Hormonal Acne, It's a Thing

All my life I considered myself to be very lucky when it came to my skin. I made it through high school unscathed by any remote sight of acne. I followed a nightly skin care routine to keep my face crystal clear and that was the only time I thought about my skin. Then I turned 20 and BAM! Before I knew it my face was stricken with relentless and unresponsive breakouts. I could not link anything in my control to my skin's sudden and drastic change. I soon became frustrated, self-conscious, and antisocial. I did not feel like myself because I was so wrapped up in how awful I felt my skin looked.

 It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard of hormonal acne prior to my experience with it, but I was unaware of how valid its diagnosis was. I always felt there must be at least one thing I did to cause this and must be one thing I can do to solve it. I had a hard time believing my acne could be based solely on what I couldn’t see. Could that really be the entirety of my problem? The answer is yes. Although you may want to go lather on topical creams and scrub with acidic cleansers, the best first step is to try to get to know your acne.

How do I know if my acne is hormonal?

Your answers to the following questions will help clarify if your acne is potentially hormonal. If you check off any of the following descriptions consider paying closer attention to what, when, and where from now on.

What does it look like?

Hormonal acne is different from other types of acne that you may occasionally experience. It tends to be deep, cystic, red, and painful. My pimples never came to a head. They instead lie deep underneath my skin in the form of swollen bumps. Popping them was impossible and insanely painful. At times I would have a small window of a few days where I felt I had some leverage over my acne. SIKE! My blemishes were just smaller and less irritated but never gone. They sat patiently beneath my skin waiting to strike back in full vengeance a few days later. Hormonal acne spots seldom disappear without proper treatment.

When does it occur?

If your breakouts are at their worst and most vicious around the same time each month, it is a good sign that it’s hormonal. My skin was never how I wanted it to look, but it was especially undesirable at the same time each month. I guarantee if you trace that time of the month with your other time of month you will find a correlation. Note it in your calendar.

Where does it occur?

Not only is it important to note the appearance of your acne but also where it chooses to mark its territory. Anywhere that men can grow facial hair are hormonal receptors on your face. This narrows our focus to areas along the jaw lines, mouth, and mid cheek. My breakouts set up camp in the exact same places every. single. time. I had a cluster of acne around my mouth that remained unchanged for twelve weeks. I recommend looking up the image of a face map to help identify what the location of your acne may mean in regards to its cause. You would be surprised how much little changes inside your body can mean big changes outside of your body.

What should I do next?

If after reading this you feel like you fit all the criteria for hormonal acne, do not freak out. There are a few places you can start to get the clear skin you have been chasing. All of them have access to higher insights and prescription powers. I would recommend consulting your dermatologist and gynecologist after gathering your personal observations.  These are the true experts who will be able to identify a treatment plan to adjust your hormonal problem. Also, know that you are not alone. Turns out it is insanely common for females in their early twenties to experience a surge in acne. Your early twenties is your most fertile window as a woman! You know what that means? Hormones! Types of birth controls are now proven effective specifically for hormonal acne. Discuss these with your gynecologist and see if it may be right for you. I have been taking one of these pills for two months and my skin has gotten dramatically clearer in places it hasn’t been for months. I also use a topical spot treatment prescribed by my dermatologist to control the occasional flare-ups that I get. There are options but the first step is to call and make an appointment.

In the meantime, do not over wash your face, do not skip moisturizing, and try your best not to pick and pop. Patience is truly the key. Take a deep breath. Acne does not define you and there are resources that can help find your fix.