Hormonal Acne Can Happen at Any Age. Here’s How to Deal


Another painful, angry pimple has appeared along my jaw, joining a crowd of nine or ten others.

Their existence has become a regular occurrence in my life, along with blackheads, congestion, and excess oil.

At 33 years old, I thought my relationship with hormonal acne was over. Like at-home highlights and popstar posters on my bedroom wall, I assumed I’d left spotty skin in my teenage years.

Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten older, my skin has only gotten worse.

I’ve had luck soothing my skin with the contraceptive pill, but if I go birth-control-free, my skin goes haywire.

As health concerns go, hormonal acne isn’t a particularly debilitating one. Still, it often leaves me embarrassed to go out without a full face of makeup.

Social media certainly doesn’t help. It’s rare to log on to Instagram or TikTok and see anything other than perfectly clear, glowing complexions. This is especially challenging when your skin looks anything but.

So, why do “teenage” skin problems persist into adulthood, and — crucially — what can you do about it? Read on to find out.

What is hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne involves breakouts tied to fluctuations in your hormones, typically experienced during puberty.

However, hormonal breakouts can happen well into adulthood, and it’s most common in women.

According to a 2008 studyTrusted Source, about 50 percent of women between ages 20 and 29 and 25 percent of women between ages 40 to 49 have acne.

Typically, hormonal acne is characterized by:

  • acne around the cheeks and jawline
  • blackheads, whiteheads, or cysts
  • oily skin
  • inflammation
  • sensitivity

What causes hormonal acne?

Most breakouts happen when the oil glands in the skin become more sensitive to a group of hormones known as androgens, explains Natalia Spierings, a consultant dermatologist and author of “Skintelligent: What You Really Need to Know to Get Good Skin.”

Androgens drive the enlargement of oil glands and increase the production of oil in the skin. All people have some level of androgens and these increase during puberty.

“Some women are more sensitive to androgens throughout their lives than others, and hormone sensitivity also changes as we get older,” Spierings explains.

Sometimes lifestyle choices can worsen the problem too.

“The use of multiple skin care products contributes to this problem by irritating the skin, leading to redness and often [triggering] an underlying predisposition to acne vulgaris,” says Spierings.

Can you get hormonal skin at any age?

I certainly didn’t expect to still be experiencing hormonal breakouts in my 30s. Surely by the time I hit menopause, my problem skin will be a thing of the past, right?

Unfortunately, Spierings says this isn’t necessarily the case.

“There’s no age at which [hormonal acne] necessarily stops or starts,” she says.

“Every woman is different and unfortunately it isn’t possible to predict if or when a woman will develop acne. Some women never do.”

For some, hormonal acne can continue well into later life.

“In my clinical experience, women who have oily, acne-prone skin throughout their 20s and 30s continue to have it even after menopause,” Spierings says.

While that might not be the news you were hoping for, Spierings says there are plenty of steps you can take to manage hormonal skin.


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