How to treat hormonal acne

Have you ever wondered why you always seem to break out when something stressful happens at work? Or why your breakouts always seem to align with that time of the month? Maybe you’re just frustrated by the painful pimples that seem to be stuck just below the surface of your skin. If any of these thoughts have crossed your mind, you may be dealing with hormonal acne. We’ve compiled all the information you need to know to recognize and treat hormonal acne.

What is hormonal acne?

As you might guess by its name, hormonal acne is directly connected to fluctuations in your hormones, including progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol. For example, when you’re feeling stressed out, your body will start producing more cortisol, a stress hormone. With an escalation in the production of cortisol comes an increase in the body’s production of sebum.1 This in turn can cause those painful pimples that so many of us are familiar with.

Hormonal or nah?

There are a few different ways to figure out whether or not your break out is related to hormones. First, there’s face mapping, which connects the acne’s location to its cause. This may not be a surefire bet since everyone’s skin is unique and complex in its own way, but it’s a helpful starting place. If you’re experiencing hormonal acne, it’ll often pop up around your chin and jawline, usually in similar spots.  

Another sign you’re dealing with hormonal acne is if most of your breakouts consist of painful, cystic acne. These sorts of pimples tend to lie below the surface of your skin and don’t have the whitehead that a non-hormonal pimple might. 

If you notice that your breakouts arise when you experience stress or a fluctuation in your hormonal balances, you’re probably dealing with hormonal acne.2

How to zap those zits

To keep your breakouts under control, there are a few helpful products to include in your lineup to treat hormonal acne. 

  • Chemical exfoliants – Last week we talked all about how to incorporate chemical exfoliants into your skincare routine. Luckily, salicylic and glycolic acids are super useful when it comes to vanquishing pesky pimples since they reach deep into your skin.3
  • Retinoids – Often, people associate this skincare tool with anti-aging treatments. But adding a retinoid into your nighttime skin routine can also help prevent pore blockage and promote the regeneration of your skin cells.4
  • Moisturizer – Keeping your skin moisturized and glowing is always important, but especially when you use treatments like exfoliators and retinol. These products can take their toll on your skin if you don’t make sure to keep it nice and hydrated.

If you do notice that these topical treatments aren’t working, it may be time to talk with your dermatologist about starting on an oral medication that can help keep your hormones in check.

Treating hormonal acne goes beyond just the products you put on your skin, however. It’s essential to avoid picking at or popping your pimples. That will only make your breakout worse and can even leave dark spots behind. 

Diet can also play an important role in keeping your skin in balance. You can read our blog post about how what you eat impacts your skin here. To help keep your skin in line, it can be helpful to cut back on foods that lead to inflammation, such as processed sugar and dairy. 

How can Kura Skin help you?

You now know that those breakouts popping up once a month probably have something to do with fluctuations in your hormones, so now what? Should you start using a retinol or a chemical exfoliant? How do you know which one to choose? Or how often to apply it? What kind of moisturizer will help keep your skin dewy and protected? There seem to be a million and one different ways to treat hormonal acne.

At Kura Skin, we can help answer these questions using our data-driven and personalized approach to skincare. Just head to kuraskin.com, take a quick quiz, let us know your budget, and say goodbye to guesswork.


  1. Occasional acne, an acne variant [Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology]
  2. Hormonal treatment of acne, an update [Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology]
  3. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris [Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology]
  4.  Update in retinoid therapy of acne [Dermatological Therapy]
Emma Swislow