Deep, persistent pimples on your chin and along your jawline? Sometimes so bad you could call it a “pimple beard”??
There is some truth to that – hormonal acne and pimples are caused by “male” hormones. So they appear on the male area of the face: chin, jawline, and sometimes the neck. Ironically (or not) hormonal acne is mainly a female problem.
This article will look at why this is, the causes, and what you can do about it.
Hormonal Acne and Pimples: Who Suffers and Why
Teenage acne sucks. Badly. But most of us get through it by just sticking it out if nothing works.
Then, if you’re hit with acne in your twenties, thirties, forties, even fifties… it’s like a really bad joke. Even if you were lucky enough to avoid the trauma of teenage acne, you could find yourself dealing with problem skin later.
While men do suffer from acne as adults, it is usually not so much a hormonal problem. And men generally don’t get the deep cysts that women do.
So, this article is geared towards women battling hormonal acne. (For our men, this is not to say you don’t also suffer with acne, please see these articles for help!)
Never-Ending Cysts, Painful Pimples, Enlarged Pores – oh my!
Hormonal acne seems never-ending. Just when you think one deep pimple is clearing, another one starts brewing underneath your skin! Often they can appear in “patches” of two or three at a time. Some don’t even make it to the surface – they just linger painfully for days (or weeks), and can distort your chin or jawline!
You cannot squeeze these suckers. If you’ve ever tried – we all have – you’ll know this just leads to a really painful mess that can bruise and scar.
There are things you can do to either stop the pimple/cyst from forming, or at least lesson its lifespan. We’ll look at these tips below. But first, the important thing is what you can do to control hormonal acne altogether: i.e. treat the condition, not the symptoms…
What to do About Hormonal Acne
1. Birth Control/Contraceptive Causes and Cures
The Mirena and other IUD’s
The Mirena works by delivering a small amount of progesterone locally (just how local this is is debatable – everything is connected in our bodies right?). The hormone progestin is an androgen (male hormone), and when there is excess of it in the body converts into a form of testosterone.
Now, testosterone is important and natural for women too! But an excess is known to contribute to acne. This is especially true if you are prone to acne in the first place.
Is the only solution to take out the IUD?!
Remember this is something to always discuss with your doctor. However:
It may be worth taking out the IUD and trying another method of birth control – or a copper IUD which is non-hormonal. This can clear your skin reasonably quickly. But it isn’t the only solution:
- If your acne developed later in your IUD experience – i.e. a couple of years after getting it – it may be time to “change it”. For example, the Mirena is good for five years. If your acne develops at the 4 year mark, it may improve after you get a new one in.
- Talk to your doctor about Spironolactone. This medication was originally developed for blood pressure, and is used off label for treating hormonal acne. It can be really really successful in clearing up skin (and increasing hair growth – but that’s another article!)
- Other factors – sometimes hormonal acne can be exasperated by stress, illness and diet. We’ll look at these below.
I had terrible acne as a teenager. Then when I started the contraceptive pill it seemed to clear up over night. But deciding to come off the pill a decade later …. it was like an instant volcano on my chin 🙁
The pimples did not stop for about three months. It was incredibly frustrating and my confidence took a hit (this was also while I was working in a high-end spa, so I was really reeeeeally self-conscious). After a few months my skin “settled down” – likely in line with my hormones doing the same.
Your Mileage May Vary
You could be experiencing the exact same thing. Have you come off the pill or other birth control recently? It may take a while for your body to settle. In the mean time, do what you can by following the skin care tips below.
Or – the pill may contribute to your hormonal acne. Birth control can be trial and error. Try to take note of when your skin changed (keeping a simple “skin diary” can be really helpful), and speak to your doctor about trying another type if needed.
Experiencing acne around menopause is very common. Often the breakouts are more around the chin than jawline, and they can be really deep. Many women experience hormonal acne in the beginning, and then their skin clears up naturally after a few months to a year.
Hormonal replacement therapy can help. Supplements like evening primrose oil can also help to at least reduce the severity of breakouts. Speak to your doctor about these options.
3. Other Causes of Hormonal Acne: Stress, Illness, General
Low-lying, chronic stress can affect your hormones. This in turn can affect your skin. But because this type of stress isn’t “obvious”, it may become normal… The link between stress and skin is often overlooked.
Have you ever gone through a long stressful period, only to realize a month or two after that your skin is starting to clear up? A high pressure period of exams at college, a big project at work, or relationship troubles, can all cause your skin to flare up.
Ok – but what you can do about it?!
Stress is unavoidable. But thinking in terms of looking after your body rather than trying to defeat the stress itself can be easier. That way you just take actions, and don’t stress out about trying to decrease the stress!
- Sleep just can’t be reckoned with. You might be surprised at what a difference taking sleep seriously can make to your skin and life. Of course, it ain’t always easy getting sleep when stressed! Taking magnesium at night time, meditating for 10mins before bed, and making sure you are in bed for enough hours are very helpful.
- Eat enough protein – this will keep your blood sugar stable. This in turn prevents cravings for sugar and junk, which only throw you into sugar highs and crashes – contributing to stress. The right food can have a really calming effect on your body and mind. Easier said than done? Absolutely 🙁 Check out this book for a different, interesting take on eating.
Skin Care Tips to Help Hormonal Acne
Hormonal acne might come from the “inside” – hence the painful feeling of those pimples brewing under your skin. But you can still make a difference by using the right products and a few tips.
1. Salicylic and Glycolic Acids:
These chemical exfoliants are your skins best friends. They help to control acne by dissolving oil and dead skin cells, both of which make up the ingredients of pimples. Further, they have great anti aging benefits (especially glycolic acid) like smoothing fine lines and evening out pigmentation.
2. Use ICE as soon as you feel a pimple or cyst!
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – you can feel these deep cysts long before you can see them. Sometimes they can be a mild red area on your chin or jaw. But if you press on them, look out!
As soon as you possibly can, hold ice wrapped in a paper towel against the area. This will lessen the swelling/size of the pimple. Sometimes, if done often enough (10mins on, 10mins off, several times), it can prevent that cyst from getting any bigger!
3. At Home Lasers – a surprising trick
Home lasers, such as the Tria Age Defying (fraxel) Laser, can help control acne. They don’t state this of course, these devices are designed and marketed for aging concerns like fine lines and dull skin.
But, a nice “side benefit” of using this laser is its ability to clear up your skin. They retail for a few hundred, so it is definitely an investment. However, the anti aging results are real, and the added clear skin results are awesome! Check out Tria’s website for more.
Hormonal Pimples and Acne Suck – but you can take control
Hopefully this page has helped you with some options for treating hormonal acne. The problem, of course, is that it is a condition that comes from within. This makes it incredibly frustrating.
Thankfully though, once you hit on what works for you it usually works really well – your skin clears up completely! So don’t give up, try the above, talk to your doctor, and good luck!
Have you experienced hormonal acne? Let us know in the comments below!