If you struggle with adult acne, you are not alone! A study by the American Academy of Dermatology found that more than 50 percent of women between the ages of 20-29 and more than 25 percent of women between the ages of 40-49 are affected by acne. Even if you never experienced breakouts as a teenager, you can be plagued by acne as an adult.
Hormone imbalances can often be the cause for adult acne. As we age, skin renewal slows, it becomes more difficult to shed dead skin cells, and if our hormones are out of balance, those dead skin cells will become sticky – this leads to dry, dull skin, clogged pores and breakouts. Menstrual cycles and menopause often exacerbate hormonal acne as well.
Now that we know why hormonal acne occurs, what type of treatment is available?
Oral Contraceptives + Prescriptions
For severe cases of hormonal acne doctors will often prescribe a birth control pill to alter hormone levels. The prescription drug spironolactone has been found to be effective at clearing acne too, particularly when caused by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This is a great treatment for those tender, long-lasting, deep pimples around the jaw and chin.
Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A and help rapidly exfoliate the skin–this accelerated cell turnover helps clear clogged pores and remove the discolored cells left behind when acne resolves. You can find both over-the-counter and prescription-strength retinoids.
Before turning to prescriptions, it’s great to try some natural treatment options. Tea tree oil, alpha hydroxy acids, non-comedogenic cleansers and moisturizers, and increasing water intake are all effective ways to fight the symptoms of hormonal acne.
While it’s unclear just how much diet can impact acne, there is now good evidence that dairy and high-glycemic (sugar and carbs) foods exacerbate acne. All foods that cause inflammation should be avoided. Instead, choose foods that can fight inflammation.
Some inflammation-inducing foods to stay away from include refined sugar, processed meat, excessive dairy, and refined wheat products. Foods that fight inflammation include anything high in omega-3 fatty acids (wild caught fish, fish oil, flaxseeds, egg yolks, walnuts, chia seeds) and fresh vegetables and fruit.
It is important to note that the average person consumes a credit card worth of plastic a week! All plastic (even BPA-free) builds up in the body and causes significant hormonal disruption over time. So, avoid consuming any food or beverage in plastic.
Patience is also crucial when dealing with hormonal acne. It will not resolve itself overnight, and it might take trial and error to find what works for you. Any change or treatment performed consistently typically takes 2-3 months to show results as that is how long it takes for your skin cells to turnover. And, if you have toxin build-up in your system, you may experience some worsening purging before the storm is over and you achieve clear skin.
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.38