My Five-Year Ongoing Struggle With Hormonal Acne
Hormonal acne is something that affects many women globally, and sometimes its appearance or cause can be hard to read or even understand. Put simply, hormonal acne is spots and blemishes that surface on the skin as a result of fluctuations or imbalances in our hormones. According to Healthline, it is estimated that “50 percent of women aged 20 to 29 have acne”, with most individuals affected along the lower cheeks and jawline area of the face. However, its characteristics can appear differently depending on the root cause of the acne itself. Many of us experience whiteheads, textured areas or even painful cysts, not only on the face but also commonly on the chest and back.
For the majority of women hormonal acne is triggered by menstruation, which can lead to spells of poor mental health and bouts of depression regarding appearance. For many women, like myself, hormonal acne begins within the teen years as our bodies go through a number of changes. However older women, many of whom may be in their 40s and 50s, are not immune and may struggle with hormonal acne largely due to the menopause.
For myself, hormonal acne was something that came into my life at the age of 14 and largely stuck with me throughout my teen years and continues now as I head into my twenties. I won’t shy away from how low my skin made me feel for a number of years, as battling acne whilst growing up at school certainly wasn’t easy. Learning to debunk acne myths at a young age was something that I was keen to do; knowing that hormonal acne is not the result of poor hygiene or greasy foods, despite that being the opinion of a number of individuals. Although I was aware of this, I still despised its appearance when looking in the mirror, and after convincing my mum I needed to see a doctor, I soon became aware of what my options really were.
For many of us who may have researched or struggled with acne, the traditional treatments are quite easy to come across in a quick internet search. Largely, they consist of oral contraceptives in an attempt to rebalance hormones, or topical treatments, many of which involve drying the blemishes out through the use of harsh chemicals. At the age of 15 I was referred to a dermatologist by my GP who suggested the drug ‘Accutane’, although it has worked wonders for many, it was something I simply couldn’t see myself committing to.
Around five years later, I still struggle with hormonal acne. Although five years may seem a rather long time to have dealt with the same issue, I have certainly found my own ways to cope. Some of this has been product related, but overwhelmingly, a large part of this has been focusing on my own mental health and surrounding myself with positive influences.
When stepping away from medications, there are certain ingredients that have been proven to reduce sebum production (an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands to lubricate the hair and skin), as, according to the NHS, excess sebum can form ‘a plug in the follicle’ which ultimately leads to the production of whiteheads. Both salicylic acid and niacinamide based solutions have helped me and many others with overall skin health. Another popular treatment is tea tree oil which has been proven to decrease inflammation and soothe the skin. Although maintaining a good skin-care regime is something that is vital to the overall health of your skin, finding a singular product to banish acne is something that can take many years of trial and error, and copious amounts of money.
In a way, the ability to not find a holy grail product that banished all of my problems became a huge blessing. I began to surround myself, particularly on social media, with those who were going through the same issues as myself. Although social media can certainly have its flaws, there is a huge acne positive community out there, and I would encourage anyone who feels they are alone or struggling to deal with their skin to actively seek out positive influences.
The statistics I mentioned earlier paint a picture of the number of women across all ages that suffer with hormonal acne. I want to encourage everyone to open up to close friends or family if you feel it is beginning to wear you down, as there are solutions whether they be medicinal treatments, or simply a change of mindset. I’m not sure how much longer acne will physically remain on my face, but I will never forget it.
Written by Maggie Gannon