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Struggling with hormonal acne and how to fix it? A skin expert shares her best advice.

Mamamia logo Mamamia 2 days ago Charlotte Begg
Struggling with hormonal acne and how to fix it? A skin expert shares her best advice. © Getty Images Struggling with hormonal acne and how to fix it? A skin expert shares her best advice.

When you hear the term "hormonal acne", there's a good chance you think about those pesky red pimples that haunted your teenage years. 

But unfortunately, it doesn't end there. Hormonal acne actually affects females in their adult years (ah, the joys of being a woman) and unlike adolescent acne, it looks different and is caused by different things.

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To help you determine whether your breakout is hormonal or just your typical few pimples, we spoke to skin expert Dr Imaan Joshi from Skin Essentials about everything hormonal acne - from what it is to how you can actually fix it.

What is hormonal acne?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's start with the basics. What actually... is hormonal acne?

"Hormonal acne is also known as adult female acne," Dr Imaan Joshi told Mamamia.

"It can be very persistent (yippee!) and last into your 30s, 40s and even menopause. But it tends to be mild to moderate in severity, unlike adolescent acne and it commonly flares up when you're premenstrual.

"Also, unlike adolescent acne, you tend to find it around the lower face and neck, but it can also appear anywhere on the face, chest and back."

What causes hormonal acne?

Before you look at treatment options, another important step is determining what's causing hormonal acne. There are a few reasons it typically appears.

"Hormonal factors are believed to play a role [in causing the skin condition]," Dr Joshi said. 

"That includes pregnancy, polycystic ovarian disease and medications (including supplements) with male (androgen) hormone activity.

"Other factors that have been associated with it often include environmental [factors]," she said. 

That includes oily skin and lifestyle factors - think, smoking, your diet (refined carbohydrates can often make it flare), and the most annoying cause: stress.

How do you diagnose hormonal acne?

While it's best to see a trusted doctor to determine if you have hormonal acne, there are a few things you can look out for to self-diagnose it. Here's what Dr Joshi said:

  • It's usually in older patients, over 25.
  • It principally affects women, only some 15 per cent of affected adults are men.
  • It's usually mild to moderate in severity, unlike adolescent acne.
  • It tends to flare related prior to menstrual cycles.
  • It's typically concentrated on the lower face - along the jawline, chin and neck. 
  • You'll commonly spot comedones (whiteheads) in younger women, often along the forehead and cheeks.

How do you treat hormonal acne? 

Now onto the part that anyone with hormonal acne wants to know about: how TF do you fix it?

"Treatment is similar to that in adolescence," Dr Joshi explained. "However, due to persistence, more aggressive treatments and a combination of treatments may be needed to get it under control even for relatively mild symptoms."

"By the time I see patients with persistent acne, they have usually tried various over-the-counter products, they may have been to salons for facials and other treatments, some of which may have made the acne worse, and may contribute to scarring and pigmentation."

Dr Joshi explained that because acne is a medical disease, treatment options need to be medical. 

She suggests a combination of topical prescription medication, oral medication (for a period of time), and a personalised, usually basic, skincare regimen. 

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"You can speed up the process by adding a series of in-clinic treatments if you wish but it will take on average three to six months minimum to begin to see results," she said.

With that being said, Dr Joshi suggests saving your time and money and going straight for a skin consultation with a trusted doctor to obtain personalised advice and prescription medication, if appropriate. 

"Treatment is time-consuming and depending on what is involved, may be costly, but the alternative means that acne continues to persist and cause unwanted side effects such as scarring and pigmentation that will also need to be addressed at some point, with added time and cost," she said.

If all else fails, are there any harsher measures you can take to fix hormonal acne?

"See a doctor who understands acne and save yourself time, money and the heartache of complications, and have realistic expectations," Dr Joshi said. 

"The longer people leave it, thinking it will go away, or trying a variety of different over-the-counter things, the longer the disease is percolating under the surface and the longer it takes to rein it in and the chances of complications such as scarring and pigmentation. 

"Treatment takes time, which is the single biggest thing I tell patients. And relapses are common if life gets in the way and they drop the ball."

Feature Image: Getty/Canva/Mamamia.

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