Most of us associate the term “hormonal acne” with those monstrous pimples that plagued us during our teen years. But hormonal acne can also occur much later in life. In fact, it’s most common in adult women between the ages of 20 and 40. And you’re still not in the clear once you hit your 40s, because fluctuating hormones can trigger breakouts around menopause.
In this skin care blog post, I’ll explain what causes hormonal acne and how you can tell if your acne is hormonal. Then, in my next post, I’ll unpack some proven strategies for getting rid of it.
What causes hormonal acne?
First things first, it’s important to understand how hormonal acne is different from blackheads and whiteheads. Hormonal acne, as you may already have determined, is linked to your hormones. As a result, breakouts usually coincide with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Although, they can also align with other major hormonal shifts. In other words, postpartum pimples and menopausal pimples could be hormonal.
Fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, both of which vary widely throughout the menstrual cycle, can trigger hormonal acne. The ratio of each can also impact a woman’s testosterone, which, in turn, can also cause breakouts. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can affect all of these hormones too.
While the precise nature of the cause is not yet understood, hormonal fluctuations – which can be menstrual or cyclical or both in women – cause increased oil production in the pore. So it’s likely that that’s how hormonal acne starts.
How can you tell if your acne is hormonal?
There are a few signs that indicate your pimples are related to your hormones.
You’re, um, no longer a teenager.
The unfortunate reality of hormonal acne is that women tend to be their most hormonally active in their 20s, which makes them most prone to intense hormonal fluctuations during that decade – and the resulting breakouts.
Your acne appears around your chin and jawline.
If you’re regularly plagued by inflamed cystic acne anywhere around your lower face, it’s probably hormonal acne. Excess hormones stimulate the oil glands, many of which are located around your chin. Too much oil production = clogged-up pores.
Your breakouts occur at consistent intervals.
Hormonal activity, as I mentioned earlier, is often cyclical. Breakouts usually follow menstrual cycles, but the pattern can remain even in postmenopausal women because they still experience monthly fluctuations in their estrogen and progesterone levels, though to a lesser degree than pre-menopausal women.
Your pimples are deep, painful cysts.
These bumps under the skin’s surface are usually tender because they’ve accumulated oil over a period of days or even weeks, which then causes an inflammatory reaction. Because of that inflammatory component, topical treatments alone are ineffective. Instead, a more clinical approach to treatment is needed.