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Acne breakouts can stem from changing hormone levels. These can increase the amount of oil that the skin produces. The oil can build up and clog pores, causing breakouts. Treatments for hormonal acne can include cleansers, gels, face masks, and oral or topical medications.

Over-the-counter treatments, such as cleansers and masks, can suit different skin types and contain ingredients that soothe the skin while tackling oiliness and bacteria.

This article gives an overview of hormonal acne, discusses different treatments, and provides a list of products available to purchase online.

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Hormonal acne may be simply called “acne” in situations when it is not important to highlight the hormonal cause.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million people every year.

It develops when the body makes too much sebum, an oil produced by the sebaceous glands near the hair follicles in the skin.

Excess sebum can build up in pores and stick to dead skin cells and other particles, clogging the pores and forming pimples and other lesions.

Hormones such as testosterone can increase the amount of sebum. As a result, acne may be more common in males during adolescence because of the spike in testosterone production during this stage of life.

In adulthood, acne may be more common in females. Many hormonal changes take place during transitions such as:

Additionally, starting or stopping certain types of hormonal contraception, such as birth control pills, can also cause hormonal acne.

Other causes of hormonal acne include stress and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A 2017 study found that the most common cause of acne among the 207 female participants was PCOS.

There is currently no cure for acne, so treatments aim to heal the skin, and prevent new breakouts and scarring.

The severity of the acne may influence the type of treatment a person chooses, and people with more severe breakouts may prefer prescription oral medications or topical treatments, such as creams or gels.

A person may use acne treatment for at least 4–6 weeks before they see results. It is best to avoid using multiple acne treatments, to prevent irritation and new breakouts.

Hormonal acne treatments fall into the four categories below.

Self-care techniques that can help clear mild and moderate hormonal acne breakouts include:

  • avoiding exfoliating face washes, astringents, and masks
  • using noncomedogenic, oil-free skin care products
  • washing the face twice a day, once after waking up and again before going to bed
  • washing the face and showering after workouts
  • avoiding picking, touching, or popping acne
  • shaving gently and only when necessary
  • using sunscreen

There is debate about a possible link between the diet and acne. Some studies suggest that certain foods can worsen acne, while others can be beneficial. However, researchers have yet to make definitive conclusions.

Dietary changes that might help hormonal acne breakouts include:

Some over-the-counter products and medications can treat mild-to-moderate cases of hormonal acne. Many of these products contain:

These medications can cause side effects, such as:

Doctors can prescribe oral medications, topical medications, or a combination to manage or cure hormonal acne, and a person with severe acne may prefer this approach.

Prescribed oral medications may include:

  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics can minimize inflammation and reduce and stop the growth of bacteria that can contribute to acne. Doctors tend to prescribe these for people with moderate-to-severe acne, including cystic acne.
  • Combination birth control pills. This treatment reduces the effect that certain sex hormones, called androgens, have on the sebaceous glands.
  • Antiandrogen agents. Spironolactone can help reduce excessive hair growth and be effective against acne when other treatments have failed. It is not suitable for use in males.
  • Retinoids. Retinoids open up pores to help other medications reach the hair follicles and reduce acne breakouts. Taking retinoids orally can help prevent acne and reduce scarring.
  • Corticosteroids. This short-term treatment can immediately reduce inflammation stemming from severe acne. Corticosteroids come as injections or topical medications.

Prescription topical medications, which a person applies to their skin, contain:

  • Retinoids. These are derived from vitamin A and can help treat breakouts and minimize inflammation. They may also prevent acne and reduce scarring.
  • Antibiotic creams.These may be coupled with other medications, such as benzoyl peroxide, which kills bacteria and may reduce sebum production.
  • Salicylic acid. This breaks down blackheads and whiteheads.
  • Sulfur. Topical sulfur also breaks down blackheads and whiteheads.

It is important to note that some topical treatments can cause skin irritation, burning, and redness or flushing.

