Understanding Acne

Acne by its very nature can be considered a hormonal disease. Hormones are responsible for the maturation of the oil glands in our skin and only once matured do these glands develop the capability of becoming acne lesions. This is why children do not experience acne. While it is not known exactly how hormones affect acne, we do know that the skin is a target for hormones and can even produce hormones itself. Adult acne typically shows up on the jaw, chin and neck, as opposed to the forehead, cheeks and nose.

The Cause


Doctors and researchers find that increased androgen (male hormones) levels in both males and females can result in acne. Either the oil surplus created by androgen’s or some yet unknown reason seems to be instrumental in clogging hair follicles where bacteria grows and causes acne pimples and blemishes to form.


Acne in women ebbs and flows more cyclically due to monthly menstruation. We can also see the effects of estrogen levels on acne during pregnancy and to a lesser degree, menopause. Doctors sometimes prescribe low-dose birth control pills to women to help regulate hormone levels and reduce acne symptoms. Doctors sometimes also prescribe androgen receptor blockers but there is less evidence of their efficacy at this time. Women can experience an acne flare-up or even acne for the first time in their lives in their 20s or even their 30s. It’s prudent to find an endocrinologist (hormone specialist MD) to ensure hormones are within acceptable levels. If levels are within an acceptable range, proper topical treatment is most often sufficient.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommend considering these factors when treating in acne in women;

  • Therapy must be tailored to the patient’s specific type and severity of acne: mild, moderate or severe.
  • Pregnancy considerations must be taken into account when prescribing acne medications because several oral and topical medications should not be used when trying to conceive or during pregnancy.
  • Adult women may be more likely to have dry skin as they get older, and topical acne medications may cause more skin irritation in patients with dry skin.
  • Some adult women with acne also may show signs of rosacea (another common skin condition characterized by redness and inflammation), which would make some topical acne medications harder to tolerate.