How Acne is Influenced by Hormones

There are many causes of acne, but hormonal imbalances have been pinpointed as one cause. Teenagers often get acne during puberty when their hormones are especially active. Women are also likely to get acne just before or during menstruation because the hormone levels of their body are changing. Here are some ways that hormones affect the skin and contribute to acne development.


Androgen production begins during puberty and continues on for most of the person’s life. Androgens are responsible for stimulating the sebaceous glands to secrete additional oil to moisturize the skin. This is why oily skin and acne are so prevalent among teenagers. Testosterone is an androgen that is the main male sex hormone and high levels of testosterone are one of the main reasons that teenage boys often have the worst cases of acne.

According to dermatologist Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., some women experience acne due to changes in hormone levels associated with menstruation, pregnancy and birth control pills. Some pills claim to reduce breakouts by equalizing hormonal imbalances in the body, but they are not proven to be effective and have limited regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

Menstrual Cycle

Many women don’t outgrow acne that started during puberty and some don’t develop acne until their 20s and 30s. The week before each monthly period is the time that women may experience breakouts due to hormones because their estrogen levels begin to decline at this time and the ovaries produce more progesterone. Progesterone stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This cycle often happens every month and is difficult to break.


Acne during pregnancy may be especially difficult to treat because any product that is ingested or put onto the skin has the potential to affect the growing baby. Also, some chemicals that fight acne are particularly harmful, such as accutane. The oil producing glands often work overtime during pregnancy and many women experience breakouts not just their face, but on their back and chest, as well.


The skin typically gets drier as hormone levels decrease, which is a leading cause of wrinkles. Some women get acne and wrinkles at the same time, which can be particularly frustrating. Hormonal changes during menopause can cause acne to flare up by increasing oil production. Products that exfoliate the skin and encourage cell turnover are popular with menopausal women who have acne because they also lessen the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.


Certain types of birth control pills are sometimes prescribed to women who have hormonal acne because they lower the level of testosterone in the body, causing the body to produce less oil. This treatment is usually effective, but it may take a few weeks for results to be seen. Women who take birth control pills should take them every day at the same time, regardless of their acne symptoms. It is a good idea to discuss acne with your doctor because some types of birth control pills can make acne worse.

Most treatments for acne are effective against hormonal acne, such as soaps or toners containing salicylic acid or benzyl peroxide. Oral antibiotics are also effective against hormonal acne because they kill the bacteria that causes skin inflammation.

Genetic Link

Researchers have tried to prove a genetic link that directly influences the development of acne, but none has been found so far. There are many things that factor in to acne development, including skin thickness, oil production, sun exposure, and medications. Acne is prevalent in all ethnic groups and does not favor any certain group over another. Some people who live in dry climates are less likely to have acne because their skin requires more moisture and uses excess oil, rather than having the oil clog their pores.

Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne is very common among women, but it is usually mild and consists of a few pimples that appear each month about a week before the woman’s monthly period starts. Puberty is generally when acne starts and it’s a good idea for young teenagers to start washing their face with a mild cleanser twice a day so that they keep the pores as clear as they can and minimize the acne that appears on their skin. It is also helpful to teach children and teens not to squeeze or pick their pimples because they may spread and infection may be introduced from the hands.

Acne that is severe and constant is usually not hormone related and women who cannot get rid of their acne naturally or with over the counter products should talk to their doctor or dermatologist about using stronger medication. Many products are available to slow the skin’s oil production and clear out clogged pores.