These treatments may include:

  • Light therapy. Researchers continue to investigate which type of light and how much is best to use for acne. Learn more about red light and blue light therapy for acne.
  • Chemical peels. A chemical peel contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoic acid.
  • Surgery. This may help treat and repair acne scars or remove acne, when other treatments have not worked.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: The products are available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: They lists all ingredients clearly.
  • Skin concerns: They target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
  • Safety: They contain ingredients that are safe for topical use.
  • Reputation: They are from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research-based and was correct at the time of publication.

Exposed Skincare Basic Kits

Best overall hormonal acne treatment

This skincare kit includes products with a range of ingredients commonly used to treat and prevent acne, including benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, sulfur, and azelaic acid.

The products also contain natural ingredients that aim to soothe irritated skin, such as green tea, aloe vera, and passionflower and sage extract.

The company states that the kit is suitable for people with all skin types, including people with sensitive skin. It recommends using the products as part of a morning and evening cleansing routine.

The cleanser and tonic come in 4-ounce (oz) bottles, and the serums come in 1.7-oz containers.

The company offers a 1-year money-back guarantee.

The basic kit costs $59.95.

Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment

Best hormonal acne spot treatment

This product contains sulfur to clear pores, salicylic acid to soothe inflammation, and zinc oxide to absorb sebum.

The company says that this product can clear acne and prevent future breakouts.

A person can make a one-time purchase or get a regular order every 1–5 months. The company ships to Canada and the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, and territories.

A 1-oz bottle of the EradiKate Acne Treatment costs $28.

Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel

Best hormonal acne treatment for oily skin

This gel contains salicylic acid to help to clear dead skin cells from pores, as well as Laminaria saccharina extract to control oil buildup and witch hazel to tighten pores.

The company says that its product is as strong as prescription treatments and free from oil, parabens, synthetic colors, fragrances, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and gluten.

A 0.5-oz bottle costs $19.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser

Best hormonal acne cleanser

This oil-free, soap-free, and alcohol-free foaming gel cleanser is designed for people with acne-prone, oily skin to use daily.

The product contains zinc pidolate to remove excess oil. The company says that it also balances the skin’s natural pH level and is suitable for people with sensitive skin.

A 6.76-oz bottle costs $14.99.

Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 Acne Medication

Best treatment for cystic acne

This product contains 10% benzoyl peroxide. It aims to clear existing acne and prevent new breakouts by killing acne-causing bacteria and reducing sebum levels. It may also prevent cystic acne from appearing on the skin’s surface.

The manufacturer says that it designed this product for people with acne-prone, oily or combination skin. It recommends starting with one application a day and gradually increasing to three applications a day, if needed.

A person should apply sunscreen after using this product, the company advises.

A pack of four 1-oz containers sells for $19.96.

Peach & Lily Pore Proof Perfecting Clay Mask

Best hormonal acne treatment mask

Its makers say that this clay face mask exfoliates and provides a deep clean while calming inflammation and redness of sensitive, acne-prone skin. It also targets other common issues, such as blackheads, oiliness, and uneven skin texture.

The mask contains bentonite clay, kaolin clay, wild cherry extract, glycerin, and licorice root extract.

It is gluten- and cruelty-free, vegan, and suitable for dry, normal, oily, and sensitive skin, the company says.

A 2.7-oz jar costs $43.

If over-the-counter products, natural treatments, and self-care techniques do not improve hormonal acne, it may be time to consider consulting a dermatologist or a general practitioner.

Also, see a doctor if acne is severe, painful, or causes scarring.

Anyone experiencing acne and symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, irregular periods, and hair loss, should likewise contact a doctor for testing.

Acne can have a significant negative effect on a person’s mental health and self-esteem.

Psychological complications of acne can include:

If acne is affecting mental health, a doctor can provide treatment and connect a person with appropriate support.

Hormonal fluctuations, such as spikes in certain sex hormones, can significantly increase the skin’s natural oil production, which can lead to acne. Many prescription and over-the-counter products and treatments are available.

A regular doctor or a dermatologist can advise about the best approach to treatment, taking into account a person’s skin type and characteristics of their acne.

If acne does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, if it affects mood, mental health, or self-esteem, or if other symptoms arise, consider contacting a healthcare professional.