Hormonal acne is when breakouts form in adulthood that could range from blackheads and whiteheads to painful cysts. Hormonal acne is linked to the overproduction of sebum (an oily substance in skin glands), which clogs pores, leading to pimples. Though often unavoidable, hormonal acne can be treated to prevent future breakouts from forming.
Hormonal acne, also known as adult acne, affects adults between the ages of 20 and 50. Acne causes bumps on your face, shoulders, chest and back in the following forms:
Hormonal acne is the direct result of excess sebum in oil glands.
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Hormonal acne affects both men and women, but the majority of cases occur in women, pregnant women and women going through menopause.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. It affects nearly 80% of the population during their lifetime. About 50% of women in their 20s and 25% of women in their 40s get hormonal acne.
Fungal acne and hormonal acne are often confused with each other because both types of acne start in the hair follicles. Fungal acne occurs when excess yeast develops, whereas hormonal acne is caused by excess sebum. Fungal acne can result in whiteheads, itchiness and often becomes red, irritated and inflamed.
Acne is caused by clogged pores. Hormonal acne develops when hormonal changes increase the amount of oil your skin produces. This oil interacts with bacteria on the pores of your skin where hair grows (hair follicles) and results in acne.
Clogged pores are the result of:
When you are pregnant, hormonal fluctuations can cause acne. Often, acne gets better as your pregnancy progresses. There are several treatments that you should avoid during pregnancy, including topical retinoids, salicylic acid and isotretinoin. Ask your healthcare provider about the safest acne treatment for you to reduce and eliminate breakouts during pregnancy.
Acne causes lesions (damaged skin tissue) that can become inflamed and be red, painful or sore. Lesions are most likely to appear on your cheeks, but may also appear in the following places:
Hormonal acne can appear as the following types of lesions:
Hormonal acne is diagnosed during a physical examination by a healthcare provider who will look at the acne and assess contributing factors. This includes discussing:
Based on the severity of your acne, different treatment options are available to reduce sebum production, pimple formation and painful inflammation:
It is recommended to treat acne when it begins to prevent breakouts from continuing, which could lead to permanent scarring and potential self-esteem issues if left untreated.
Though hormonal acne can be unavoidable, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of getting breakouts:
Hormonal acne causes breakouts. These appear as lesions or bumps on your skin that could become red, inflamed, painful and sore if not treated. Moderate to severe acne and untreated acne can lead to scarring where lesions formed.
Acne affects each person differently. It can last as little as a few days to as long as a few weeks. If not treated, acne can persist for months at a time.
Treating acne can be different for each individual, but patience is key. Generally, it could take up to four to six weeks to see improvement in your skin after you begin treatment. Even if you don’t notice that the treatment is clearing your skin, it is recommended that you continue treatment to prevent new acne from forming.
If the acne is not going away or worsening, it is recommended that you see a dermatologist. A dermatologist will be able to offer more advanced treatment in order to control your acne.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It can be frustrating to see breakouts on your skin as an adult, considering they are most frequent among adolescents. Talk with your healthcare provider if your acne is persistent and they will be able to offer advanced treatment options to eliminate pesky pimples.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/10/2021.
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