What is hormonal acne? To keep it simple, it’s acne linked to fluctuations in your hormones.

The hormones that may cause this type of acne are fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, which both vary widely throughout the menstrual cycle month. Also, the ratio of each of these hormones to each other can affect women’s testosterone levels, and let’s not forget about cortisol — the stress hormone which might also be to blame.

Hormonal imbalances may contribute to acne in adults with underlying medical conditions such as PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Hormonal acne looks different for everyone, by the way. For some it can appear on the lower part of your face and for others it can look like black or white heads and even small pimples that you might see on the head or those painful cysts we can’t forget about, which form deep under the skin.

Specifically, these hormone fluctuations may aggravate acne issues by increasing overall skin inflammation, encouraging production of acne-causing bacteria and oil production in the pores as well as clogging skin cells in hair follicles.

Here are 4 signs you might be dealing with it:

1. It may appear around the chin, jawline and neck. This is because these excess hormones in your body stimulate the oil glands—many of which are around the chin area. It may also pop up along the side of your face or down your neck. 

2. You break out around your period. Hormonal breakouts tend to pop up in the same place each month as well. There may be an increased presence of the hormone androgens, which stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess sebum (oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands).

3. It gets very painful. These bumps are usually tender to the touch because they’ve accumulated oil over a period of days or weeks that then causes an inflammatory reaction.

4. You are seriously stressed. Seriously. Stress can cause more sebum production which can help create an ideal environment for bacteria to appear on the skin. Stress also causes more inflammation in the body as a whole which of course, includes the skin.

What can you do?

Seek professional help. Treatment will vary for each individual and sometimes might look like over-the-counter or prescribed medications and skin care products and/or just diet adjustments and natural approaches. Sometimes it can even look like help from multiple specialities including a dermatologist, OBGYN, dietitian specializing in hormones and even a mental health therapist for emotional support.