Your hormones affect your skin

One of the biggest culprits of acne is fluctuations in your hormones.

Across a variety of ages, hormones and hormonal imbalances can lead to detrimental effects on our skin. Read more about how your acne can vary as you age here.

For women, acne usually appears in the later stages of the menstrual cycle, so a week before or even during your period.

It can also appear after starting a new form of birth control, hormone replacement therapy through menopause, or as a result of fluctuating hormones and conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Androgens (male sex hormones) can fluctuate in level when compounded with stress, fatigue and lack of skin care.

Androgens are the worst perpetrators for causing bad skin because they stimulate the growth of the sebaceous glands and increase sebum levels, making skin oily and causing severe congestion (known as hyperkeratinization).

This condition means dead skin cells don’t slough off naturally and instead clog the skin’s pores.

Cue the entry of bacteria and acne appears as the star of the show.

The 4 stages of hormonal acne development

When increases in testosterone or estrogen occur, this increases the production of sebum (oily or waxy matter that lubricates and waterproofs the skin and hair) at the base of the hair follicle. Over-cleaning the skin, over-exfoliation, or use of astringent cleansers can also lead to the sebum gland overproducing sebum as these actions send the wrong message to the skin that its over dry. Unlike teenage skin, where cells are being actively renewed causing the greasy appearance due to the increased sebum, with dry, mature skin, the sebum gland produces too much sebum to compensate for the skin’s dryness.
Too much sebum results in the hair follicle becoming blocked (clogged pores). Excessive cleaning of the blocked pores then causes the sebum gland to produce more sebum and the pores block again. This means gentle cleaning is critical.
Over-cleaned skin and pores blocked with sebum unbalance your skin’s microflora (your unique mix of good and bad bacteria) as the bad bacteria is fed by the sebum. This results in what is effectively skin infection.
The immune system then reacts to the bacteria imbalance and tries to counter the bad bacteria by turning on defense pathways, which can result in an allergenic response on the skin’s surface and pimples appear. If infection worsens, then a full-blown immune system response occurs and the skin becomes inflamed, hair follicles are blocked, the site contains pus and the sebum gland produces even more sebum creating a severe outbreak.

Why anti-biotics don’t work for hormonal acne long term

Some of you might have been prescribed antibiotics to kill the acne-creating bacteria, but this also kills the good bacteria, leaving the acne sufferer with no defense against the next bacterial attack.

On top of this, the use of alcohol-based astringents open the pores, clear the blockage but leave the skin dry and inflame pores.

This can take you frustratingly back to step one of the acne cycle.

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