We've all heard the "it's just puberty, you'll grow out of it eventually" line delivered to us multiple times. Well Karen, how can you explain the fact that I am in my mid twenties and still breaking out then?

It can feel extra exhausting and frustrating when acne seems to hang around way beyond your teens. We've collated all of the info on hormonal acne so that you can understand why you don't necessarily grow out of acne has you get older. Sorry to break it to you bestie!

So what exactly is hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne, also commonly referred to as adult acne, typically affects adults aged between 20 and 50. The majority of those people who suffer from adult acne are women. Hormonal acne is often caused by excess sebum, which in itself is triggered by hormonal changes in your body. That is why it is likely you will see your breakouts occurring at the same time every month, in line with your menstrual cycle! The excess oil produced by these hormonal fluctuations interact with bacteria in the pores of your skin and basically form the perfect breeding ground for clogged pores and inflamed acne. Yikes!

What causes hormonal acne?

Believe it or not, male hormones could be causing your hormonal acne. HA, sounds about right!

As a woman, you have small amounts of male hormones such as testosterone circulating throughout your body. Hormonal acne occurs when your body produces more androgens (male hormones such as testosterone) than it needs. And most of the time, this coincides with the timing of your period. FUN!

Conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can also cause an overproduction of androgens and in turn lead to hormonal acne.

Hormonal acne often develops in the below 4 steps:

  1. Hormonal fluctuation results in higher androgen production which in turn creates more sebum
  2. The sebum clogs hair follicles forming 'comedones' on your skin
  3. Bacteria trapped inside the comedone causes an infection, resulting in a painful and irritated pimple
  4. In response to the bacterial infection, the follicle becomes red and swollen and the pimple becomes inflamed 

Triggers of hormonal acne that you can control


If you are anything like me you may notice a difference in your skin when you are under increased stress or pressure in your work or personal life. Stress doesn't cause acne outright, but research shows that stress triggers hormonal changes that may worsen acne in people already prone to pimples. In times of stress, your stress hormones rise and trigger your oil glands to produce more oil, just in the same way we talked about before!

Finding ways to de-stress may help keep your hormonal acne at bay. Mindfulness techniques like meditation are a proven way to reduce your physical symptoms of stress. Apps like Smiling Mind are a great place to start practising some of these techniques.

Our mental health partner, ReachOut Australia, also have some amazing articles on ways to manage stress!

Lack of sleep 

Similar to stress, lack of sleep disrupts your hormones… meaning a lack of sleep can unsettle the balance of hormones in your body and trigger that same sebum production mentioned above!

If you are struggling to get a good night's sleep we recommend:

  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule that is a minimum of 8 hours per night.
  • Paying attention to what you eat before bed. Don't go to bed on a full stomach and don't have too much of things like chocolate (which actually contains caffeine!).
  • Practice night time meditations to switch off your mind before sleep.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Exercise during the day can often positively impact our sleep routine. 

Make sure you are using skincare products that are non-comedogenic

It is super important to make sure that you are not using products that are clogging your pores. As we heard above, your body is having just enough fun doing this on its own. Looking for products that are "non-comedogenic " is important. A non-comedogenic product is one that has been specifically formulated so that it does not block or clog pores.

We would also recommend avoiding products with that are heavy in oils. We find that adding too much extra oil doesn't help with clogged pores, especially at that time of the month. Look for oil free products if you are prone to getting hormonal acne.


To work out what products from the tbh Skincare range will work best for your skin, take our skin quiz here.