Women, Hormones & Acne

Women, Hormones & Acne

At this point, we can now attribute adult onset acne to hormones. If you missed the previous post explaining why adult women break out, you can read all about it here!

Now that we know the cause, let’s take a more in-depth look into what these hormonal changes actually mean.

First up—sex hormones.

Think puberty. Remember those days? Or maybe you’ve tried to forget them. During this inevitable stage of life, teenagers go through both physical and emotional changes (and a lot of them).

The obvious ones? The physical. These outward changes in the skin begin with an increased production of androgen hormones, mainly testosterone and androstenedione. Even though these hormones are typically associated with male characteristics, both girls and boys produce higher levels of them throughout puberty.

As their bodies make more androgen hormones, their skin changes in three different ways which include the following:

  • An increased production of sebum
  • A change in skin cell production, causing cells to be ‘stickier’ (which makes pores more prone to clogging)
  • Increased levels of inflammation

  • But how do these changes initiate a breakout?

    First and foremost, did you know there are four key factors that contribute to acne? In fact, all four must be present in order for a blemish to form. Simplified, these four factors are:

  • Sebum (oil)
  • P. acnes (bacteria)
  • Clogged pores
  • Inflammation

    Here, we see a direct connection between the four key factors of acne and the three different ways the skin changes in response to hormones. P. acnes is the scientific term for a type of bacteria that exists on every single skin type. So when these changes are combined with P. acnes, cue the breakout.

    Even though we associate acne with teenagers and puberty, adult women experience various androgen hormone changes long after this stage—continuous menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and/or alterations in birth control.


    Stress triggers inflammation in the skin both directly and indirectly, which, as mentioned above, is one of the four causes of acne. Directly, stress can trigger hormones in skin to increase inflammation. Indirectly, stress can kill the healthy flora (bacteria) in the gut, causing a low-grade inflammation throughout the body.

    Let’s be honest, women do a lot. Whether they’re working, taking care of kids, managing a household, or all three, there’s no question they’re often under a lot of stress. It’s not surprising, then, that women aged 20+ are more likely to experience acne than men of the same age.

    And finally—food.

    Myths regarding food and acne often circulate the internet. Does chocolate really cause acne? While this beloved sweet treat is still up for question, there are certain foods with substantial evidence pointing to skin-related issues.

    High glycemic foods (e.g. foods high in sugar) and dairy products can likely elicit acne. High glycemic foods—like white bread, pasta, cake—can trigger an insulin response that increases androgen hormones. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).

    Dairy, on the other hand, like cow’s milk, often contains high levels of hormones, provoking acne directly and indirectly in our bodies. In fact, cows are fed hormones to increase production of milk. 

    What does all of this mean?

    Because there are so many acne-causing variables, it’s important to approach acne treatment holistically and completely. This is why MD Complete developed Acne Clearing System, a unique, multitasking system that addresses and targets each of these causes, from the inside out. Formulated with highly concentrated, high-quality ingredients, this 3-step routine effectively clears current breakouts and helps prevent futures ones from forming. Specific acne-clearing ingredients are combined with other essential vitamins and naturally-derived nutrients to help restore your skin barrier while clearing and treating for beautiful, healthy skin!