Hormonal acne is usually known simply as acne. Another term for the skin condition is acne vulgaris.
It is sometimes called hormonal acne because of the way the skin problem develops in response to hormonal changes.
People with acne have pimples – or spots or zits – of varying severity that typically affect the face. Acne is very common and treatable.
Hormonal acne is not a term used in medical research or by doctors. It tends to be used on the internet, in glossy magazines, or by people selling natural remedies.
This article assumes hormonal acne simply to mean acne. One reason people may call it hormonal acne is to link it to the fact that it is most common in teenagers going through the hormonal changes of puberty.
What causes pimples to form in acne?
There are four main factors behind the formation of acne lesions. Hormones are one major factor, which may be why some people call it hormonal acne.
The role of hormones in acne formation
Acne may be known as hormonal acne because one major causative factor is the hormone testosterone.
Testosterone levels go up in the teenage years as part of puberty. This causes male development in boys and gives muscle and bone strength in girls.
The hormone also has the effect of increasing sebum production at the base of hairs. This is because the glands that secrete the oil are sensitive to testosterone.
Other hormones play a part in acne, too. For women, hormonal changes relating to pregnancy or the menstrual cycle can also trigger acne.
Different severities of acne
Acne ranges from mild acne, which may not need any help from doctors, to severe acne. Severe acne can form cysts, badly affecting appearance and self-esteem, and causing scars.
Even mild acne can be distressing due to its appearance and the fact that it often affects young people when they begin developing relationships. Self-esteem can take a knock from the condition.
- Poor hygiene
- Chocolate and other diet factors, including nuts or greasy foods
- Masturbation or sex
However, some research has found links to milk products and diets that contain lots of foods such as carbohydrates, and sugary drinks, that increase blood sugar levels.
Treatments for acne
Acne is treated according to severity. Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter products as well as with medicines offered by doctors.
There is no quick-fix treatment for acne. All treatments take weeks to show effect.
Mild acne treatments available without prescription include antibacterial skin cleansers. There is no evidence that acne is caused by poor hygiene, however.
Benzoyl peroxide is a topical drug available over-the-counter that may help. Other non-prescription drugs are available but with less evidence for good effect.
Over-washing is not good for acne. Too much washing and scrubbing can remove oil from the skin and irritate it more. The skin can respond by producing more oil and so worsening the acne.
When to see a doctor?
A doctor who specializes in skin conditions called a dermatologist needs to be seen for severe acne.
Anyone who has a lot of acne, or has more severe lesions will need prescription treatment and may benefit from the specialist advice of a dermatologist.
People with severe acne who need to be treated with the drug isotretinoin must be referred to a dermatologist who is registered with the FDA monitoring program for the drug.
Adult women with acne, and hormonal therapy
Acne is most common in teenagers going through the hormonal changes of puberty.