Do you suffer from breakouts that don’t seem to go away? You may have hormonal acne. Hormonal acne forms when chemical fluctuations cause your pores to secrete excess oil. Learn more about identifying and managing hormonal acne by following this guide.
How does acne form?
Pores and Oil Glands
The human body has trillions of tiny holes—called pores—that cover the skin’s surface. These pores contain hair follicles, the root from which the shaft of hair grows out of the pore. Each pore has a sebaceous gland attached to it beneath the skin, which produces an oil called sebum that moisturizes the skin. This oil is necessary to keep the skin hydrated, prevent flaking, and act as a barrier against certain microbes and diseases. Sebum also helps repel rain in the winter, and retain moisture in the summer.
Skin cells are constantly regenerating, naturally sloughing off and revealing new skin about every 30 days. Sometimes, dead skin cells don’t fall off and instead gather in clumps on and beneath the skin in the pores. If too many skin cells combine with oil in the pore, it can cause a pimple.
Acne-causing bacteria also play a role in acne formation. Propionibacterium Acnes, or P. acnes for short, causes a pimple to form. This bacteria lives deep within the skin, feeding off the lipids produced by the sebaceous glands. When oil builds up within the cell, it draws P. acnes bacteria to the surface, and the abundance of lipids cause them to multiply rapidly, forming a pimple.
Red and White Blood Cells
When the body senses bacteria growing, it sends red and white blood cells to kill the infection. These cells overwhelm the area and cause the inflammation, swelling, and pain associated with breakouts. If the blood cells kill off the bacteria, the pimple disappears on its own.
Why do teens experience breakouts?
The sebaceous glands are activated by male sex hormones, called androgens. Androgens like testosterone are responsible for the development of muscles, sex organs, bone mass, and sex drive in both sexes, but is more prevalent in men.
When teens reach puberty, their body is flooded with sex hormones. The sudden rise in androgens triggers the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. In men, this can result in consistent acne breakouts. In women, this typically results in breakouts that happen once a month according to their menstrual cycle.
Do women experience more breakouts than men?
Men experience a burst of testosterone from their teens to their early twenties, when it typically evens-out. Once they reach maturity, their tolerance for testosterone makes acne less prevalent.
Women’s hormones fluctuate throughout their entire lives. Levels of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone change every month in accordance with their cycle. Right before the period starts, estrogen and progesterone dip, giving testosterone more power. This can trigger acne to form on the chin, jawline, and neck—all typical spots for hormone-related acne to form. This may continue through menopause, when hormone levels start to drop.
Does birth control help acne?
If you’re a woman and you suffer from severe breakouts, birth control can help acne. There are countless options on the market, so if you don’t like the side effects of one, you can try another. A gynecologist can review our symptoms and suggest the right oral contraceptive to reduce hormonal acne.
Do hormone disorders affect acne?
Imbalanced hormones can affect your risk of developing acne. Common illnesses include:
- Hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s Disease
The thyroid secretes thyroid hormones. These hormones help regulate parts of your body, including your reproductive system. People with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid) or Hashimoto’s Disease (an autoimmune disorder) can imbalance sex hormones and cause acne.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
The ovaries produce a small amount of testosterone to increase sex drive, build muscle mass, and maintain bone strength in women. When cysts form on the ovaries, the body can produce too much testosterone, which leads to breakouts.
Diabetes reduces the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which can cause an imbalance of hormones in the body. These sugars become free radicals that damage skin cells and feed acne-causing bacteria. Follow a healthy meal plan filled with fruits and veggies to keep your skin looking and feeling its best.
You don’t need to suffer from hormonal acne on your own. Seek a doctor or a dermatologist to discuss a treatment plan that works for you.