How I Cleared Up My Hormonal Acne

How I Cleared Up My Hormonal Acne

It was my senior year of college that my acne started to get really bad. Prior to that, I was pretty lucky. I took good care of my skin but never had more than a few occasional blemishes.

But senior year of college, it was different. The acne was deep and came in clusters. It was actually painful too. It would seem like as soon as I cleared up one pimple, another came back in the exact same place. It wasn’t even easy to hide under make-up, as it was inflamed and red. I was also lucky enough to deal with this acne all month long.

hormonal acne progress picture

These pictures don’t even do justice to how bad my skin really was. I did my best to avoid pictures, always applied a thick layer of makeup and deleted all the bad pictures that actually showed my full-blown acne. These pictures are a rare glimpse at my acne, with no makeup. The bottom pictures are also with no makeup.

After some research and seeing my doctor multiple times, I discovered I was dealing with hormonal acne.

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What Is Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne is large, clustered acne that appears on your chin, jawline, and near your mouth. It’s painful, hard to conceal and tends to scar. Just when you think you’ve cleared up a blemish- another one tends to appear in the exact same spot.

It’s totally normal to experience occasional blemishes and breakouts during times of stress or around your period. Consistent, clustered, painful acne though, is not normal.

Dr. Jennifer Haley, an Arizona-based dermatologist, says hormonal acne is actually becoming more and more common in comparison to a few decades ago. This is due to changing lifestyles and diets, alongside some of the usual culprits, such as menstruation cycles, PCOS, menopause, and general skin inflammation.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, fifty percent of women ages 20 to 40 deal with adult acne.

“Fifty percent of women ages 20 to 40 deal with adult acne.”

American Academy of Dermatology

What Causes Hormonal Acne?

Hormonal acne is caused by, you guessed it, hormones! “The hormones that cause this type of acne are fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, which both vary widely throughout the menstrual cycle month,” according to S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. “In addition, the ratio of each of these hormones to each other can also affect women’s testosterone levels, and can also be causative in hormonal acne.”

“It is believed that hormonal fluctuations, which can be menstrual or cyclical (or both) in women do cause increased oil production in the pore,” says Jegasothy.

How Do You Know If You Have Hormonal Acne?

There are a few key factors that differentiate hormonal acne from normal acne or blemishes. You likely have hormonal acne if:

  • If you are no longer in your teen years.
  • If your acne appears along your jawline and chin.
  • If you’re dealing with painful cysts.
  • If the cysts/acne tend to appear over and over again in the same spot.

How To Heal Hormonal Acne

For just over three years, I tried everything. I saw doctors, dermatologists, drank tea, gave up gluten and dairy, used new products, applied prescription creams, took oral medications… You name it, I tried it.

If you are just starting your journey to heal your hormonal acne, I would recommend starting with these steps.

Visit Your Doctor

One of the first steps I recommend is visiting your doctor. Your doctor may be able to make some suggestions or will be able to refer you to a dermatologist.

Document Your Skin

Take pictures and keep a journal of your skin. This may seem tedious, but keeping a journal will allow you to see trends over time. Maybe certain foods cause your acne to be worse. Maybe you are more stressed that you realize. Documenting this information will also be very helpful for your doctor and/or dermatologist.

Give Your New Products/Routines Time To Work

It can be so tempting to try new products, diets, and routines every week. But, it is really important to give your products time to work! Your body and your skin need to adjust to new additions to your routine.

Personally, any new products or routines that I tried, I was consistent for at least a few months before moving on.

It’s also important to introduce one new product or routine at a time. If you start 10 new things at once, it will be nearly impossible to figure out which new product is working, or which product is making things worse.

My Skin Care Regimen That Healed My Hormonal Acne

To clear up my hormonal acne and to stay free of hormonal acne, I follow the following regimen.

1. Drink lots of water

Your skin is the largest organ in your body! Without water, your skin can’t function at its best. Staying hydrated also helps flush toxins out of your body!

Personally, I drink at least 2 liters of water daily.

