If there’s one key skincare lesson that's most important to learn, it’s that not every product will work for everyone's skin. Similarly, not every routine, even the viral regimens made famous for their epic results on TikTok, will be able to deliver the results you’re hoping for. But one thing is certain: regardless of your skin type—from oily to sensitive to mature—all humans are susceptible to blemishes, breakouts, and varying degrees of acne. It's one of those common skin concerns that simply doesn't discriminate.
Different kinds of acne can have different root causes, but perhaps the most weighty to treat is hormonal acne. "Hormonal acne is adult female acne caused by or sensitivity to, the male kinds of hormones we as women all inherently have," says Rita Linkner, MD, FAAD. "In order to combat hormonal acne, oral medications are needed as the issue at hand is hormonal."
But how can you really know if you're dealing with hormonal acne? Consulting a trusted dermatologist to make a diagnosis is key, but in the meantime, here are some characteristics to help you identify it.
1. You're Breaking Out Along the Jawline
According to Linkner, the region of your face where acne shows up can be a good indicator of whether or not it's hormone-related. She says breakouts showing up exclusively in the lower region of the face, especially along the jawline, can likely be linked to hormonal issues. "Realistically, hormonal acne can happen whenever, but high hormonal states like pregnancy and premenopause are common instigators," she explains.
2. The Blemishes Are Cystic
If you've ever dealt with cystic acne, you know how uncomfortable the firm cysts can be. Aside from being painful, Linkner says cysts on the face can also point to hormone imbalance. "Usually, hormonal the acne type is cystic in nature," she says. While other types of blemishes might come to a head that you can eventually squeeze and expel the bacteria, hormonal acne often doesn't. "Face oils can make hormonal acne worse and should be strictly avoided," Linkner adds. "Especially tea tree oils or other essential oils."
3. Typical Acne Treatments Aren't Working
Since hormonal acne can commonly be linked to underlying internal imbalances, there's only so much you can do to treat it topically. Linkner says that in order to truly eradicate hormonal acne, oral medications are your best bet. "Isotretinoin, spironolactone, and oral contraceptive pills are the three most effective ways of treating hormonal acne," Linkner advises. "Vitamin A [via isotretinoin] resets the sebaceous oil production, spiro works on the sensitivity to testosterone at the cell receptors level, and OCPs balance the estrogen to progesterone in the blood," she adds.
But just because topical treatments can't clear hormonal acne with the same efficiency as prescription oral medications, that doesn't mean there aren't products that can help things along. Keep scrolling for the at-home skincare solutions Linkner recommends for those dealing with hormonal acne.
The Best Skincare Products for Hormonal Acne
Though we may not always be able to completely extinguish hormonal acne with topical treatments, we certainly can do a good job of keeping your skin cleansed, hydrated, and moisturized.
Shopping for acne-fighting products that will meet your skin exactly where it's at isn't an easy feat, which is why we rounded up some of the best hormonal acne skincare products on the market right now.
First up, Linkner says a foaming cleanser for both day and night is great for clearing debris from the skin and making sure the skin is primed for any actives you'll apply. She recommends this one from Rodan + Fields.
La Roche-Posay’s Foaming Gel Cleanser is a tried-and-true option for oily and acne-prone skin. This oil-free cleanser is formulated with zinc, which purifies the skin without disrupting its delicate pH balance.
This one employs a familiar acne-fighting superhero—salicylic acid—to penetrate deep into your pores to clear blackheads, whiteheads, dirt, and debris.
Tula’s foam cleanser contains salicylic acid, which is known for preventing acne and clearing up breakouts. With probiotics and superfoods as the hero ingredients, you can count on a deep clean that won't throw your skin off balance.
Since getting oil production under control is one of the main ways to treat hormonal acne topically, Linkner suggests going at it from all angles. "AHAs do an amazing job at controlling oiliness," she says. Look for ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and
malic acid. The BHA salicylic acid is also a known acne-fighter but remember: Your hormonal breakouts might not respond to typical acne treatments like you'd expect. The key here is patience.
This popular toner smoothes and brightens the skin with lactic and azelaic acids. It can certainly aid in clearing clogged pores and refining skin texture, but reviewers also call out its hyperpigmentation fading abilities.
These cult-favorite peel pads help keep pores clear, preventing acne and visibly enlarged pores via the AHAs glycolic and lactic acid. It also employs the BHA salicylic acid to further reduces pore blockages.
Linkner swears by this treatment system for anyone looking to overhaul their regimen. Each of the four components is formulated with salicylic acid and colloidal sulfur to clear breakouts. Hyaluronic acid and ceramides then deliver deep moisture.
As Linkner previously mentioned, vitamin A is great for oil control, in addition to the cell turnover and texture refinement you might want to seek out after a struggle with hormonal acne. If you're not ready to take the plunge on an oral isotretinoin prescription, you can get vitamin A in lower concentrations via over-the-counter retinol options. Just be sure to follow up with sunscreen during the day.
This cheap retinol cream is famous on Amazon. So far, it's got over 26,000 reviews.
This is about as close you can get to a prescription-strength retinoid over-the-counter. Differin’s Acne Treatment Gel is an oil-free gel that works to treat blackheads, clogged pores, redness, inflammation and also helps to prevent new blemish or breakouts from forming.
Celebrity facialist Candace Marino recently told us this potent night cream is one of her favorites for smoothing texture and fighting fine lines and wrinkles. That being said, it's not for beginners. In addition to retinoic acid (the most active form of retinol), it has glycolic acid for even more exfoliation.
It's a good idea to use a daily sunscreen all the time, but especially when you're using potent actives like acids and retinoids that can increase your skin's photosensitivity. Plus, it will help to guard against additional hyperpigmentation left behind by any old flare-ups.
There's a reason this lightweight SPF moisturizer has such a rabid fanbase.
And here's a derm-approved option that experts we've talked to never hesitate recommending to those with acne-prone skin.