Understanding Acne Hormones: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Acne & Hormones

Struggling with hormonal acne can feel like a never-ending battle. Like many of you, I’ve faced the same issue and discovered that more than 50% of women between ages 20 to 29 experience it too.

This blog post will navigate through the causes of hormonal acne, dive into traditional and natural treatments, and also share some essential prevention strategies. Ready to clear your skin? Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Hormonal acne is influenced by hormone fluctuations in the body, particularly estrogen, progesterone, and androgens like testosterone.
  • Hormonal acne can be triggered by factors such as menstruation, PCOS, menopause, hormone replacement therapies (HRTs), oral contraceptives, and increased androgen levels.
  • Traditional treatments for hormonal acne include oral contraceptives containing ethinyl estradiol, anti-androgen drugs like spironolactone, retinoids derived from vitamin A, and isotretinoin for severe cases.
  • Natural remedies such as tea tree oil, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), green tea extract can also help manage hormonal acne.

Understanding Acne

Acne is a common skin condition characterized by the presence of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts on the skin.

What is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It’s characterized by various types of bumps on the skin including blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or deep-seated cysts typically appearing on the face, chest, and back areas.

Various factors can exacerbate acne conditions – hormone fluctuations during key points in life such as menstruation or menopause contribute significantly to this issue. For instance, roughly 50% of women between 20-29 years old deal with hormonal acne.

Additionally, increased inflammation fuels these breakouts alongside overproduction of sebum (skin oil), clogged pores and certain strains of bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes damaging the surrounding tissue.

Understanding what triggers your acne is the first step towards forming an effective treatment plan – whether it’s intended for wiping out existing blemishes or preventing future breakout episodes.

The Role of Hormones in Acne Formation

Acne is more than just a simple skin condition. It’s profoundly influenced by the dance of hormones within our bodies, especially estrogen, progesterone, and androgens like testosterone. Let’s start with androgens: these hormones surge during puberty, giving rise to increased oil (sebum) production in your skin glands.

This extra sebum can mix with dead skin cells to create a perfect environment for naturally occurring acne-causing bacteria – Propionibacterium acnes.

Estrogen and progesterone also play pivotal roles in this process. For instance, fluctuating levels of these two hormones during menstruation often trigger breakouts among women. High estrogen levels tend to keep acne at bay by suppressing sebum production while low levels spur it on – hence why many women notice more pimples appearing in the week before their period when estrogen dips dramatically.

Lastly, let’s not forget about cortisol – our stress hormone. It may not directly stimulate sebaceous glands like androgens do but heightened cortisol levels trigger inflammation throughout the body which can exacerbate existing acne conditions.

Severity and Types of Acne

The development and manifestation of acne can vary greatly from person to person. The severity and type of acne depend on the cause, the individual’s skin type, and their response to different triggers. Therefore, it’s important to understand the difference between the severities and types of acne to choose the appropriate treatment.

SeverityType of AcneDescription
MildBlackheads and WhiteheadsThese are the most common type of acne and are caused by clogged pores. They may appear as small, non-inflamed bumps on the skin.
ModeratePapules and PustulesPapules are small, raised, red bumps that may feel tender to the touch. Pustules are also small, raised, and red, but they have a white or yellow center caused by inflammation.
SevereNodules and CystsNodules are large, painful, inflamed bumps that sit deeper under the skin. Cysts are large, pus-filled lesions that often result in scarring. These are the most severe form of acne and may be characteristic of hormonal acne, which often includes increased oil production and the presence of acne-causing bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes.

Understanding the severity and type of acne you are dealing with can help determine the appropriate course of action in treating it. If your acne is severe or persistent, it’s best to seek professional medical help.

What is Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne is a type of acne that is primarily caused by hormone fluctuations in the body, particularly in women.

Characteristics of Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne is a specific type of acne that is influenced by hormonal fluctuations in the body. It typically presents as breakouts on the lower part of the face, including the cheeks and jawline.

Hormonal acne can appear as blackheads, whiteheads, small pimples, or cysts. Unlike other forms of acne, it may be deep-seated and tender to touch. This type of acne often occurs in women during certain stages of life such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause when hormone levels fluctuate significantly.