2. Always take off makeup before bed

I fully admit, I did not always take off my makeup before bed! But, now that I am putting more effort into taking care of my skin, washing my face is a routine I stick to nightly.

If you skip taking off your makeup before bed, you risk the chance of the makeup clogging your pores and building up oil. This makes for a perfect storm of acne and dull skin.

3. Switch to dye-free, scent-free, sensitive laundry detergent

Added dyes, fragrances and perfumes can irritate your skin. While your laundry detergent is likely not directly causing your hormonal acne, it may be causing further irritation. Switching to a sensitive laundry detergent was simple and was one of the changes that made a big difference over time!

4. Use a new, clean washcloth

Did you know that each time a used washcloth that is left to dry, it gives bacteria and other microbes a chance to grow and spread? Additionally, each time you use a cloth to wash your face, dead skin cells get caught, providing more food for the bacteria that gather in the towel.

Gross, right? Every time you wash your face, grab a new washcloth! This sounds excessive but has made a huge difference in my skin. You don’t need fancy washcloths- just pick up any basic towel at Walmart!

5. Add Zinc To Your Diet or Facial Products

I use Dr. Bailey’s Zinc bar to wash my face. I use this both morning and night and leave on my face like a mask for 2-3 minutes at a time.

I first heard about Bailey’s Zinc Bar in a Facebook group. I looked up the bar, expecting it to cost an arm and a leg. I was SHOCKED to see it be a reasonable price! I then started researching Zinc. I found out that Zinc is actually one of the most widely studied forms of acne treatment!

According to Dermatology Research and Practice, zinc can resolve a wide range of skin ailments. The antioxidant impact on inflammation and bacteria-fighting properties are the two primary ways that zinc can reduce the occurrence of acne and breakouts.

Because our bodies do not store the trace mineral zinc, we need to get it from external sources. You can get internal zinc from food or supplements and you can get topical zinc from medicinal cream.

6. Let Your Skin Breathe

I go bare-faced as often as possible to let my skin breathe! I also do my best to workout without a face of makeup on. If you are able to let your skin breathe without makeup a few times a week, I truly think this makes a difference.

7. Add Retinol To Your Routine

According to Web MD, retinol can reduce acne outbreaks by preventing dead cells from clogging pores. By clearing acne and reducing outbreaks, it may also reduce the formation of acne scars.

I use a prescription Retinol one time per week! If you are new to using Retinol, be sure to follow the instructions as Retinol can be very drying.

8. Heal From The Inside Out

I avoid sugary foods and junk foods as much as possible. My skin looks the absolute best when I take care of my body from the inside out. Veggies, fruits and lean proteins are my go-to foods.

As we discussed above, hormonal acne is caused by hormones that are out of whack. Healing your body often starts from healing within!

9. Spot Treat with Tea Tree Oil

According to Healthline, tea tree oil is a popular choice for treating acne because of its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. 

I like using tea tree oil as a natural spot treatment because it is gentle on my skin! When I was dealing with super painful cysts, products that were very drying seemed to further irritate my hormonal acne.

10. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) comes with so many benefits! IF is a part of my daily life and has helped my skin, in addition to helping with so many other areas of my life!

When you go for periods of time without eating, your body has time to digest and process the food you ate. This digestive process helps to reduce inflammation- which is often a cause of acne. Reduced inflammation means less bloat and less acne! Talk about a win!

11. Wash Pillowcases and Sheets Weekly

The average person spends about 26 years sleeping in their life which equates to 9,490 days or 227,760 hours. That is a lot of time for your face to be touching a pillowcase!

Due to spending so much time sleeping, our pillowcases tend to build up with oil, makeup, dead skin and sweat. Making sure you are washing your pillowcases and sheets weekly is an easy way to keep your skin looking its best.

Bottom Line

Healing hormonal acne isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Often, it takes trial and error to figure out what works for your body and your skin.

Have you ever struggled with persistent hormonal acne? What changes did you make to clear up your skin? Share your tips below!