Hormonal Acne 101: Causes & Tips

Ladies, raise your hand if you are frustrated with those little monthly gifts your period brings to your complexion. (I am raising both my hands.) Acne sucks and periods suck but hormonal acne is on a whole new level of sucky-ness. I mean it’s not like we don’t have enough to deal with when our time of the month comes around, right? Why not just throw in some painful, reoccurring, and hard to cover cysts too?

First off, how does one tell the difference between hormonal acne and regular acne? Regular acne, like the kind you had as a teenager, usually pops up around the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). Typically, hormonal adult acne forms around the chin, mouth, and jaw line with blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts. Cysts, the monster of all zits, form deep under the skin. These painful suckers seem to pop up out of nowhere and stick around for over a week. Why do only some of us get hormonal acne? What causes it? And most importantly, is there any hope for our poor jawline?

According to skin care experts from healthline.com, hormonal acne can be caused by hormone imbalances from menstruation, polycystic ovarian syndrome, menopause, and increased androgen levels. When your hormones are fluctuating there is an increase of oil (sebum) production in the pores, clogged skin cells in hair follicles, and inflammation to the skin. Basically, just a lot of things going on at once that produces acne. How delightful.

What is a girl to do?


Find a skincare routine that works for you and stick with it.

Every. Single. Day. Yes, I know multiple steps can get annoying. Yes, you need to stick to the routine even when your acne has cleared. Why? It’s all about getting ahead of the hormonal acne with a consistent and diligent skin care routine. This helps prevent and keep everything in control. Sure, you might still have a few pop ups but hey, we take what we can get. My routine consists of face wash, retinal or tea tree oil, moisturizer and SPF in the morning.

Try new products.

First, you need to find a face wash that helps clear out all the dirt and oil from your pores. If you have mild to severe hormonal acne, drug store products are probably not going to do the trick anymore. Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and spend $100 dollars on face wash at Sephora. You can find quality face washes for less than $30 like these here: Mario Badescu, La Roche-Posay, and Juice Beauty. Sometimes, it is worth it to spend a bit more and in the end, you might end of saving money rather than trying one cheap product after another for them to only fail at clearing your complexion.

Try a topical cream.

If your acne is not responding to spot treatments it might be time to try a topical cream from the dermatologist. They might prescribe Differin or Tretinoin, both vitamin A topical medications that help the skin renew itself and treat acne. If you want to wait on the dermatologist, try this exfoliating acne treatment gel from Murad. Another option is to try a cream with retinol. Ava Shamban, dermatologist and founder of AvaMD, says “I always recommend using a retinoid because it will not only even out pigmentation, but will also reduce your risk of breakouts and give a smoother texture to the skin”. It’s important to start low and slow with retinol creams because they are very strong. I recommend starting out with this 0.5 retinol from SkinCeuticals.

Use an oil-free moisturizer.

Acne washes, toners, and treatments can be harsh and cause dry skin so it’s important to not skip the moisturizing step in your skin care routine. Take a look at the moisturizer you use now. If it has oil in the ingredients it might be time to switch it out for an oil-free moisturizer specifically for acne and clogged pores. That way you are still treating the breakouts while keeping your skin hydrated. Try this La Roche-Posay moisturizer or this one from Murad.

Talk to your dermatologist about oral medication options.

There are a few oral medications used to help target hormonal acne. One in particular, spironolactone, works by decreasing the male hormone androgen. It is normal for both men and woman to have this hormone but too much of it can lead to an increase in oil production and in result, an increase in acne. The medication helps stabilize your hormones by preventing your body from producing too much androgen. If you have tried everything, definitely bring this option up with your doctor.

Get more zzzzz’s. 

Lack of sleep=more stress=an increase in cortisol levels=more acne. An article on HuffingtonPost says lack of sleep can trigger your adrenal glands to get over-productive during the day which can lead to excess oil production.  It’s also a good idea to wash your pillowcase at least once a week because bacteria, oils, hair products and more can end up on your pillow cases causing more acne. Dermatologist Dr. David E. Bank tells Huffpost he advises giving your pillow cases a deep clean every two to three days to prevent blemishes.


While there is no magic pill or cure to banish hormonal acne for good, there is hope. Try some of these tips to help reduce hormonal acne!

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