When acne strikes… Again! | mb.com.ph | Philippine News
Home  » Lifestyle » Wellbeing » When acne strikes... Again!

When acne strikes… Again!

How to face hormonal acne head on


When you have adult acne, you feel and look like you haven’t left your teenage years. What’s worse, it not only affects how you see yourself, it also affects how others see you. Acne can be a debilitating disease, physically and psychologically, but you are not alone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than half of women in their 20s have hormonal acne, and it doesn’t end there, as there are still women up until their 40s who still have it.

Men also have cases of hormonal acne, but studies say it is more prevalent in women in certain age groups. This week, let us learn the main causes and triggers of hormonal acne, and how you can start the path to clear, healthy, and acne-free skin!

Acne is a common skin disease that starts from puberty to adolescence and, to some, may also happen well into adulthood and middle age. Acne has no singular cause, and this is one of the reasons constant research on its history and new treatments are continuously being studied and developed. The main causes of acne are overproduction of sebum or oil, skin inflammation, growth of the bacteria propionibacterium acnes, and hormonal problems. Acne is not limited to a specific gender or race, but the role of genetics and environmental factors such as stress, diet, and lifestyle may trigger its onset. Usually, acne starts at puberty and stops until an individual enters adulthood, on average ranging from 10 to 19 years old. But when acne persists until mid- to late 30s, and for some others, well into their 40s, it may be attributed to hormonal changes on the individual. If you suspect that your acne may be related to your hormones, it may due to the following:Acne1

Menstruation. More than 50 percent of acne-prone women would experience acne flares a few days before actual onset of menstruation. This can be attributed to the low level of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) compared to the male hormone level (testosterone, which is a male hormone is still being produced in consistent small amounts in women) five to 10 days before menstrual bleeding.  Usually, a woman’s cycle consists of 28 to 30 days. During the first 15 days, there would be an increase in estrogen levels and it starts to fall on the 14th day onward until it reaches its lowest level days before the actual bleeding.  Progesterone, on the other hand, will start to rise on the 14th day of cycle then levels will go down together with estrogen. The slight rise of progesterone during the mid cycle will trigger sebum/oil production in the sebaceous glands, while the higher level of testosterone before menses will activate the sebaceous glands to make more oil. For women who are not acne prone, it might not trigger acne breakouts but would make the skin look more radiant.  But for acne-prone women, there will be a large amount of thicker sebum/oil that would clog the pores together with dead skin cells and bacteria, which would eventually give way to acne flare.

Hormonal. For hormonal acne, some birth control pills may help by increasing estrogen and negating the effects of testosterone. Some hormonal medications  (spironolactone, flutamide, cyproterone acetate, finasteride, and cortexolone 17α-propionate) may also be prescribed by your doctors if the acne flares persist. But the use of this should be regulated by your doctors since these medicines are not for everyone.  They have some serious side effects and your doctor will help you decide if it’s right for you and your condition.

Obesity. If obese, there’s a tendency for testosterone levels to rise, so better lose weight to lessen acne flares for acne-prone women.

Anti-aging regimen. For acne-prone women in their 30s who want an anti-aging regimen, it would better to avoid some anti-aging ingredients like topical vitamin E, jojoba oil, or other types of butters that would trigger more oil formation and clogging of sebum in the oil glands.  Better to use exfoliant (like glycolic acid, mandelic, malic acid, and azelaic acid) and retinoids to remove extra dead skin cells that might clog the pores.  These are also good for skin renewal.


You may also check the following signs:

- when acne is cyclical, and you likely break out more before or during your menstrual period

- when your acne is located along your jawline, below cheekbones, neck, and around the mouth

- when you notice changes on your skin whenever you are on your birth control pill

If you agreed to the signs mentioned above, you may want to consult your OB-GYN to rule out hormonal problems like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), with acne as one of its symptoms. If you are obese or overweight, it may also be a trigger for acne, as a study has shown that there is a direct correlation between the two. Moreover, if you are using birth control pills, you may want to check if there have been changes on your skin in the months that you have been using it; if your skin condition worsened, it might be better to switch.

Acne is no fun when you have it, and it definitely is not easy to treat, since acne may be caused by different factors to different individuals and therefore, an effective treatment may also vary from person to person. The most common way to treat hormonal acne is by using birth control pills that balance your hormones to eventually lessen the presence of acne. Patience, however, is needed as this may take three to six months to see visible results. Another effective treatment is the use of the controversial drug isotretinoin that can dramatically reduce or stop hormonal acne by reducing oil production, but is stronger than oral contraceptives and may come with serious side effects.  Other oral medications like spironolactone (blocks male hormone androgen to suppress oil production) are also studied to be effective in treating hormonal acne. With these, there are still factors to consider telling your physician before you start any treatment, like your medical history, or if you have other skin allergies or disorders, if you are pregnant, or if you do not want to try oral contraceptives, for which the physician may offer alternatives, like laser therapy, peels, or steroid injections.


If you are ongoing treatment, you may want to practice these simple steps while on the road to healing:

1. Listen to your body. Do not stress too much, find time to relax, sleep well, eat well, and exercise. It may be hard, but trying to balance work and play will pay off in the long run, not just with treating hormonal acne but for your overall health and wellbeing as well.acne2

2. Eat healthy. The link between acne and diet may require more studies, but it would not hurt to choose healthier options like vegetables and whole grains.

3. Keep clean. Aside from following your prescribed doctor’s regimen, remember to keep your environment clean as well, like changing your bedding and pillow cases regularly, and refraining from borrowing personal items like towels.

4. Supplement it. Try oral supplements like zinc and fish oil that are said to help manage and control oil production that may help manage hormonal acne. You may also want to try consuming probiotics, which ease inflammation in the body, including breakouts.

5. Find support. Acne may affect a person’s quality of life, some by avoiding others like cancelling meetings and dates, or shying away from activities that may lead to poor self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression. Make sure your family and friends support you all the way, and ask them to support you on your road to recovery.


Acne only gets harder to treat as it worsens, so it is best to visit the dermatologist right away for immediate treatment. Your dermatologist may prescribe a combination of oral and topical treatments, and may also suggest a lifestyle modification. The road to treating acne may be rough, but with enough patience and support from family and friends, you can face acne head on!