Updated: Feb 23, 2021
By Abigail Kor
While we’d all love to leave pimples and blemishes behind once we exit our teen
years, the reality is that flare-ups in the form of hormonal acne can happen well into
adulthood. In this article, we suggest 3 ways that hormonal acne can be managed
What is hormonal acne?
Hormonal acne is acne that is tied to hormonal changes, especially a rise in
androgens such as testosterone. A rise in androgen levels can increase sebum
production and cause thickening of the skin, leading to blocked pores and breakouts.
Hormonal acne typically forms on the lower part of your face, e.g. on the chin, around
the jaw line and bottom of the cheeks. This is because hormonal fluctuations
stimulate the oil glands, many of which are found in the lower part of the face.
Hormonal acne can often manifest as painful cysts, which are deeply embedded and
tender to the touch.
Those suffering from hormonal acne may find topical treatments of little help as these
do not address the underlying hormonal fluctuations that cause the acne. In general,
it is advisable to consult a dermatologist if you have deep, cystic acne to determine if
they are caused by conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or
thyroid issues which require medical attention. Making dietary changes would form
part of a holistic approach to tackle hormonal acne from the inside out.
1) Reduce high GI foods
One way to tackle hormonal acne is through eliminating food with a high glycemic
index (GI). The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods depending on how slowly
or quickly those foods raise your blood sugar level. Examples of high GI foods are
white bread, white rice, white potatoes, boxed cereal, sweetened baked goods and
There is growing evidence showing a link between eating high GI foods and
hormonal acne. When your blood sugar spikes quickly, it causes the body to secrete
a hormone called insulin. Having excess insulin in your blood can increase sebum
production, contributing to the formation of acne. Research also shows that high GI
foods can cause inflammation, which plays a role in acne.
Therefore, if you are struggling with acne, do consider reducing your consumption of
high GI foods. This will not only help your complexion but also improve your overall
2) Cut down on dairy, especially skim
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology, people who consume a lot of skim or low-fat milk also tended to have
acne. Surprisingly, researchers found that wasn’t the case for people who consumed
One theory hypothesizes that this could be because the process of removing fat from
milk also strips away some of the healthy components, particularly health fatty acids .
Vitamins A and D are also removed and then put back into skim milk. However,
these vitamins may not be absorbed as well without the presence of fat. As a result,