According to dermatologists, acne has been closely linked to hormones and the hormonal changes that happen within your body. In actualization, testosterone is identified as the main cause of acne development. According to the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology), testosterone stimulates the activity of oil glands which creates oilier skin which can cause frequent acne breakouts. Testosterone is an androgen hormone, which means that it is a hormone released from the adrenal glands, which are the ovaries and the testes. Although testosterone is thought to be only a male hormone, it is present in both men and women.
When teenagers go through puberty, there is a large increase in the androgen hormones which causes a quick eruption of acne during adolescence. Even though testosterone is present in both males and females, but as everyone knows, it is a lot more prominent in males. This is why it always seems that while both men and women get acne, males always seem to get it worse and have it last longer.
Testosterone will also impact adult acne specifically more in adult women. When the female body lacks estrogen (which is the typical female hormone), there is usually an increase of testosterone production. This trade of decreased estrogen and rising testosterone occurs most of the time during ovulation and menstruation, pregnancy, premenopause, menopause and can also be affected by certain birth control medications. It is these periods in an adult woman’s life that they can develop, or have worsening, acne breakouts. There are also certain conditions like polycystic ovary disease which can stimulate the production of testosterone which increases acne activity. As well, certain medications including steroids and birth control drugs can affect hormonal production.
Treating Hormonal Acne During Pregnancy
Acne flare ups are quite common during pregnancy even if the woman’s skin has been clear for many years beforehand. This is because acne during pregnancy is caused by the hormonal fluctuations that occur within their body. It has been reported that the acne usually becomes its worst during the second trimester and tends to improve over time. For most women, the acne can start clearing up after delivery; however, it is also common for the acne to stick around longer if the mother is breastfeeding.
The first line of defense to keeping your skin healthy is to cleanse the face every morning and evening with a gentle face wash such as Dove or Neutrogena. You should avoid toners and astringents as they can irritate the skin. During pregnancy, the skin can become more sensitive so any skin care products you use should be mild and should be followed up with a light moisturizing cream. If the acne becomes worse, there may be a felt need for acne treatment medication. This is where it gets tricky because you need to be wary of the possible side effects of the medication for the baby.
There are a few recommended treatments for treating acne during pregnancy. The first recommended treatment is the use of benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient found in most acne treatment products. To get the most out of your benzoyl treatment, it is recommended that you use a moisturizer with it as it will dry out your skin and may leave it dry and flaky. You should also keep it away from clothing and hair because it acts like mild bleach and will discolor pretty much anything it touches. When using benzoyl peroxide, it is important to wear sunscreen because it can increase your photosensitivity, or your sensitivity to the sun. It is also important to note that you should not use benzoyl peroxide with any other acne medications. It can cause severe redness, drying, peeling and flaking. It can also counterbalance the effects of the benzoyl by cancelling the treatment effects.
Another recommended product is an antibiotic called erythromycin which is used to treat inflammatory acne. Topical erythromycin comes in different forms such as a lotion, gel, toner-like solutions and pledgets which are small pads soaked in a medicated solution; they are similar to Stridex pads. You can only get erythromycin through a prescription. Before using these treatments or any others during pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor.
It is important to talk to your doctor because there are plenty of treatments that should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers as they can damage a developing child. It is important to let your dermatologist know if you are pregnant when you are trying to be treated for acne.
Avoided treatments include:
Accutane (isotretnoin): Isotretinoin has been linked to severe birth defects in babies whose mothers had taken this drug while pregnant. It can also increase the chances of experiencing a miscarriage.
Topical Retinoids: Mothers who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using Differin (adapalene), Tazorac (tazarotene) and Retin-A (tretinoin). The effects of retinoids on a developing fetus have not been thoroughly studied so anything can happen on that degree.
Tetracycline: Oral tetracycline and also its derivatives of doxycycline and minocycline can interfere with the normal growth of bones as well as discolored teeth in a developing child.
This list is not comprehensive of all the different treatments to avoid when treating acne due to pregnancy. As stated, it is highly important to always talk to your doctor and dermatologist so they can go over the best and safest ways to treat your acne and make sure not to endanger your developing child.
Remedies and Treatments for Hormonal Acne: No Birth Control
There is a drug that is circulating called Spironolactone that is being used in the treatment of hormonal acne. Originally, this product is used to treat patients who are suffering from high blood pressure, but it has been proven to help with hormone-induced acne. It works by blocking the body’s hormone receptors from picking up the hormone signals sent out by the androgen hormone. Androgens are primarily male hormones but every woman has a little bit of the hormone in their body as well. When levels of androgen reach a certain point, hormonal acne starts to become a problem. Spironolactone prevents the body from absorbing the hormone and stops the hormone from spreading. It doesn’t work for common acne problems but it is an effective solution to help combat the production of acne caused by the imbalance of hormones in one’s body.
There are also a lot of natural treatments that clear up not only common acne but help with clearing up hormonal acne as well.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids: When looking up ways on how to clear up acne, you will come across a lot of people talking about using alpha hydroxy acids. This is because it is one of the most common and effective ways to clear up any sort of acne. AHA’s naturally come from citrus and are some of the best acids that you can apply to your skin. They can be applied topically, keep your pores free of clogs, help reduce redness and kill off the acne causing bacteria. A little bit of caution; remember that AHA’s are mild acids and some side effects can be stinging, redness and mild irritation.
Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is one of the best natural acne treatments that is available on the market today. It is also known as one of the most powerful antiseptic agents that can be found in nature. A tea tree oil solution of just 5% can be just as effective as a benzoyl peroxide treatment. It is not as quick as other solutions to kill off the bacteria but it is a more natural way to help treat acne.
Azelaic Acid: This is an acid that is found in whole grains, as well as certain animal products. It is a powerful antibacterial agent. A solution made with a 20% make up of Azelaic acid can also be just as effective as most OTC (Over-the-Counter) treatments. It is also a good alternative to other chemical treatments.
Zinc: Zinc is taken in the form of supplements if you cannot easily get zinc into your regular diet. Zinc helps to promote the healing of wounds and reduces swelling both which are caused by acne. If you take a supplement with your daily meals, you will be giving your body the nutrients it needs to combat the acne damage.
Although hormonal acne seems to affect women more, it can affect men just as well. It’s a funny turnaround that when we are young, men seem to have the worse acne but as we get older, it seems that women seem to have worse off. Either way, a lot of these treatments work for both men and women regardless of age but depending on different circumstances, one must always be careful of all the different side effects that can be attributed to the different medications and treatments. So it is important to always talk to your doctor to figure out the best ways to help treat your acne problems.