Understanding these characteristics can help individuals identify and effectively manage their hormonal acne symptoms.

Causes of Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne is primarily caused by hormone fluctuations in the body. Here are the key factors that contribute to hormonal acne:

  1. Menstruation: Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can lead to increased oil (sebum) production, clogged skin cells, and inflammation, all of which contribute to acne breakouts.
  2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a hormonal condition that can cause elevated androgen levels in women. These higher levels of androgens stimulate excess sebum production, leading to clogged pores and acne.
  3. Menopause: During menopause, there is a decline in estrogen levels while androgen hormones remain active. This hormonal imbalance can trigger acne flare-ups in some women.
  4. Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRTs): Certain hormone replacement therapies used for menopausal symptoms contain progestin hormones that may contribute to hormonal acne development.
  5. Oral Contraceptives: Some birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin hormones can help regulate hormone imbalances and reduce acne symptoms. However, certain types of oral contraceptives may worsen acne in some women.
  6. Increased Androgen Levels: Elevated levels of androgens, such as testosterone, can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, leading to clogged pores and acne formation.

The Connection between Menopause and Hormonal Acne

During menopause, many women experience a variety of hormonal changes in their bodies. One common side effect of these changes is the onset or worsening of hormonal acne. Menopausal acne is often caused by a drop in estrogen levels or an increase in androgen hormones like testosterone.

These hormone fluctuations can lead to increased sebum productionclogged skin cells, and inflammation, all of which contribute to the formation of acne. It’s important for women going through menopause to understand that this type of acne may be different from what they experienced during their teenage years.

Menopausal acne tends to appear as deep-seated and tender breakouts on the lower face, particularly along the jawline and neck. Understanding this connection between menopause and hormonal acne can help women seek appropriate treatments and develop an effective skincare routine to manage their symptoms.

Traditional Treatments for Hormonal Acne

Traditional treatments for hormonal acne include oral contraceptives, anti-androgen drugs, retinoids, and isotretinoin. Learn more about these effective options to manage hormonal acne.

Oral Contraceptives

I have personally found that oral contraceptives containing ethinyl estradiol can be highly effective in treating hormonal acne, especially in women. These medications work by regulating hormone levels and reducing the excess production of sebum, which is often a major culprit in acne formation.

It’s worth noting that these types of contraceptives are FDA-approved for treating acne and have been shown to significantly improve skin conditions. In fact, studies have shown that hormonal acne can be reduced by up to 85% with the use of certain oral contraceptives.

However, it’s important to consult with a doctor or dermatologist before starting any new medication as they will evaluate your medical history and make recommendations based on your specific needs.

Anti-androgen Drugs

I have found that anti-androgen drugs, such as spironolactone, can be an effective treatment for hormonal acne. These medications work by reducing the levels of male hormones, like androgens, in the body.

By doing so, they help to stabilize hormone levels and prevent the excess oil production that contributes to acne formation. Anti-androgen drugs are often prescribed when traditional treatments, such as oral contraceptives containing ethinylestradiol and drospirenone or topical retinoids derived from vitamin A, have not provided sufficient relief.

It is important to note that these medications should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional due to their potential side effects and interactions with other medications.


Retinoids are a popular treatment option for mild hormonal acne. Derived from vitamin A, these topical medications work by unclogging poresreducing inflammation, and promoting skin cell turnover.

They can help prevent new acne breakouts and improve the appearance of existing pimples. It’s important to note that retinoids can increase sun sensitivity, so it’s crucial to apply sunscreen daily when using them.

Some common retinoid options include adapalene, tretinoin, and isotretinoin (for severe acne). These medications can be obtained with a prescription from a dermatologist who will determine the most suitable retinoid for your individual needs.


As I mentioned earlier, isotretinoin is a powerful oral treatment used for severe cases of acne. Derived from vitamin A, it works by reducing oil production in the skin, which is a major factor in acne formation.

Isotretinoin is typically prescribed when other treatments have failed to show improvement. It can produce significant results, but it’s important to note that it does come with some potential side effects.

