Skin Care Routine for Hormonal Acne
If you suffer from acne, it’s likely you have oily skin. Oil, called sebum, is produced by the sebaceous glands, which are attached to pores. When your body produces high levels of hormones, it sends a signal to the oil glands to release more sebum. The onset of acne, which can be affected by hormonal fluctuations, can begin at the age of 11, according to the National Institutes of Health, and persist well into your 40s and beyond.
What is Hormonal Acne?
Androgens are the main culprit in the formation of hormonal acne, explains Geoffrey Redmond, MD, director of the Hormone Help Center in New York. Androgens are comprised of a group of hormones, the most important of which is testosterone. While testosterone is typically known as a male hormone, women's bodies do have about a tenth of the amount of testosterone that males have.
Testosterone stimulates the sebaceous glands and chokes the pore, thereby trapping the oil, dead skin cells and bacteria inside the hair follicle. The trapped bacteria produce a chemical that irritates the pore and triggers the immune system. While the immune system fights off the bacteria, it also causes the lesion to swell and fill with pus.
If your acne is moderate to severe, Dr. Redmond suggests having hormonal testing. Your doctor will check your androgen levels. Clues that your acne is hormone related is if you have irregular periods, increased hair growth or unexplained weight gain or loss.
Benzoyl peroxide 2.5 percent will kill the bacteria that gets trapped in blocked pores and cause inflamed lesions to develop. Salicylic acid will slow the cells inside the hair follicle from shedding. Alpha hydroxy acid reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of new skin. Daniel Kern of Acne.org explains that 10 percent topical alpha hydroxy acid can stop the formation of a pimple in its tracks.
It’s recommended to start an acne-treatment routine with over-the-counter medications. If after four to six weeks you do not see any improvement, Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic, suggests talking to your doctor about taking an oral contraceptive.
Currently, there are three birth control pills approved by the FDA for the treatment of acne in women, including Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep and Yaz. Oral contraceptives target and reduce sebum production. Dr. Gibson also recommends using contraceptives to treat acne along with other acne-fighting medications, such as benzoyl peroxide.
Anti-inflammatories are a relatively new treatment for hormonal acne according to Jenny Kim, M. D., associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Controlled-release doxycycline can be used to reduce redness and swelling associated with breakouts. The American Academy of Dermatology, AAD, reports that doxycycline can be especially effective in the treatment of acne. Another anti-inflammatory, minocycline, helps in the treatment of acne that has not responded to other oral antibiotics, according to the AAD.
How a Routine Helps
Between taking an oral contraceptive, an anti-inflammatory and treating your skin with over-the-counter acne medications on a daily basis, you should see an improvement in your complexion after just a few weeks. The AAD suggests washing your skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser.
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