Hormonal acne generally is referred to as acne vulgaris, which literally means pimples found on the face. The condition can also be referred to as acne because of its tendency to develop more easily in people who are going through puberty. The word “vulgaris” in Latin means “of the face.” It can also be referred to as male-patterned acne because of its tendency to develop more easily in men and women who are going through hormonal changes in their bodies, specifically in their menstrual cycles.
Hormonal acne can develop in many ways. One common form occurs when there are excess amounts of hormones in the body. In this case, excess hormones cause the sebaceous glands, which are located in the pores of the skin, to enlarge. When there are too many oil-producing glands producing excessive sebum, it can clog the pores, leading to blackheads and cysts.
Treatments for hormonal acne often involve the use of oral contraceptives, or birth control pills. These pills prevent ovulation, which prevents the release of testosterone, a male hormone, into the bloodstream. When a woman is taking an oral contraceptive, the amount of testosterone that is released into her body is decreased, thereby lessening the amount of sebum production. This lessened sebum production reduces the chances of clogging the pores, which allows the bacteria to grow out of control. The increased presence of bacteria can lead to infection, which can result in an outbreak.
Another way that hormonal acne can be treated is by keeping track of changes in the hormones throughout the month. A woman’s menstrual cycle, or her monthly period, can determine the amount of oil that is produced. On days when she is menstruating, the level of oil produced is typically highest. If she were to stop taking her birth control pills before her period, or alter her schedule around her period, she could possibly decrease the amount of oil that is produced and thus possibly avoid outbreaks.
Hormonal acne also has a connection with androgens. Testosterone is the primary hormone that causes pimples, blackheads, and sebaceous cysts. When a woman is taking an oral contraceptive, testosterone is being suppressed, thus decreasing the amount of androgens in her body. If she were to alter her schedule or her diet to eliminate the foods that contain androgens such as dairy products and red meat, she could see a reduction in the number of androgens in her body, and therefore in her hormonal acne.
In addition to using birth control pills and changing her diet to stay healthy, patients suffering from hormonal acne should consult a dermatologist to prevent breakouts. Some dermatologists will prescribe retinoids, which are vitamin A derivative topical creams. Retinoids can help prevent the buildup of dead skin cells that could clog pores. Dermatologists can also prescribe retinoids for patients who do not get significant relief from over the counter treatments.