These can include dryness and peeling of the skin, as well as temporary worsening of acne before improvement occurs. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not take isotretinoin due to the risk of serious birth defects.

Regular blood tests and follow-up appointments with your dermatologist are necessary while undergoing this treatment. Isotretinoin requires careful monitoring and should only be prescribed by a qualified medical professional familiar with its potential risks and benefits.

Natural Remedies for Hormonal Acne

Tea tree oil can be applied topically to reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), commonly found in citrus fruits, can help exfoliate the skin and unclog pores.

Green tea, when used as a topical treatment or consumed orally, has anti-inflammatory properties that may improve hormonal acne symptoms.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a popular natural remedy for hormonal acne, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. This essential oil helps reduce redness and swelling associated with acne breakouts, making it an effective option for managing symptoms.

Additionally, tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties that can help kill the bacteria responsible for causing acne. It’s important to note that while tea tree oil can be beneficial in treating hormonal acne, it should always be diluted before applying to the skin to avoid irritation or allergic reactions.

You can mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil and apply it directly to affected areas with a clean cotton swab or pad. Remember, everyone’s skin is different, so it’s worth doing a patch test before using tea tree oil on larger areas of your face or body.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid

One effective ingredient in natural remedies for hormonal acne is Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). AHAs are known for their exfoliating properties and can help unclog pores, making them beneficial for treating acne.

They work by removing dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, promoting cell turnover, and preventing new acne formation in the long term. AHAs, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, have been found to reduce inflammation and improve the overall appearance of acne-prone skin.

Incorporating products with AHAs into your skincare routine may help alleviate hormonal acne symptoms and promote clearer, healthier-looking skin.

Green Tea

Green tea is a natural remedy that has been found to be beneficial for hormonal acne. It contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

Green tea also helps regulate hormone levels in the body, which may help prevent hormonal acne breakouts. Drinking green tea regularly or applying it topically as a toner can provide these benefits.

Additionally, green tea contains catechins, which are known to have antibacterial properties that can help kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin. Incorporating green tea into your skincare routine or enjoying it as a hot beverage may contribute to managing hormonal acne symptoms effectively.

Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Managing Hormonal Acne

When it comes to managing hormonal acne, making certain changes to your diet and lifestyle can greatly improve your skin. Here are some tips to help you on your journey:

  • Load up on antioxidants: Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet, as they are rich in antioxidants that help fight inflammation. Berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits are particularly beneficial.
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids: Foods like salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Adding these foods to your meals can help reduce acne-related inflammation.
  • Cut down on sugar: Excess sugar consumption can lead to increased sebum production and worsen acne. Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, opting for healthier alternatives like fresh fruit instead.
  • Limit dairy products: Some studies suggest a link between dairy consumption and acne. Try cutting back on dairy or switching to non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or soy yogurt.
  • Reduce refined carbs: Foods like white bread, pasta, and pastries cause blood sugar spikes that can trigger breakouts. Opt for whole grains instead, such as brown rice or quinoa.
  • Watch your meat intake: Red meats may contribute to inflammation in the body, which can worsen hormonal acne. Consider incorporating more plant-based protein sources like legumes or tofu into your diet.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you’re dealing with hormonal acne, it’s important to know when it’s time to seek medical help. Here are some signs that indicate you should consult a dermatologist:.

– Severe Acne: If your acne is severe and causing significant emotional distress or affecting your daily life, it’s best to see a dermatologist. They can assess the severity of your condition and recommend appropriate treatment options.

– Persistent Acne: If your hormonal acne persists despite home remedies and over-the-counter treatments, it may be a sign that you need professional help. A dermatologist can provide more targeted treatments tailored to your specific needs.

– Painful Nodules or Cysts: If you have painful and deep-seated acne nodules or cysts that don’t respond to topical treatments, these lesions may require medical intervention. Dermatologists can administer corticosteroid injections or perform minimally invasive procedures to relieve pain and promote healing.

– Scarring: Hormonal acne has the potential to leave behind permanent scars if not properly treated. If you notice scarring from previous breakouts, seeking medical attention is crucial as dermatologists can offer various treatment modalities like lasers or microneedling to improve the appearance of scars.

