Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Hormonal Acne

Morgan McHose


Adulthood has its share of downsides. There are financial stressors, household maintenance, rude coworkers and landlords—the list goes on. But on the plus side, we no longer have to deal with the problems that plagued our teen years. Puberty, high school, and acne are all behind us now. Well…not quite.Unfortunately, many individuals battle hormonal acne once again as adults. 

Acne can indeed return, especially among women. In fact, it’s believed that nearly half of women in their twenties and a quarter of women in their forties experience adult acne. If you are struggling with adult hormonal acne, you are not alone. Be kind to yourself and see a dermatologist for individualized medical help. You will likely need prescription-strength medication and/or professional treatments to properly combat your case of hormonal acne.


How does adult hormonal acne happen? To put it simply, certain hormones can influence oil production. Fluctuations in those hormone levels can trigger your oil glands to produce excess oil. This extra oil will clog up your pores and cause acne. The culprit of hormonal change can be hard to pin down. It could be heightened androgen levels, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome (more commonly known as PCOS), pregnancy, menstruation, starting or stopping birth control, etc. Some individuals may even be genetically predisposed to hormonal acne. Let your dermatologist know if you have a family history of the condition.

Hormonal acne can manifest as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts, papules, or pustules. Adult acne usually bypasses the common puberty acne sites to appear on the lower parts of the face. Signs may include breakouts near the jaw or lower part of the cheeks.

hormonal acne


It can sometimes feel like acne is something entirely out of our control. However, there are steps you can take to help reduce inflammation and potentially mitigate outbreaks. Try making certain changes to your diet. Reduce your sugar, red meat, dairy, alcohol, and refined carbohydrate intake. These foods might be worsening your hormonal acne.

Conventional food, especially meat and dairy can bring animal hormones to your body. This can cause hormonal imbalance that can make you breakout. Same can also be said about conventional vegetables. Non-organic produce comes with GMO and pesticide residues and they can disrupt your hormonal balance. Therefore, switch to 100% organic food to avoid hormonal acne.

Switching to a diet with more polyunsaturated fats and fiber might help as well. This means eating more fish (wild caught, not farm raised), and organic nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. A diet high in fiber may help to reduce your number of acne-causing androgens. Of course, it’s always possible to overcorrect as well. Your body won’t benefit from having excess amounts of fiber, or any other ingredient. Be sure to research appropriate portions and dosages.

types of hormonal acne


First, you’ll want to stick to a quality organic and clean skincare as well. Non-organic synthetic products often act as endocrine disruptors, and can cause acne. Many women with persistent acne are quick to take oral medication, before changing their lifestyle. Always start with switching to clean food, skincare, and personal care.

Plant Mother skincare uses only 100% organic ingredients, without GMO, and residual pesticides. The Vitamin C serum and Retinol serum are both made with fresh locally sourced botanicals that act like “skin food”. There are no synthetic or animal ingredients nor chemicals that would cause hormonal imbalances. Therefore, these serums act soothing and anti-inflammatory. On the inside, they will not affect your hormones, and on the outside, they will balance your skin’s ph value (which is important to prevent breakouts).

Topical treatments like retinoids and retinol can also help in the battle against hormonal acne (do not use if pregnant). Prescription retinoids are stronger and work faster than over-the-counter remedies. However, OTC topical products might help in mild cases of hormonal acne and for people with sensitive skin. Dermatologists tend to overprescribe harsh retinoids that often cause tretinoin purge and other cases of intense skin purging.


Pending approval from your functional medicine doctor, you might be able to treat your acne with herbs and supplements. This is often the case for people with milder hormonal acne. For example, drinking several cups of green tea each day can help with the inflammation.

You could also try a vitamin with anti-inflammation properties, like nicotinamide. Zinc supplements have also been recommended to treat hormonal acne. Remember to always consult your doctor before starting a new supplement. Avoid starting multiple supplements at once in case you experience unwanted side effects. If you try multiple at the same time, you won’t be able to pinpoint which supplement is the problem.


Mild cases might be treatable with at-home remedies, but most cases of hormonal acne require professional help. If you have persistent or worsening acne, please don’t wait to seek out help. Cystic acne in particular (acne in the form of cysts underneath the skin’s surface) can be painful and will likely require professional intervention to treat successfully.

Treatments can take time. Even the most effective treatment plans can take over a month to start showing significant improvement. You don’t want to experience discomfort or risk acne scarring for any longer than you have to. Be an educated participant in your treatment plan. Researching hormonal acne treatments and coming up with questions beforehand can help you feel more at ease at the doctor’s office.



Your dermatologist might recommend a combination of oral birth control and an anti-androgen drug, such as spironolactone. Spironolactone is typically a treatment for high blood pressure. However, its anti-androgen effects make it ideal for treating hormonal acne. A combination approach can help to stabilize your hormone levels and lower your androgen levels.

Some birth controls are FDA-approved treatments for hormonal acne. A dermatologist can let you know which one they recommend for you. Avoid estrogen blockers. Reducing your amount of estrogen will only lead to an increase in androgen, magnifying the acne problem. Remember that everyone is different, and each treatment drug has its own side effects to contend with. Your dermatologist can walk you through what to expect and what to watch out for.


Pregnancy causes a lot of hormonal changes, which can lead to hormonal acne. The hormonal acne should hopefully abate later on in the pregnancy. However, there are certain acne treatments you should not try while pregnant. Consult your physician before starting any new treatment. They can let you know what is and isn’t safe to use during your pregnancy.


Stress and a lack of sleep can also contribute to adult hormonal acne. It’s not always easy to do as a busy adult but try to prioritize yourself and your health. Be sure to get adequate sleep each night. Incorporate stress-relieving behaviors into your daily life, as well. You could try meditation, breathing techniques, or exercise. It’s normal to feel like all stress is unavoidable, but it is possible to mitigate stress through mindful techniques. You might enlist the help of a therapist. A mental health professional can help you identify stressors in your life and offer advice on how to eliminate or navigate them.

If you can’t afford a therapist, there are free online acne support groups. Reddit and Facebook have groups just for individuals struggling with acne. It might be helpful to read about people who are going through the same challenges as you. Or you can peruse inspirational stories from those who have successfully overcome their hormonal acne struggles. Keep in mind that these groups, and any personal or medical information you share, are public. This also means that anyone can post advice. Take all advice from online forums with a grain of salt and conduct your own research using expert opinions and reputable sources.


No treatment is going to work overnight, unfortunately. Combatting hormonal acne will require a lot of patience on your end. With the right lifestyle changes and treatments, you should start to see improvement. But even with all the warnings and preparation in the world, it can be a challenging journey.

I remember thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world, having gone through high school with virtually no acne. Then my twenties came around, and I was suddenly experiencing breakouts for the first time. I had no idea that adult acne existed. It can be a bewildering and frustrating experience. Educating yourself on the topic is the first and best step to take. It’s helped me to understand why I have acne post-puberty, and what I can do about it. Despite affecting millions of adults in the United States alone, we don’t talk about adult acne. It sucks that many of us are having to educate ourselves as adults. But we’re not in this alone! There are countless resources out there to help—you only have to look.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. The publisher of this content does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, skincare product, or lifestyle program.

Morgan McHose
Morgan McHose is a graduate student at the University of Southern California studying Public Relations and Advertising. When she’s not studying, Morgan loves writing and reading the latest YA fantasy novels. Morgan currently volunteers as a multimedia journalist at the USC Media Center and writes as an opinion staff writer for the USC newspaper. She aims to find a creative career in Los Angeles in entertainment PR.