Hormonal skin is a common experience. It's something that can occur at any age and can last for any amount of time. But what is it exactly, and why does it happen?
As your hormones change, so does your skin. Board-certified Dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology Marisa Garshick, MD, explains this common condition: "[It] refers to the changes our skin experiences as a result of hormones and can be impacted by levels of estrogen, progesterone, and androgens. It can fluctuate as we age and as the levels of hormones change."
Hormonal skin generally occurs during four specific life stages: teenage/adolescent years, adulthood, pregnancy, and menopause. At each stage, your hormones can elevate or lower, causing specific skin concerns. To understand what goes on, Dr. Garshick breaks down each life stage affected by your hormones and how to develop a skin care routine for those specific concerns.
For Teenagers and Adolescents
During puberty, sebum production increases due to elevated hormone levels. Teenagers, then, often experience acne breakouts and changes to their skin type, like excess oil or extreme dryness.
Dr. Garshick suggests products with salicylic acid to eliminate excess oil and products with benzoyl peroxide to reduce inflammation and bacteria. She says retinoids can be helpful for teenagers too, as this ingredient helps to regulate skin cell turnover and prevent clogged pores.
Teenagers should develop a gentle and simple skin care routine and avoid overwashing or harsh scrubbing. While you do want to wash your face regularly to eliminate excess oil, overdoing it can lead to irritation. Dr. Garshick says to remember to keep skin hydrated with a moisturizer—even if your skin feels extra oily. Look for products that are oil-free and non-comedogenic. And don't forget to use sunscreen daily.
"Even as a teenager, it's a good time to start diligent sunscreen use; and this is important for all skin types," she says. "If you are oily, look for a sunscreen that won't clog the pores and is oil-free."
If you still deal with breakouts as an adult, you're not alone. Dr. Garshick says if that's the case, you'll still benefit from the ingredients you used when you were younger—benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids—to treat acne. But she also suggests asking your Dermatologist about oral medications, such as oral contraceptive pills and spironolactone, that can control hormonal levels and help target cystic acne breakouts.
You'll also want to be mindful of the cleansers you use. As you age, your skin gets drier, so look for gentle cleansers that won't strip the skin of natural oils like the EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser, which is gentle enough for all skin types. Use a moisturizer to lock in all of your products, and finish your routine with an SPF.
For Those Who Are Pregnant
Even if you've had clear skin your whole life, you may experience breakouts when you're pregnant and vice versa. Dr. Garshick explains that increased androgen levels and fluctuations in hormones will result in increased acne, and other common skin concerns, depending on the trimester.
Gentle cleansers, hydrating moisturizers, and regular sunscreen can still be used throughout your pregnancy. Dr. Garshick says that ingredients like azelaic acid and glycolic acid (in low concentrations) are considered safe to help reduce discoloration and blemishes. However, typical acne-fighting ingredients may not be safe for use while you are pregnant, so you should speak with a board-certified Dermatologist to develop the best game plan.
For Those Experiencing Menopause
Menopause often results in dry skin—and because of the hormonal shifts, you can still experience acne, too.
If you're experiencing these skin concerns, Dr. Garshick says to look for products that will help replenish moisture and support the skin barrier. Ingredients to look for include humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, ceramides to strengthen the skin, and niacinamide to reduce inflammation and redness. While retinoids help minimize the appearance of fine lines, she says to be careful as you'll want to avoid using too many active ingredients that can dry out the skin.
Hormonal skin is natural and happens to many people throughout their lives. While you can't control how much your skin changes, there are ways to treat the concerns that arise. Developing a foolproof skin care routine can help you enjoy your life at every stage.