A dermatologist's guide to dealing with hormonal acne


If you thought you could leave those pesky acne breakouts behind with adolescence, your hormones might unfortunately have something else in mind. Adult acne has been growing increasingly common, and while maskne contributed to a significant chunk of breakouts these last two years, the trigger could also be pulled by a fluctuation in your hormone levels. To know what you can do about it, we looked for answers with Dr Niketa Sonavane, celebrity Dermatologist and founder of Ambrosia Aesthetics. Here’s what we found out: 

For starters: What is hormonal acne?

Also known as adult acne, it is a skin condition that causes breakouts of varying bumps, pimples or zits on the skin, primarily affecting adults aged 20 to 50, she explains. But why has it taken up residence on your skin? “Hormonal acne is primarily caused by an excess of sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin's sebaceous or oil glands. These glands are accessible via tiny pores on the skin's surface. Excessive and sticky sebum production can clog pores and cause gland inflammation, resulting in acne,” she says. 


Given our biological makeup, hormonal acne is more common in women and usually occurs around the lower half of the face—along the jawline, chin and perioral region around the mouth. Whiteheads, blackheads, inflammatory lesions as well as cysts can all be frequent visitors during a hormone-induced flare-up.


Okay, and why are women more prone to hormonal acne? 

The monthly menstrual cycle holds the answers for this one. Dr Sonavane explains, “Hormonal acne develops as a result of hormonal fluctuations, particularly testosterone. An increase in testosterone may cause the sebaceous glands to produce excessive or sticky sebum. This sebum, when combined with dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells, causes clogged pores and acne.” A few handy signs for detecting a hormonal imbalance include: 

  • 1. Skipped and delayed periods

  • 2. Sudden weight gain 

  • 3. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • 4. Persistent comedonal and inflammatory acne

  • 5. Hair loss on the scalp

  • 6. Excessive or sudden facial hair

  • 7. Infertility


Got it. How can I work on fixing hormonal imbalances? 

“Following a nutrient-dense diet, avoiding dairy and limiting added sugars are all evidence-based practices that may help alleviate acne symptoms. Other healthy measures include taking supplements such as vitamin D and green tea extract, getting enough sleep, quitting smoking and reducing stress,” she says. When deciding your weekly menu, it will also help to avoid refined flour, cereals, bread, packaged juices, alcohol and other foods that have a high glycemic index. Instead, you’ll want to look to increase your intake of vitamins A, D and E as well as zinc to help you fight acne and get clearer skin.


And what are some skincare rules to be followed?

In addition to paying greater vigilance to what’s on your plate, the Mumbai-based dermatologist also believes that building a sound skincare regimen will help keep sudden flare-ups a bay. Her top tips include:

  • 1. Wash your face twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

  • 2. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of any acne treatment. Excessive application can dry out your skin and aggravate it.

  • 3. Wear SPF 30 sunscreen every day.

  • 4. A ceramide-based moisturiser can help with skin hydration and repair.

  • 5. To reduce the likelihood of clogged pores, use only non-comedogenic products.


  • 6. A holistic approach to an anti-acne routine also includes making certain lifestyle changes to address any imbalances in the hormones:

  • 7. Get enough sleep

  • 8. Maintain a healthy weight

  • 9. Avoid picking or squeezing pimples 

  • 10. Consume a nutritious diet, rich in fruits and vegetables.

  • 11. Take a shower after exercise or other strenuous activities

  • 12. Drink enough water during the day

  • 13. Look for ways to reduce stress in your life 


What can a dermat do to help with hormonal acne? 

In case of persistent acne, it pays to consult an experienced professional for medical help. Dermatologists can help provide relief by prescribing medications for the skin, antibiotic creams and gels such as clindamycin, azelaic acid and dapsone. For long-lasting relief, one can even choose to opt for clinical procedures, such as cortisone injections, light or laser treatments and chemical peels.


We hope this helps you get the full picture on how to root out the causes of hormonal acne and work your way towards healthier, stronger skin!

Your Bag

Sign up for TGM's weekly highlights, new launch updates, exclusive events and offers.