How To Clear Up Hormonal Acne Fast And Naturally

Hormonal Acne + How Do You Treat It

None of us wants to look in the mirror every day and see breakouts, especially if you are no longer in high school. However, many patients come to me for hormonal acne treatment well beyond their teenage years.

The fastest way to clear up hormonal adult acne is to treat the breakouts and the hormones simultaneously. That means keeping a clean face with the right skin care products while also addressing the hormonal imbalance occurring underneath the surface.

If you are still dealing with breakouts as an adult, let’s take a look at this annoying skin condition and learn what you can do to achieve the clear skin you deserve.

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What Causes It?

Hormones are the main driving factor of the formation of acne in this condition. Here’s exactly what causes hormonal acne:

Estrogen And Progesterone Fluctuations

Hormonal imbalances of estrogen and progesterone (especially during pregnancy and menopause) have been shown to play a role in hormonal acne.

For example, studies have shown that low levels of estrogen in menopause can trigger acne formation. (1) While more research needs to be done, this is believed to be because estrogen helps keep sebum levels in balance.

Testosterone Levels

Testosterone is responsible for the production of sebum. When testosterone levels are high, sebum production is going to be as well, leading to increased acne.

This is why hormonal acne is more common during puberty when testosterone levels rise and in certain hormone imbalance-related health problems that increase testosterone levels, such as PCOS. (2)

Clogged Pores

Out of all the hormonal acne causes, clogged pores are usually the main culprit. Ultimately, acne happens when your pores are clogged due to this increase in sebum.

Sebum traps bacteria and dead skin cells into your pores and clogs them, leading to inflammation and acne. This is why it is so important to develop a skincare routine to keep your skin clean.

Clogged pores can cause the following blemishes on your skin:

  • Blackheads: Small, dark bumps caused by clogged hair follicles open to the surface of your skin.
  • Cystic acne: A type of inflammatory acne that causes, pus-filled pimples.
  • Pimples: Red, swollen oil glands.
  • Whiteheads: Small, closed bumps caused by clogged hair follicles and skin pores.

All of these can occur on your face as well as your back, chest, neck, and shoulders.

Clear It Fast With Functional Medicine

In functional medicine, we aim to treat hormonal acne by addressing the root cause so you can clear up your current hormonal acne fast — and permanently! I do that by focusing on natural treatment plans that include:

Daily Cleansing

The fastest way to clear clogged pores is by exfoliating twice a day with gentle, oil-free scrubs that include salicylic acid.

Daily gentle exfoliating cleansers like this one help soothe inflammation, get rid of bacteria and dead skin cells, and reduce the production and buildup of oil. Exfoliation lowers the bacteria and dead skin cells on your skin, helping to prevent future pimples while drying out the current ones.

Rebalancing Hormones

By getting hormone fluctuations that cause acne under control, you can mitigate the occurrence of breakouts. I run labs to look at my patients’ hormone levels, recommend dietary adjustments, and help them incorporate hormone-balancing lifestyle changes.

Supplements

These supplements have been shown to help improve the appearance and occurrence of hormonal acne:

  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): NAC is a powerful antioxidant that can promote cellular health and help fend off oxidative stress, which studies show plays a role in acne. (3) NAC is also being studied for its potential benefits for endometriosis and PCOS.
  • DIM: DIM, which stands for diindolylmethane, is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. DIM metabolizes excess estrogen. This may help people with estrogen dominance or other hormone imbalances.

Reducing Stress

Minimizing stress is a must for swiftly clearing hormonal acne. Stress triggers cortisol production, a stress hormone shown to exacerbate acne. Engaging in stress-relief activities like yoga or meditation can rapidly improve skin clarity by reducing cortisol and balancing hormone levels.

Getting Quality Sleep

Achieving restorative sleep regularly is a powerful treatment option for hormonal balance and skin regeneration. Aim for 7-9 hours (up to 10 if you’re a female during menstruation) of quality sleep each night to clear your skin fast.

Clean Eating

Consuming a diet rich in whole foods and low in processed items can quickly impact the severity of hormonal acne. Foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and balance hormones, leading to clearer skin more rapidly.

Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration is crucial for flushing out toxins and supporting hormonal balance, which can lead to faster clearance of acne. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily helps you maintain optimal skin hydration and health, contributing to a quick reduction in acne flare-ups.

@drwillcole This #FunctionalMedicineFriday topic is about the top hormone imbalances I see in my patients with autoimmune diseases. To learn more about each of these, I have loads of free resources on my website including podcast episodes, articles, quizzes, books, and more. Link in bio. #functionalmedicinedoc ♬ original sound - Dr. Will Cole

Conventional Treatments

Conventional treatments don’t heal the root cause of your hormonal imbalances, but the following options may provide a quick solution for severe acne.  If you choose to go this route, please make sure to discuss any side effects with your dermatologist before beginning treatment:

Topical Cream

The most common topical cream prescribed for hormonal acne is Tretinoin — a generic form of Retin-A, also known as Isotretinoin and Accutane. It doesn’t address your hormones, but it can reduce breakouts and the appearance of acne scars over time. Side effects include redness, peeling, and sun-sensitive skin, to name a few.

Birth Control

Birth control pills contain hormones that artificially balance the circulation of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in the body. Using oral contraceptives for hormonal acne is a bandaid at best and comes with risks like blood clots. (4)

If your hormones are unbalanced, there is a root cause. A functional medicine provider will help you find it so you can balance your hormones for good.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics such as types of tetracycline are commonly prescribed for acne. While they can help fight acne-causing bacteria, they don’t address the hormones driving hormonal acne breakouts.

