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Image of beads to represent hormonal acne

Hormonal acne - and how to treat breakouts on your jawline and chin

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Belkais Marwan from Derma Premier Skin Clinic

The idea that only teenagers have acne is a myth. Half of people in their 20s experience acne, as do a quarter of those in their 40s.

There are various types of the skin condition too – and in many cases, hormonal acne can be the cause. But what is it? And what can you do about it?

What causes hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne is similar to regular acne – but is generally caused by fluctuations with our hormones, and often associated with acne breakouts specifically on the chin and jawline.

Increases in hormones within the body, such as testosterone, can lead to excess production of an oil known as sebum, which comes from the sebaceous glands. These glands are attached to our hair follicles, and when they produce too much sebum it can block these follicles and clog the pores in our skin, leading to breakouts of acne.

Who tends to get it?

Hormonal acne tends to affect teenagers going through puberty, and adult women experiencing sudden hormonal shifts.

In teenagers

Puberty sees young people develop high levels of the hormone testosterone, which causes the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and produce more oil. Teens typically get outbreaks around the so-called ‘T-Zone’ – the forehead and nose – as well as experiencing acne on the chin.

In women

Adult women can also experience hormonal acne. Pregnancy may be a trigger, especially during the first trimester. Your body will be creating more of the hormone androgen, which causes more sebum to be produced – potentially leading to those oily, blocked pores. Flare-ups can also occur just before your period.

On the jawline

Acne on the jawline is a classic symptom of hormonal acne. This will generally look like the traditional kind – with blackheads, whiteheads and pimples, for example – but the location of the outbreaks usually sets them apart.

Acne under skin

Cysts which develop beneath the skin’s surface are another potential sign of hormonal acne. In this case, bumps swell beneath the skin but never break through its surface.

Arab woman's face to represent acne on chin

Hormonal acne treatments

There are various options for dealing with the condition, ranging from prescription-strength creams to cosmetic procedures.

Retinoids

Retinoids are topical creams derived from vitamin A. You may be more familiar with retinoids as an anti-ageing treatment, but they’re also highly effective at treating acne.

To get the best results for acne you’ll need a stronger, prescription retinoid rather than an over-the-counter cream like retinol. Speak to your doctor and see what they suggest.

Chemical peels

A variety of chemical peels can be effective at reducing the impact of hormonal acne, as well as helping to rejuvenate the skin. Phenol and retinol peels can really penetrate deep for impressive results, while salicylic acid is especially effective at clearing sebum from clogged pores. Always seek out a clinical treatment for professional application.

BHAs

BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) are a regular feature of many people’s skincare regime. As a liquid exfoliant, they provide a great alternative to manual scrubs and brushes.

BHAs also include salicylic acid, which soaks deep into your skin’s pores to clear out excess sebum. Be careful not to not overuse the treatment, as it can damage your skin if applied too frequently.

Microneedling

Microneedling can be used as a treatment for the after-effects of a breakout, if you have been left with visible scars. It helps rejuvenate the skin by rolling extra fine needles over its surface.

The clever thing about it is that it effectively ‘tricks’ your skin to believe it’s suffered an injury. It then gets to work building new, healthy skin cells.

RF microneedling offers an additional and increasingly popular option too, applying radio-frequency waves even deeper into the skin, and acting as an effective collagen induction therapy.

Laser treatments

Laser skin resurfacing can also be used to treat acne outbreaks or scarring. Fractional lasers use a beam that splits into numerous smaller beams, which can then each target a different point on the outermost layer of skin.

Side view of an Arab woman's face and jawline to represent acne on jawline

Hormonal acne facts

  • Ancient Egyptian pharaohs were known for their clear skin, so it’s no surprise they pioneered treatments as early as 1300 BC. Patchouli, a plant from the mint family, can help balance hormone levels, and was often used.

  • By the Middle Ages – and the Court of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell in England – women were using black velvet patches to disguise their breakouts. As with many things, these patches soon became a fashion statement.

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