Why women experience face acne in adulthood

Sep 1, 2017: In adolescence, boys and girls alike deal with embarrassing acne breakouts. While a lucky few never deal with pimples, the rest of us have to endure our teen years with painful breakouts we wish we could hide. That begins to change once we reach adulthood. For most men, face acne almost entirely disappears, except in cases of stress or poor shaving techniques. But for many women, acne seems to persist. Why is this? Let’s take a look at what causes acne.

Where acne comes from?

Acne forms when a hair follicle becomes clogged with dirt, debris, and oil. The human body has about 5 million hair follicles, so there’s a lot of opportunity for pimples to pop up! Every hair follicle is connected to a sebaceous gland, which is tasked with producing oil to keep the skin moist. Oil is good; it protects the skin from drying out and cracking. However, too much oil can clog the follicle and create a buildup of dead skin cells. This, mixed with environmental debris, can create a pimple.

Your hormones and acne

Hormones are directly related to the formation of acne. As soon as we hit puberty, our bodies are flooded with sex hormones that physically mature us into adults. There are two main types of hormones responsible for this: male and female sex hormones. Despite their names, both sexes possess certain levels of both hormones. Male hormones, called androgens, help develop the sex organs in men and are converted into estrogen for women.

Androgens are also responsible for hormone-related acne. This group of male sex hormones stimulates the sebaceous glands to secrete more oil, which leaves the skin more vulnerable to clogged pores. As adults, male hormones tend to stabilize and acne disappears. Women don’t have it as easy; as their hormones fluctuate every month, they are more susceptible to acne breakouts.

Hormone related breakouts in women generally occur at the same time each month before menstruation, and they tend to reoccur in the same area (chin, jawline, cheeks, etc.), where they may sometimes manifest as cysts.

Many of us turn to at-home treatments to deal with our acne woes, but this can make things worse. Some women swear by using hydrogen peroxide for acne; according to the experts at BioClarity, this solution can actually further damage your skin. Others utilize harsh scrubs to peel off painful pimples. Instead of damaging your skin, consider a daily skin care routine; if that doesn’t work, an underlying issue may be to blame.

Disorders that cause acne

Some women experience hormonal breakouts more so than others. This is often due to an imbalance of hormones. In women, excess androgens can be a result of thyroid issues or an increase of blood sugar in the body. The ovaries respond by expelling more unusable testosterone in the bloodstream that has nowhere to go. These free floating hormones have to go somewhere, and one of those destinations is the skin.

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome

Also known as PCOS, this term describes a condition in which ovaries develop cysts, which inhibits their ability to produce the right amount of hormones. This is one of the most common causes of hormonal imbalance in women before menopause, and can often lead to acne. Other symptoms of PCOS include infertility, infrequent or absent periods, excess hair growth, and weight gain. Those with PCOS have a higher sensitivity to insulin and are more likely than others to develop type II diabetes.


You may already know that diets high in sugar and processed foods contribute to acne. Those with diabetes are more sensitive to sugar than others, so they have a much higher likelihood of developing acne.

What you can do

If you’ve tried at-home acne treatments and none have worked, talk to your doctor to test if you have irregular levels of androgens. He or she will perform a series of tests including a blood test and ultra sound to determine if you have PCOS. This may be the cause of your acne, and it’s usually treatable. If you have PCOS, your gynecologist will prescribe hormonal birth control to help stabilize your menstrual cycle and help you regulate the amount of androgens in your body. Fertility issues are common with PCOS, so if you seek to get pregnant, fertility specialists will help you get started.

If you’re a woman with frequent breakouts, always seek a doctor’s help before trying at-home acne-cures. Contact your gynecologist or endocrinologist to find out the cause of your acne. If your hormones are normal, seek further help from a dermatologist.

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