Isotretinoin

A form of vitamin A, this medication is taken orally and is reserved for severe, cystic acne that hasn't responded to other treatments. It works to lower surface inflammation and the buildup of dead skin cells, while also decreasing sebum by shrinking your sebaceous glands.

Spironolactone

This medication, more frequently used for high blood pressure, helps to artificially reduce male hormone production in females to address hormonal acne.

5 Signs Your Acne Is Hormonal

Chances are if you identify with one or more of these characteristics, you are dealing with hormonal acne:

1. You Are No Longer A Teenager

Unfortunately, acne doesn’t just go away once you graduate high school and turn 20. Don’t we wish!? If you are dealing with breakouts well into your 20s, it is most likely hormone-related, as hormonal changes should balance out after puberty.

Unless you are pregnant (which can also contribute to hormonal acne), blemishes that continue cropping up long after high school can be a sign that your hormones are unbalanced.

2. You Have Acne On Your Chin And Jawline

Location, location, location. Since a good portion of your oil glands are located around your chin and jawline, excess oil production caused by a hormone imbalance can clog your pores and lead to breakouts.

If the majority of your breakouts happen in these two places, it’s a telltale sign you are dealing with hormonal acne.

3. You Have Cysts

Hormonal acne tends to appear more often in the form of painful cysts. This type of acne occurs deep under your skin’s surface caused by a large accumulation of oil, leading to a more severe inflammatory response.

4. You Break Out When You Are Stressed

Every time you are stressed, your cortisol levels spike. When you are chronically stressed, cortisol levels remain high and in turn, can throw off all of your other hormones — progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Since all of these play a role in the formation of hormonal acne, it’s no surprise that you may be struggling with breakouts during a season of extreme stress.

5. You Break Out Around Your Menstrual Cycle

If you notice that your breakouts correlate with your menstrual cycle, that’s a sure sign you are dealing with hormonal acne due to the dip in sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

What Not To Do

If you are dealing with hormonal acne, balancing hormone levels is a great first start to treating your breakouts. However, other factors can aggravate acne and make breakouts worse if you aren’t aware. Keep these triggers in mind when treating hormonal acne fast.

Don’t Stress

Since stress can spike cortisol levels and throw off the balance of other hormones involved in hormonal acne, it’s vital to keep stress levels under control. Breathwork, meditation, and other mindfulness practices are great tools for alleviating stress.

Don’t Sweat

Thank goodness for air conditioning! Humidity and sweat can result in your skin being the perfect sticky surface for dust and other bacteria to cling to, leading to clogged pores and increased breakouts. When you sweat for good reasons, like after a good workout, be sure to use a gentle cleanser immediately afterward.

Don’t Pick Your Pimples

Not only does picking or popping your acne cause permanent scars and dark spots, but it can also lead to further acne, as the force of popping pushes the bacteria deeper into your hair follicle and other surrounding areas of your skin.

Don’t Eat Junk Food

A poor diet filled with inflammatory foods can directly impact your hormone levels and cause imbalances in estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. (5) Eating processed foods also contributes to chronic inflammation, leading to even more breakouts.

FAQs

While hormonal acne affects both men and women, women between the ages of 20-40 tend to struggle the most with this problem due to the likelihood of fluctuating hormones during pregnancy and menopause.

Teenagers also struggle with hormonal acne before adulthood during puberty, when hormones are rising and leveling out.

Androgens, like testosterone, can cause hormonal acne by increasing oil production in the skin, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. These hormones also affect skin cell turnover, contributing to acne development.

The time it takes for hormonal acne to clear up can vary, but with proper treatment, many people start to see improvements within 4 to 6 weeks. However, achieving complete clearing can sometimes take several months, depending on individual responses to hormone balancing.

When To Seek Professional Help

Even if you struggle with hormonal acne, the severity of your acne can look very different than someone else’s. Some people may only get a pimple now and then around their cycle, and while that is hormone-related, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a major underlying imbalance.

However, if you are dealing with any of the following, it may be time to seek out professional help in treating your acne:

  • Multiple, consistent acne breakouts that cover larger areas of your skin
  • Severe lesions
  • Scarring
  • Pigmentation

In functional medicine, our goal is to treat hormonal acne by getting to the root of the problem. Sure, over-the-counter options might clear up a single breakout — but if they don’t fix what’s really going on, you’re still missing a major part of the equation.

Seeking a functional healthcare provider to help balance your hormones, as well as introduce skincare, diet, and lifestyle changes will help you achieve the clear skin you deserve long-term.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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  1. Ebede, T. L., Arch, E. L., & Berson, D. (2009). Hormonal treatment of acne in women. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2(12), 16.
  2. Zeichner, J. A., Baldwin, H. E., Cook-Bolden, F. E., Eichenfield, L. F., Friedlander, S. F., & Rodriguez, D. A. (2017). Emerging issues in adult female acne. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(1), 37.
  3. Bowe, W. P., & Logan, A. C. (2010). Clinical implications of lipid peroxidation in acne vulgaris: old wine in new bottles. Lipids in health and disease, 9, 1-11.
  4. Madison Smith, B. S. N., & Student, M. S. N. Risk Factors for Blood Clots When Taking Birth Control.
  5. Fuhrman, J. (2018). The hidden dangers of fast and processed food. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 12(5), 375-381.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Gut Feelings

Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
Between What You Eat And How You Feel