Hormonal Acne: Causes and Treatment Options

The most characteristic feature of hormonal acne is its appearance in ages beyond adolescence. It is more severe, and has a higher chance of leaving marks or scars. Care to learn more? Keep reading.
Hormonal Acne: Causes and Treatment Options

Last update: 06 December, 2020

Hormonal acne is a type of late occurring acne that affects women above all others. It’s estimated that 30% of women between the ages of 25 and 30 suffer from this problem. The rate is 20% for women between 22 and 50.

Although not a grave pathology, hormonal acne sometimes has a major impact on the appearance and psychological health of those affected. It can even lower their quality of life. With this disorder, there are many triggers, but the hormonal factor is the most important.

Regular acne, or acne vulgaris, is a common occurrence during the teenage years. It is thought that up to 90% of people have suffered from it. Hormonal acne, on the other hand, is less common. However, in recent decades it has been on the rise worldwide. What treatment options are available to take care of it?

What is hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne is acne that occurs in adults after adolescence. Sometimes it reappears after youth, and other times it continues to persist in individuals who suffered from acne in adolescence.

Hormonal acne.
In contrast to acne that occurs in adolescence, hormonal acne tends to be more frequently located in areas such as the neck and around the jaw and mouth.

As discussed in an article published in the Brazilian Annals of Dermatology, this type of acne has its differences when compared to acne vulgaris. The first of these is that the lesions are deep and inflamed. However there are fewer blackheads. Additionally, hormonal acne tends to leave scars more frequently, since adult skin scars more easily.

Another difference is the areas where acne occurs. Juvenile acne affects, above all, the so-called “T-zone,” made up of the forehead, the nose and the chin. By contrast, hormonal acne is situated in the neck, around the jaw, and around the mouth. However, in both cases acne can appear on any part of the body.

Causes of hormonal acne

There are a number of different causes of hormonal acne, but, in all cases, they are hormonal. Particularly, it’s associated with an increase in testosterone.

This can happen for a number of diverse reasons. The first of these is irregular menstruation. This causes the skin to produce more oil, causing the follicles to become clogged and leading to acne.

Something similar occurs when a woman develops polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This doesn’t cause the acne, but it favors its development. Additionally, habitual consumption of tobacco is also related to the occurrence of this type of acne, as is the use of unsuitable cosmetics.

Stress is another factor related to the occurrence of hormonal acne. According to a team of researchers at McGill University, this is because it implies an increase in the hormone cortisol, and this favors an increase in androgen hormones. Furthermore, pollution and poor nutrition also contribute to the problem.

Symptoms and manifestations

The most evident symptom is the appearance of pimples, blackheads, spots, and other types of lesions in the skin beyond adolescence. This can happen at any age, but it’s more frequent between the ages of 24 and 35.

A hormonal acne scar.
The lesions caused by hormonal acne tend to be more evident. Additionally, they can cause pain and scarring.

Unlike acne vulgaristhe lesions tend to be more painful. The inflammation is also more visible, and occurs in the “U-zone” which includes the jaw, the neck, and around the mouth.

Another aspect which defines it is the fact that it’s resistant to the majority of conventional remedies used for acne. Thus, since its cause is hormonal above all else, it requires specialized treatment.

Available treatments

Hormonal acne requires a comprehensive treatment plan, which should be carried out by a dermatologist. Most commonly, they’ll prescribe a topical treatment complemented by an oral treatment. The topical treatment will usually include products with ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and antibiotics.

According to an article published by “Revista Médica de Costa Rica y Centroamérica,” the oral treatment is given to restore hormonal equilibrium. It usually includes birth control pills and spironolactone, which is a diuretic, in the case of women. Isotretinoin (antibacterial and antiseptic) and dapsone (antibiotic) are used in both sexes.

Furthermore, in recent times, biophotonic therapy, or Kleresca, has begun to be used. It consists of applying a photoconverter gel which is penetrated by a beam of light. This penetrates the dermis, eliminates bacteria, and lowers the secretion of oils. It also prevents the appearance of scars.

What should I do if I have hormonal acne?

Do you have symptoms of hormonal acne? Are you worried about the consequences to your skin’s health? If so, you should see a dermatologist as soon as you can to have an assessment and receive appropriate treatment.

Don’t ignore the problem. Your future skin will thank you for it.

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  • Flores, G. G., & Morice, W. M. (2012). Tratamiento del acné. Revista Médica de Costa Rica y Centroamérica, 69(600), 91-97.
  • Bagatin E, Freitas THP, Rivitti-Machado MC, et al. Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice [published correction appears in An Bras Dermatol. 2019 Mar-Apr;94(2):255. Machado MCR [corrected to Rivitti-Machado MC]]. An Bras Dermatol. 2019;94(1):62–75. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20198203
  • Zari S, Alrahmani D. The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:503–506. Published 2017 Dec 5. doi:10.2147/CCID.S148499