Acne From Hormones
Mere mention of the word "acne" often calls to mind the onset of puberty, when burgeoning hormones cause distinct physical and emotional changes as children take the first big step toward adulthood. The American Academy and Mayo Clinic experts do note a direct link between an influx of teen hormones and acne. However, long after the painful years of adolescence are behind you, hormones can continue to wreak havoc on your complexion, especially if you're a woman.
Hormones themselves don't directly cause acne; rather, it's the effect they have on the sebaceous glands in your skin. Male sex hormones called androgens increase in people of both genders when they enter puberty and in turn cause the glands to enlarge and produce more sebum (oil). Normally, oil travels through the hair follicle out through the pores to the skin's surface. But when excess oil combines with dead skin cells and bacteria, this forms a plug in the skin that allows acne lesions of various types to form.
When Acne Is Worse
Hormonal changes affect both sexes at the onset of puberty, but the National Women's Health Information Center points out that hormone-induced acne presents in boys and girls differently. While adolescent males are more likely to get severe acne, the arrival of pimples in adolescent females is linked to hormone fluctuations caused by menstruation. The National Institute of Arthritis & Muscoloskeletal & Skin Diseases indicates that acne may become worse in girls two to seven days before their period is due.
Acne & Adult Women
Most women outgrow acne by the time they are in their 30s. However, it's not uncommon for acne to persist or for women to get acne for the first time when they hit their 30s or 40s. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 50 percent of women in their 20s reported getting acne. More than 35 percent reported experiencing acne in their 30s, and more than 25 percent noted acne in their 40s. Around 15 percent of woman aged 50 and older reported acne. Again, hormones are the main culprit. Hormone fluctuations linked to the menstrual cycle continue to be a problem for some women. Others may get acne from hormonal changes caused by pregnancy or menopause. Sometimes going off of birth control pills that kept androgens in check can result in adult acne.
Women often find adult acne difficult to resolve because they have become resistant to antibiotics and other treatments used when they were teenagers. Hormonal therapies that include the use of oral contraceptives, anti-androgen medications or both may be an appropriate solution. The AAD stresses that women must be screened carefully to make sure they are good candidates for these medications. Oral contraceptives may not be appropriate for women who have had breast cancer in the past or who currently have high blood pressure, have had a heart attack or stroke or who suffer from migraines.
Other Contributing Factors
There are other factors that put certain people more at risk for acne than others. Having a family history of acne may make you more prone to getting it yourself. The NIAMS cites studies suggesting that acne in boys tends to have a genetic link. But other things can cause acne or make acne worse. These may include the use of greasy cosmetics and skin products, pollution, humidity, stress, scrubbing the skin too hard during cleansing, manually picking at acne lesions, and wearing garments, accessories and sports equipment (such as helmets) that press directly against the skin.
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