Hormonal Acne: How to Clear It Up
Posted: Dec 20 2017
Your period is swiftly approaching, and that all-too-familiar feeling of an underground, painful cystic bump bubbling under the surface of your skin is here to ruin the day. Trust me, you're not alone in this little hormonal acne dance. I struggled the for ten years.
"When we say 'hormonal acne,' we mean acne that occurs or gets worse in cyclic flares along with monthly menstrual cycles," explained Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, an NYC-based dermatologist. "It's typically worst during the week right before your period starts when progesterone, [a hormone], is at its peak." She said that some signs that you have hormonal acne are cyclic flares each month and distribution along the lower face, including your jawline and around the mouth. They also tend to be deeper, painful pimples, as opposed to blocked pores, blackheads, and whiteheads.
Fortunately, several treatment options exist that can leave you with clearer skin and, most importantly, reduced pain and discomfort.
Who Gets Hormonal Acne?
When it comes to full-grown adults, hormonal acne refers specifically to period-related acne. "Men also have issues with hormonal acne, but in general, doctors do not call it hormonal acne," dermatologist Dr. Nancy Chen. "The height of a man's hormonal acne is in their teens — 13 years old to early 20s — when they're making the most testosterone. On average, after their mid-20s, men's testosterone levels slowly decrease for the rest of their life."
Females typically experience hormonal acne during puberty, well into their 30s and some through their 40s.
Because hormonal acne is an "inside" issue, dermatologists agree that oral prescriptions can be the effective. The ultimate goal is to regulate haywire hormone fluctuations from the inside out.
"We use oral medication to treat hormonal acne," she said. "Birth control pills — which regulate cycles and reduce acne — and spironolactone — which blocks androgen hormone receptors in the skin — are the typical medications used. They do have potential side effects that need to be thoroughly discussed.
It's important to talk to your dermatologist about a treatment plan that works best for your skin.
Over-the-Counter and Topical Treatments
Even if you are on oral medications for acne, you will most likely need to use topical treatments also. You can still incorporate specific ingredients into your regimen that will help reduce and treat bumps. "Glycolic acid is highly recommended, as it's one of the more natural products that actually work and gets to the root cause of the acne by purging the pores of the sebum," Dr. Chen explained. "It not only helps treat the cyst but also helps heal it by speeding up exfoliation, therefore making scarring lighter."
Additional options, she said, include salicylic acid, which acts as an antibacterial to heal the inflammation. Ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, are less effective over long periods of time.
"Almost every individual suffering from cystic acne will have a combination type of inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne comedones (whiteheads and blackheads)," Dr. Chen said. "In addition to the ingredients mentioned, topical retinols can be the most effective over the long term”. Spot treatments can be added as soon as the breakouts appear.
Many acne sufferers do not use moisturizers and sunscreens. This is an understandable mistake as many can make breakouts worse. To avoid this the need to be formulated with non-comedogenic (will not clog pores) ingredients such as pharmaceutical grade sodium hyaluronate a/k/a hyaluronic acid. Make sure that no unnecessary fillers or silicones are included.
You are not alone, millions of women like myself suffer from adult hormonal acne. There are many options reduce the intensity of these outbreaks and minimize the damage that they leave behind. It is advisable to seek our professional advice and products that can not only save you time but also the heartache of feeling of hopelessness.