Acne Series: What is hormonal acne?

For the final installment of my acne series, I’m going to cover the confusing topic of hormonal acne.

In my recent acne web chat, nearly every other question was about hormonal acne. Let me start by saying that as much as I wish it was, this is by no means a one-size-fits all guide.

Hormonal acne is notoriously difficult to manage, but as with all unpredictable skin conditions, the more you know about it the better you can deal with it.

What is hormonal acne?

Quite simply, hormonal acne is caused by a fluctuation or imbalance in your hormone levels (rather than by poor cleansing or a reaction to a product for example).

Balancing hormones is like walking a particularly thin tightrope, and anything from what we eat, to how we feel can have an impact on their levels.

What affects your hormones?

There are obvious things that cause fluctuations in our hormones, like the time of the month for example.

However, if your hormones are already imbalanced or delicately tuned, then other factors may also have an effect on you.

The main hormone-disrupting culprits are…


Stress is a big one. When we’re stressed or have continually high stress levels, our bodies are flooded with high levels of cortisol.

Long term, cortisol causes inflammation in the body which can worsen unpredictable skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis and urticaria.

Short term, heightened levels of cortisol can cause fluctuations and spikes in hormone production – all of which shows up on your skin.

There’s more information on what stress does to the body and skin here.


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re serious about sorting out your hormonal acne, the refined sugar has got to go.

Too much can increase oestrogen production – a hormone which directly influences your sebum production. Simply put, excess sugar can equal excess oil, leading to congestion and breakouts.


Lots of people find quitting or scaling back their dairy intake can really help acne-prone problem skin.

Milk and other dairy products can cause hormonal imbalances that stimulate the overproduction of sebum, leading to blocked pores and congestion.

There’s more information here, but a word of warning – don’t fully eliminate anything vital, like dairy from your diet until you speak to your doctor or naturopath.

The contraceptive pill

The pill, or more specifically coming off the pill – is the biggest and baddest culprit when it comes to upsetting your hormone balance.

In the most basic terms, when you are taking the contraceptive pill your hormone levels are controlled to prevent pregnancy.

When you stop taking the pill, the carefully maintained hormone levels are thrown off balance – and these disruptions play out on your skin.

I hear from so many people who have gone through, or are going through a tough time after coming off the pill. Unfortunately for most people it’s a case of waiting until things settle down, which can take anything from a couple of months to a couple of years.

There’s more information here, but I’d strongly advise seeking advice from a naturopath or doctor if you think this could be a factor in your skin troubles.

How can products help?

No topical product will ‘fix’ hormonal acne.

To clear it up you really need to get to the root of the problem – however, having a great basic regime in place will help to keep skin as healthy as possible.

Cleansing is key – you can watch me talk all about it here, or read a little more about why cleansing should be the first thing you address with problem skin here.

Sticking to an alcohol and artificial fragrance-free moisturiser will also help keep skin comfortable and hydrated, without feeling heavy or blocking pores.

Our new Copaiba & Zinc Perfect Balance Blemish Serum is brilliant for angry, unpredictable skin. It contains a triple action anti-acne complex which actively targets spots to reduce inflammation, redness and bacteria, and can also be used as an on-the-spot target treatment.

Finally, remember it can take a long time to heal and balance skin so try not too get down-heartened or be impatient.

Work with your skin and pay attention to your diet, lifestyle and general wellbeing – you should begin to see an improvement.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my series of acne posts! You can read the previous posts here, here and here, and remember if you ever need any personalised advice, you can contact our amazing Customer Service team on