i wrote this post a few years ago and thought it was time to do a little update. it’s such a vast topic that is 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 as an adult that would reappear every month in the same place, usually consisting of 2-3 along the chin. while my case was mild, 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 blemishes from forming in the first place. a good skincare system and the right supplements 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 into 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
- – the heavy hitters in this particular supplement are spirulina + chlorella (nature’s most powerful detoxifiers) + zinc. 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
- – the goal of this supplement is to clear the skin by nurturing the gut. it contains 9 strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria to help stop breakouts at the root as well as prebiotic konjac root to feed the good bacteria in the gut. taking this along with daily cleanse is a one-two punch for clearing acne
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:
chemical exfoliation: if you aren’t exfoliating, dead skin cells start to accumulate on the surface, which can clog pores. 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.
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: 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*
LED light therapy: this non-invasive treatment emits different colors of light energy and when it comes to fighting acne, the blue LED light is our go-to. it kills acne-causing bacteria on the surface as well as in the follicles and pores. we incorporate LED light therapy in all of our facials and also use
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
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 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 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