As the name implies, hormonal breakouts are linked to bodily hormones—something we all have, no matter what age. (This is why the belief that acne is something that only plagues teenagers is such a misconception.) Whether you’re male or female, hormones can influence your skin’s behavior. Learning how they do will help you strategize a skincare plan that takes their complexion-related repercussions into account.
What causes hormonal acne?
Duh. Drilling down, however, androgen is the hormone most likely responsible for your pimples. Androgen (testosterone is the most common example) regulates the amount and thickness of sebum (aka oil) produced by the sebaceous glands. Viscous, plentiful sebum is more likely to lead to a clogged pore than small amounts of thin sebum. Despite the fact that testosterone is often thought of as a male hormone, both sexes produce it, meaning both can be impacted by androgen’s acne-triggering effects.
How to identify a hormonal breakout
When is a pimple the result of sleeping in your makeup and when is it due to a spike in your cycle? There’s no hard and fast rule, but, generally speaking, hormonal breakouts are more likely to occur on your chin, jaw, and around your mouth. That said, acne is sneaky, and hormones have been known to trigger full-face flare-ups.
How to treat hormonal acne and breakouts
There’s little you can do to change your oil chemistry (especially without a prescription). If your body is going to make sludgy sebum, your best bet is to prevent that thick oil from hanging around on your face and getting stuck in a pore.
Since dead skin cells and stagnant sebum are two of the main ingredients in a pore plug, regular exfoliation will go a long way toward keeping skin clear. Getting rid of dead surface cells not only removes plug materials, it also allows sebum to flow more easily to the surface of skin where you can simply wash it away. Chemical exfoliation, which gently loosens surface cells, is easier on skin than a physical scrub, which can tear at the tissue. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel contains a potent blend of seven alpha and beta hydroxy acids (including powerhouses like glycolic, salicylic, lactic, and mandelic acids) to refine pores and clear the complexion.
While daily exfoliation is a must, it takes more than that to give breakouts the boot. P.acnes bacteria is also present in pimples, but can be slayed by salicylic acid. Monk’s pepper, which comes from the chaste tree, is an astringent, antioxidant, and has antimicrobial properties. Even better, it can help reduce oil production by throwing testosterone receptors in your skin off track—handy, considering testosterone is largely to blame for hormonal breakouts. You can find both in Dr. Dennis Gross DRx Blemish Solutions Acne Eliminating Gel.
Often those experiencing breakouts shy away from moisturizer, fearing it will only add to the oil situation. But all skins need hydration! It’s just a matter of finding the right kind. Oil-free formulations are an obvious place to start. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Moisturizer is oil-free, non-comedogenic, and gives skin a dewy, radiant glow without clogging pores in the process.
The routine above comes with one giant caveat: Hormonal breakouts can also be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is most common in women of reproductive age. If your pimples come accompanied by a side of menstrual irregularity, excess hair growth, or weight gain, you need more than an over-the-counter acne regimen—you need to go to your doctor for a full exam, which will likely include blood tests to check your hormone levels. If PCOS is diagnosed, the treatment will also address your acne.