Hormonal acne : Causes and treatment

Don’t be so quick to pat yourself on the back for escaping acne during your teenage years, because adult hormonal acne is very much a thing! Shockingly, upto 50% of women above the age of 20 suffer from acne. This acne is usually due to fluctuations in your hormone levels. So if your wondering why hormonal acne maybe affecting you, what this type of acne looks like and how hormonal acne can be dealt, including skincare and diet (internal cringing because you love food), keep on reading.

How to Identify Hormonal Acne

Adult hormonal acne characteristically appears on the lower half of your face such as the cheeks and around the jawline. This is not to be confused with acne formed thanks to all the masks we have been wearing, which generally occurs around that area as well. Hormonal acne tends to be very persistent and often leads to pigmentation and scarring.

Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples that become pus filled or even the deep painful cystic ones are all different ways in which hormonal acne might present. 

Why Hormonal Acne might be affecting you

As the name suggests, hormonal acne is due to an imbalance in your hormone levels. These hormone changes lead to increased sebum production which lead to clogged pores, an increase in the p-acnes bacteria (acne causing bacteria) and these result in inflammation aka acne. There are several reasons for this disturbed hormonal equilibrium including

. Menstruation

. Birth control methods

. Polycystic ovarian syndrome

. Increased testosterone levels

. Menopause

One or more of these factors might be at play for your hormonal imbalance that is resulting in the acne. So it would be prudent to get your hormone levels and blood panel checked by your doctor. 

How to deal with Hormonal Acne

If your hormonal acne is very aggressive, it will be best to consult a doctor as topical products might not be enough to control the acne. 

But for more milder acne, there are a number of products that you can try to manage it better.

1. Retinoids : These are a form of Vitamin A and they help train your skin to function more ideally leading to less acne. The retinoid often prescribed for acne is adapelene and the one by Differin is a tried and true product for many. They also have added anti-aging, retexturing and brightening benefits that will help heal pre existing acne marks and scars as well. 

2. Salicylic acid : It is an oil soluble acid that goes deep inside your pores to unclog and clear them out, to prevent them from becoming blackheads and whiteheads. This is a great choice for those folks with oily skin. It can be used in a leave on form such as the legendary Paulas Choice Liquid Exfoliant or or in the form of a cleanser such as the Cosrx Salicylic Daily Cleanser.

3. Benzoyl Peroxide: It treats acne by targeting bacteria that causes acne and also helps to shed dead skin and whisk away excess sebum as well. It works particularly well for those pustular, red inflamed acne as these are mainly caused  by the p-acnes bacteria. The Cerave Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser with benzoyl peroxide is a personal favorite of ours, its gentle yet effective!

4. AHAs : These are acids that are derived from plants and help to exfoliate by removing the dead layer of cells off the skins surface. Doing so will help prevent clogging of pores that lead to acne. There are different forms of AHA, so go for a Glycolic acid product if your skin is normal, Lactic acid for those with dry skin or Mandelic acid if your skin is more sensitive. AHAs also help with skin brightening, reducing pigmentation, anti-aging and minimizing acne scars.

What is the role of Diet in Hormonal Acne?

A holistic approach towards acne should include taking stock of your diet as well. While not everyone might benefit from adding or avoiding certain foods, but it is still a worth while option to try. Including plant based foods rich in antioxidants can help fight inflammation in the body such as berries, green leafy vegetables and green tea. Another good option is to increase the intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, seeds and fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines etc.  

Main culprits to avoid for acne include processed foods, sugar and diary. Within diary, skimmed and low fat milk have been linked in studies to increasing acne flares. There are many non diary alternatives that are easy to make or buy like almond milk, oat milk or soy milk.


Acne can be quite debilitating in terms of your confidence and mental health, so learning to manage it is important. Maintaining a consistent skincare routine using products that actually help deal with the acne is key. Some other do’s and dont’s such as not touching your face so often, avoiding harsh products like scrubs, picking at pimples and taking care of your diet can also be important in this journey towards the expulsion of acne.