5 signs of adult hormonal acne and their root causes

5 signs of adult hormonal acne and their root causes

Adult acne - Healthians
Contributed by – Preksha Buttan 

Acne is a fairly common condition, so much so, that everyone suffers from it at some point in their life. While most common in puberty, acne can stick around till the 30s, 40s, and even 50s. At this age, it is called hormonal acne or adult acne. To be clear, all types of acne, be it in puberty or in adulthood, are driven by hormones. Usually, hormonal changes in puberty settle down by the time you hit the 20s and with that, your acne disappears. But, if your acne has persisted way past that age then that could mean your hormones are still going haywire and some external help is needed. Treating acne in adulthood can be tricky but it’s not something that you cannot do. So, keep reading to better understand the 5 signs of adult hormonal acne and their root cause.


5 signs of hormonal acne

Signs of hormonal acne - Healthians

Hormonal acne has some characteristics that make them easier to spot. These are:

Your age

Hormonal acne is most likely to attack women in their 20s. If you are in your 20s and dealing with hormonal acne, then it could be because at this age your hormones are the most active. Since you are at the peak of childbearing age, intense hormone fluctuations can happen, causing you to break out. 


Acne location

The telltale sign of hormonal acne is its location on your face. Chin and jawline are the most common locations of hormonal acne. It can also pop up along the side of your face and down your neck. Doctors don’t quite know why this type of acne appears at specifically these locations, but it makes it a typical sign of hormonal acne.


Time of occurrence

Hormonal acne manifests a pattern, much like a menstrual cycle. You’ll notice that acne pops up right when your periods are due or when you’re ovulating. Monthly hormonal changes are the reason behind this even in post-menopausal women. 


Your mental status

Stress is another factor that can cause your skin to react. The stress hormone, cortisol, can throw all other hormones out of whack. So, if you are prone to monthly hormonal fluctuations and stress a lot, then you are making perfect ground for acne to thrive. 

[You might be interested in a Stress Test


Appearance of acne

Hormonal acne takes the form of painful cysts. Unlike blackheads and whiteheads, these cysts are almost impossible to extract even by an esthetician. Besides, they hurt badly. You’ll feel the pain while washing your face or while sleeping on your side when acne will rub against the pillow.


Common causes of hormonal acne

Causes of hormonal acne - Healthians

Hormonal fluctuations

Fluctuation in hormones is one of the main causes of hormonal acne. These fluctuations can happen – 

  • Around the time of your period.
  • During or after pregnancy.
  • During perimenopause or menopause.
  • When starting or discontinuing hormonal birth control.
  • If you are on certain medications.

If you think your acne is popping up due to any of these conditions, you can get a hormone test to confirm or talk with a doctor

[Also read: Everything about hormonal imbalance]



PCOS is yet another biggest cause of hormonal acne in women. Most of the women in today’s day are silently suffering from it. You may also notice symptoms of PCOS such as facial hair, irregular periods, weight gain, and thinning of hair if you are suffering from it. Hormonal fluctuations may also happen because of it. Clearly, PCOS wreaks havoc in your body. You can always confirm your condition with a PCOS test and plan your treatment accordingly.

[Also read: Frequently asked questions about PCOS]



The direct contribution of pollution to acne is still unclear. But it is believed that the dust and grime that layers up on the skin can cause clogged pores leading to acne. Or direct sun exposure can dry out the skin, leading to excess oil production which in turn causes acne. Whatever may be the cause, you should always wear a sunscreen before stepping out and religiously follow a cleansing routine to get rid of the dust.


Using the wrong products

You may do it accidentally or unintentionally, but putting the wrong type of products on your skin can cause acne. If you have oily or combination skin and use an oil-based moisturizer or cleanser, you might end up with acne. Hence, always do your research and invest only in products which are meant for your skin type only.


Cleansing too frequently

You may feel like washing your face every other hour to get rid of dirt and oil properly will help but will do just the opposite. Overwashing your face will make the skin dry and the skin will compensate for it by producing more oil (which is your enemy here). Besides, exfoliating too often with harsh products will damage your skin and intensify acne. So, go for gentle products and wash your face no more than two times a day. If you exfoliate as well, then twice a week is sufficient.


Certain type of foods

You must have heard that food items like chocolate, oily food, mango, caffeine, and dairy can cause acne. But, in reality, there’s no research to back this claim. Quitting certain foods has helped some people while it made no difference in others. So, only trust the reaction of your body. If quitting or adding certain products helps, then go with it. If not, then enjoy it without any guilt. However, we would suggest that before making any huge change in your diet, consult with a doctor first.



If your close relative has dealt with hormonal acne, then you may be at greater risk as certain elements of the skin have genetic factors. It may be out of your control but you can always follow the right skincare regimen for your skin type and give it what it needs. A dermatologist can help you find what your skin actually needs.

Most people feel self-conscious and embarrassed about acne, however, it is important to understand that hormonal acne is normal and nothing to feel self-conscious about. It is a medical condition that requires attention and consulting with a dermatologist can help you deal with it better.


Acne not clearing up? Get tested 

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