– Associated Medical Conditions: Hormonal imbalances underlying hormonal acne often coexist with other medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endocrine disorders. In these cases, consulting a healthcare professional who specializes in hormone regulation is recommended for comprehensive management.

– Side Effects from Treatments: Some prescription medications used for hormonal acne, such as oral contraceptives and anti-androgen drugs, may cause side effects in certain individuals. These side effects could range from minor discomforts like fluid retention and breakthrough bleeding to more serious ones like blood clots or heart problems.

It’s essential to discuss any concerns with a healthcare provider promptly.

Remember that every individual’s experience with hormonal acne is unique, and seeking professional guidance can help tailor the best possible treatment plan for you. Dermatologists have the expertise to address your concerns effectively while considering factors like medical history, lifestyle, and goals.

So if you’re experiencing severe or persistent hormonal acne, painful nodules or cysts, scarring from previous breakouts, associated medical conditions, or troubling side effects from treatments – it’s time to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

Prevention Strategies and Tips for Hormonal Acne

Preventing hormonal acne is all about maintaining a healthy balance in your body and taking care of your skin. Here are some strategies and tips to help you keep hormonal acne at bay:

  1. Keep your hormones in check by managing stress levels through activities like yoga, meditation, or exercise.
  2. Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid sugary and processed foods that can cause inflammation and worsen acne.
  3. Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, such as fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), green leafy vegetables, and antioxidant-rich berries.
  4. Avoid dairy products if they seem to trigger or worsen your acne symptoms. Dairy has been linked to hormonal imbalances that can contribute to acne breakouts.
  5. Use noncomedogenic skincare products that won’t clog your pores and exacerbate acne. Look for labels that indicate products are oil-free and won’t cause breakouts.
  6. Cleanse your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser suitable for acne-prone skin. Be careful not to over-cleanse or scrub too harshly, as this can irritate the skin and worsen acne.
  7. Be diligent about removing makeup before bed to prevent pore-clogging overnight.
  8. Avoid touching or picking at your face, as this can spread bacteria and cause further inflammation.


In conclusion, understanding acne hormones is crucial for effectively managing and treating hormonal acne. By addressing the underlying causes and implementing appropriate treatments, such as oral contraceptivesanti-androgen drugs, and natural remedies like tea tree oil and green tea, individuals can regain control over their skin health.

Additionally, adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle habits can help prevent hormonal acne flare-ups. Remember that consulting with a dermatologist is essential for personalized treatment plans and professional guidance.

Don’t let hormonal acne hold you back from feeling confident in your own skin!


1. How do hormones cause acne?

Hormones, specifically androgens like testosterone, play a role in stimulating the production of sebum (oil) in the skin. When there is an excess of sebum combined with dead skin cells and bacteria, it can clog the pores and lead to acne breakouts.

2. What are the treatment options for hormonal acne?

Treatment options for hormonal acne may include topical medications containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to unclog pores and reduce inflammation. In some cases, oral contraceptive pills or anti-androgen medications may be prescribed by a healthcare professional to help regulate hormone levels.

3. Can lifestyle changes help prevent hormonal acne?

Yes, making certain lifestyle changes can help prevent hormonal acne outbreaks. These can include maintaining a healthy diet that is low in refined sugars and processed foods, practicing good skincare hygiene by cleansing regularly and avoiding harsh products that strip the skin’s natural oils, managing stress levels through exercise or relaxation techniques, and getting enough sleep.

4. When should I see a dermatologist for hormonal acne?

If over-the-counter treatments have not been effective in treating your hormonal acne or if you are experiencing severe breakouts or scarring, it is recommended to consult with a dermatologist. They can assess your specific situation and recommend appropriate prescription medications or procedures such as chemical peels or laser therapy to address your hormonal acne concerns effectively.

Maria Campbell Portrait

Written by Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell, the face behind Leading Acne Treatments, was once herself plagued by severe acne. As a former acne sufferer, Maria understands the physical discomfort and emotional distress this condition can cause. This led her on a quest to find effective treatments, which eventually sparked the idea to establish Leading Acne Treatments.

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