Fact-Checked By : Dr. Tara Scott, OB-GYN
We’ve all had to deal with acne at one point or another in our lives—most commonly as teenagers. But while teenage acne is the most common, it’s not the only time your pesky pores push things like zits, blackheads, and whiteheads to the surface of your skin.
Women who are still menstruating most commonly deal with acne caused by hormone issues. And menopause can cause hormonal acne eruptions too!
So, what is hormonal acne, and how can we deal with it? Here’s an overview of the issue, its causes, and a few holistic ways to treat it.
Understanding Hormonal Acne
If you don't already, the first thing you should do is make sure you understand what acne is, how it can develop, and how hormonal acne is different from the occasional zit.
Acne most commonly crops up when your pores—the tiny holes on your skin that are the openings to hair follicles—are blocked. It can occur because of dirt and grime, bacteria, oil, or even dead skin cells. When your pores are blocked, oil (sebum) from the oil glands seeps out onto your skin. A little sebum is a good thing, but too much leads to a pimple.
Although everyone has the occasional pimple, repeated occurrences of these blocked pores, dirt, grime, and excess sebum are some things that cause acne. While acne is not a serious condition, if you don’t treat it properly (or if you have a habit of popping your zits too often), you may form permanent scars.
Hormonal acne, however, is slightly different from this since it is linked to your hormones. Hormone issues or hormonal changes in your body can increase the production of sebum. This can occur during adolescence, but it typically shows up for women between their 20s and 40s. This is why you may notice a few pimples cropping up close to that time of the month!
It also shows up after menopause. Stress (in particular, cortisol which is a stress hormone) can increase sebum production and clog your pores. Your genes could also increase your chances of developing this type of acne. While this is still being studied, hormonal acne could be caused by fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone, and androgen levels. It sometimes shows up as painful cysts rather than just whiteheads, blackheads, or small zits.
You may have hormonal acne if...
- You notice pimples around your chin and jawline more often than anywhere else on your face.
- You see that your acne pops up every time you’re particularly stressed or going through a tough time.
- You have outbreaks during that time of the month, even if your skin is relatively clear at other times.
- You have chronic cysts that show up in the same spot.
Treating Hormonal Acne Naturally
There are several different acne treatments, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, topical creams, and ointments, but it may be best first to try some natural remedies. A more holistic approach to treating acne is lighter on your skin and may be a better long-term treatment.
Here are some natural remedies for hormonal acne...
Green Tea: Green tea is a drink that helps boost antioxidants. But did you know it also helps with acne? The polyphenols in the tea can help prevent excess oil that causes breakouts.
Turmeric: Since turmeric is an anti-inflammatory spice, it’s not surprising that it can help with acne treatment.
It’s an excellent spice to use to exfoliate your skin. Several homemade masks and anti-acne treatments also use turmeric to lighten scars and reduce acne-related inflammation.
Honey: Yes, this sweet treat is just as good on your skin as it is to eat. Honey has several antimicrobial properties that make it an excellent natural remedy for acne. It helps keep the bacteria that causes acne off of your skin. As a spot treatment, it’s better for you than some chemical-laden topical creams. Don’t just pick any old honey up off the shelf in a store though, remember to pick types with more antimicrobial properties than others, like Manuka or Tualang.
Tea-Tree Oil: You’ve likely seen this as an ingredient on everything from lip balms to moisturizers, and there’s a good reason. Tea-tree oil has a multitude of great uses. It’s a great ingredient in everything from deodorant to mouthwash, and yes, it also helps treat acne! Topical application is the best way to get the most from this essential oil.
Aloe Vera: Much like tea-tree oil, aloe vera is one of the most popular natural remedies for acne treatments. Aloe vera leaves have a gel that you can squeeze directly onto your skin and are an old-school remedy for everything from acne scars to skin irritations. It’s anti-inflammatory, so it’s even good for sunburn! It’s best to find natural aloe vera or use the plant directly since some over-the-counter formulas may include other synthetic chemicals.
While none of these treatments will magically cure your hormonal acne, and they can’t always prevent the occurrence of it, they’re all quite effective at soothing and reducing the appearance of a flare-up. Long-term solutions will likely require a combination of lifestyle changes, reducing stress, and considering the effects (positive and negative) of oral contraceptives.
If you have severe hormonal acne that persists no matter what you try, you may want to visit your dermatologist to figure out what’s going on with your skin.