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A woman putting a topical cream on her facial acne

Know Your Options When it Comes to Hormonal Acne Treatment

Options for Hormonal Acne Treatment

At some point in our lives, most of us will be faced with the reality of acne. Whether in your teens or later in life, and whether it’s mild or severe, acne is an all-too-common struggle for most of us.

The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 50 million of us, to be exact, are dealing with acne at any given time. Acne is caused for many reasons, but a common cause is changes in hormones. In this article we’ll look at specific causes, as well as treatment options.

What is Hormonal Acne?

Generally defined, hormonal acne includes all breakouts such as pimples, cysts, whiteheads, blackheads, and other skin lesions that occur as a result of hormonal fluctuations or changes in the body.

Hormones are the root cause of all acne, at any time of your life, so for this reason you can think of all acne as hormonal acne. It can occur during puberty, later in life, during menopause or pregnancy, and can affect both women and men.

Causes of Hormonal Acne

The hormones responsible for your breakouts are the male hormones known as androgens or testosterone. However, both women and men produce these naturally, and they’re beneficial for functions like building lean muscle tissue and burning fat. However, they can also be the root cause of pesky pimples.

Acne occurs when an imbalance in our body leads to excess sebum or oil production, which becomes combined with dirt, bacterial, and dead skin cells. Pores and hair follicles then become blocked, and the result is a bacterial infection, which rears its head as a pimple or blemish.

Characteristics of Hormonal Acne

Acne varies widely from person to person in terms of severity, location, and type of breakout. Hormonal acne can occur on your T-zone (forehead and nose), around the nose and between the eyebrows, or around the mouth or jaw area, but it can also appear on your chest, neck, back, or shoulders.

Whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, nodules, and papules all fall under the umbrella of acne. Both inflamed and under-the-skin cystic acne are types of hormonal acne.

Treatment Options

While avoiding acne entirely may be impossible, there are steps to reduce its severity move towards having clearer skin.

Prescriptions

In many cases of hormonal acne, sufferers find that topical creams and gels have little to no effect. That’s because hormonal acne flareups don’t originate on the skin’s surface, but deep underneath it.

Common types are oral contraceptives that work to change the body’s flow of hormones are Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Yaz. These two options have been specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat hormonal acne. Prescription strength retinoids, such as the well-known Accutane, which can increase skin cell turnover, or anti-androgen drugs which lower levels of male hormones are other options you’ll need a prescription for.

Tea Tree Oil

A less severe treatment option that many have found helpful is tea tree oil, which is a natural oil derived from a plant. Though topical, it can help acne because it has antibacterial properties. You can use it in the form of a face wash or cream, or the pure oil, applied directly to the breakout area.

Over-the-Counter Options

For less intense treatment options that can still be effective and require no prescription, there are many over-the-counter creams, gels, and cleansers. Effective ingredients to look for are salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid. All of these can help to exfoliate your skin.

Retinols are a different class of treatment that may be extremely effective. They help skin cells to turn over and shed so that pores don’t have as much of a chance to become clogged. You can get Differin gel, a popular retinol, without a prescription, but more intense concentrations do require a trip to the dermatologist.

Basic Dos and Don’ts

As with most health issues, a healthy diet can also go a long way in both preventing and lessening hormonal acne. If you’re not responding to other treatment options or simply want to make sure the food you eat isn’t worsening your skin, it doesn’t hurt to get a food allergy test to see if any common food allergens like soy, gluten, or dairy could be worsening your acne. Added sugars and refined carbohydrates are unhealthy in general and can also wreak havoc on skin, so avoiding them is advisable.

Other basics that are helpful for keeping skin healthy include basic hygiene practices. Wash your face in the morning and evening, and remove all traces of makeup at the end of the day. Make sure your bathroom towels are clean, since bacteria can be transferred from them to your face (the same goes for bed linens, specifically pillowcases).

While it can be temping to tan your skin for a “healthy” glow, the short-term benefits of tanning are dwarfed by the long-term drawbacks, which can include worsened acne, among other more serious risks.

Final Notes

To maintain the healthy, clear skin we all want, a variety of approaches may be required. General healthy habits such as good nutrition and hygiene are a must, but to treat the root cause of hormonal acne, more aggressive, systemic approaches are sometimes required.

As when treating any condition, talk to your doctor or dermatologist to create a treatment plan that is best for you.

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