflammation of the skin- AKA blemishes. it can also create a deep infection known as cystic acne: long-standing, painful nodules deep within the skin. this type of acne is more likely to scar when squeezed and will force the bacteria even deeper, spreading the infection and worsening inflammation, so resist the temptation

how to tell if it’s hormonal

the mouth, chin & jawline have the most hormone receptors and are typically a dead giveaway for hormonal acne. shoulder blades, buttocks & thighs are other areas you may see it occur

if you have extra oily skin in general, this could be a result of a hormone imbalance, typically due to excess testosterone

how to prevent it

we find most of our clients have a plan of attack after the blemish forms. however, the focus should be on preventing it from forming in the first place. a good skincare system along with consistency is the key to preventing acne flare-ups. this is why systems like pro-active (not a fan) work, because it gets people in a routine – so don’t slack

supplements: we’re firm believers that nutrition meets beauty, and taking the right supplements can help clear your skin from the inside out

  • zinc helps control inflammation as well as reduce the effect of bacteria on the skin, making it the go-to vitamin for preventing breakouts. it’s also a DHT blocker, meaning it reduces the effect hormones have on the skin, which helps keep oil production at a happy-medium
  • B6 helps reduce the skin’s sensitivity to testosterone by regulating the male sex hormones. it can also help reduce oil production and ease PMS symptoms by manufacturing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which aids in the body’s ability to cope with stress
  • vitamin e can be taken orally as well as applied directly to the skin. it’s rich in antioxidants, neutralizing the free radicals that otherwise damage the skin and lead to an increase in oil production

 

oil cleansing: don’t let this scare you if you’re oily- it’s even better for your type! oil cleansers are naturally antibacterial and mimic your skin’s sebum. they help keep your pH balance stable and excess oil production at bay. they’re also the most effective and gentlest way to remove your makeup, prepping your skin for a proper, thorough cleanse using your regular face wash. see vid on how to oil cleanse: here

 

chemical exfoliation: if you aren’t exfoliating, dead skin cells start to accumulate on the surface, which can clog pores and result in a dull, lifeless complexion. most people are under the impression that scrubbing your face with beads/granules is the way to go, but we believe this method can cause more harm than good. mechanical exfoliation = any abrasive material that physically removes cells from skin (including a clarisonic). they can be very damaging and are a surefire way to spread bacteria. chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, facilitate the removal of dead skin cells by dissolving the bonds that hold them together without running the risk of damaging/tearing your skin. see vid on how to use: here

 

antioxidants: your skin is constantly under attack from environmental aggressors such as pollution, smoke, and the sun. without adequate antioxidant protection, your sebum gets damaged (AKA oxidized). oxidation is what happens when free radicals accumulate and start attacking your skin, leading to an increase in oil production and premature aging. the primary job of antioxidants is to prevent oxidation from happening. whenever our bodies sense oxidative stress on the horizon, they signal a supply of antioxidants to the rescue *make sure you’re replenishing your supply both internally & externally with topical serums*

how to treat it

anti cyst treatment: this spot treatment is a holy grail product. consider it your new blemish fighting BFF.  i use it for both prevention & treatment *after performing your nighttime routine, take a damp cotton square to wipe the affected area before applying. i use it immediately after spotting a blemish every day until it clears up. i also like to use it on my nose to prevent blackheads and along the chin and jawline 2-3x a week to prevent future blemishes*

salicylic acid: a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) derived from willow bark. it’s oil-soluble, meaning it’s able to penetrate into pores and dislodge buildup, allowing other medications to come in and fight acne-causing bacteria. it also exfoliates the dead skin cells on the surface, preventing future blockages *while it’s present in many different products from cleansers to spot treatments, it works best when left on the skin*

 

retinoids (retinol/retin-A): stimulate the production of fresh, new skin cells and encourage aging/damaged cells to speed up their renewal process, which helps fight acne, fade hyperpigmentation, and resurface the skin’s texture for a smooth, even-toned complexion. however, they’re not designed for the faint-of-heart, so make sure you’re educated on how to use them before jumping the gun. you can  see a great explanation of what retinol is here as well as a vid on how to apply: here

 

tea tree oil: is a great natural remedy thanks to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity. it can fight 27 of the 32 strains of bacteria that cause pimples. however, do not use tea tree oil on its own as it’s too potent. we recommend finding a product that lists tea tree as an ingredient, but if using on its own, dilute 2-3 drops in combination with other oils/your moisturizer

 

oral medication & topical prescription strength products: this is a personal preference (not for me). while they’re more aggressive, they’re not a long-term solution. birth control pills and hormone medications such as spironolactone (a very popular one), can get the more severe cases of acne under control, however, they also come with side effects of their own. always do your research

what is the best professional treatment for hormonal acne?

the #1 treatment we recommend is a BBL acne photofacial. this cutting-edge treatment uses three different lights (blue, yellow and red) to deliver energy deep into your skin. the blue filter attacks the bacteria on the surface as well as in the sebaceous gland, the red filter reduces redness & inflammation, and the yellow filter helps stimulate collagen production as well as minimize sebaceous gland activity associated with oil production. it requires a series of treatments, which is determined by your skin type and severity. the photofacial for acne is different than sun damage, but this post will help you better understand what to expect from the treatment

if the damage is already done, and you’re left with acne marks or scars, you can read how to best treat them here