What is the Connection Between Hormones and Acne?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Hormones and acne have a close connection, especially in the case of acne that develops during adolescence. In adults, “hormonal acne” often has nothing to do with hormones and can be associated with other factors like the composition of the skin. The link between hormones and acne is sometimes touted with the goal of convincing people to purchase preparations designed to “equalize” hormone levels. In actuality, disorders involving hormones require the attention of an endocrinologist — a doctor who specializes in hormones — not an over-the-counter medication.

A close up of acne.
A close up of acne.

As people enter puberty, concentrations of male sex hormones rise in both genders. These cause changes in skin composition and can trigger the development of acne. Teens typically have problems with skin clarity that fade with time, as their hormone levels naturally stabilize and their skin gets accustomed to adult hormone levels. In teens with very bad acne, such as marks that pit and scar, medications can be helpful for managing it and making the patient feel more comfortable. Hormones and acne in teens go hand in hand, but resolve after teens are into adulthood.

People often develop acne during puberty, when their hormones are fluxuating.
People often develop acne during puberty, when their hormones are fluxuating.

In adults, hormones and acne are not as clearly linked. Some women with hormone imbalances develop acne spotting as a result of radically abnormal hormone levels, and blemishes sometimes also appear during certain times of the menstrual cycle and in pregnant women, who experience significant shifts in their hormones. With adults, acne is more commonly caused by issues like naturally oily skin and poor skin care, allowing oil to clog and create comedones.

Adults who experience a sudden recurrence of acne may want to consult a doctor to see if there is an underlying issue. It is possible hormones and acne are interacting or that the patient has a skin condition. A dermatologist can evaluate the patient, check for obvious risk factors, and provide recommendations on managing the breakout. For some adults, persistent acne becomes a lifelong problem, sometimes in response to medications or endocrine disorders.

Teens who experience discomfort because of their acne can see a dermatologist to get information about treatment options. Fluctuations in hormones are normal at this age and disruption of hormones to treat acne is not recommended, but providing the patient with drugs to help dry the skin and teaching patients how to keep their skin scrupulously clean can cut down on the number of pimples. People with a family history of bad acne during adolescence may want to be on the alert for the early signs in their children, as it can have a hereditary link.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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