Those pesky, painful, and unpleasant pimples that seem to pop up at the worst times imaginable—right before a long-awaited vacation or just before your sister’s wedding for all your family to see—are downright difficult to deal with. Weren’t you supposed to shake off acne in your teen years? Sadly, not—especially if you’re battling bouts of hormonal acne, which most commonly appears in adult women ages 20 to 40. And even the post-40 crowd is not in the clear, as New York City-based dermatologist Cherise M. Levi, M.D., tells SELF. There can be a resurgence of acne breakouts around menopause due to hormonal fluctuations in the body.
The key word here is “hormonal,” as this very obnoxious type of acne is intrinsically linked to (you guessed it) your hormones. “The hormones that cause this type of acne are fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, which both vary widely throughout the menstrual cycle month,” explains S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Miami Skin Institute. “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.” Lastly, cortisol, the stress hormone, can affect all of these hormones, too.
“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. This is how skincare experts believe hormonal acne starts, although the actual cause has yet to be determined.
How can you tell a hormonal breakout from just run-of-the-mill acne? Dermatologists use a few key characteristics to pinpoint if a pimple is hormonal. Keep reading to learn how to spot hormonal breakouts, plus six expert-approved solutions for treating them.
It’s probably hormonal acne if…
1. You’re no longer in your teen years.
While we’d love to leave acne behind (along with our braces and boy band posters) once we enter our 20s, the reality is flare-ups are possible at any time. Hormonal acne is the type that’s most likely to attack in your 20-something years. That because those are the years when women are most hormonally active, says Jegasothy. “Your 20s is often peak childbearing age, making women more prone to the intense hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation (breastfeeding).”
But age alone won’t determine whether or not…