There are few things more confidence-shattering than acne. I think this is a fact that every girl knows. I have cried before school on mornings when I had a particularly bad breakout. I have skipped plans with friends on weekends when I was too embarrassed about my skin to even leave the house. I have edited an Instagram post fifty different ways to make sure my chin acne wasn’t visible, and I did it so well that my friend commented “your skin looks perfect here!”. I literally LOLed. Of all the reasons that being a teen girl is tough, acne might be the most challenging, IMO.
If you’ve ever googled “how to get rid of acne”, you’ll know that there is no single answer. It depends on the type of acne and the cause, and then there are hundreds of different potential solutions. How’s a girl supposed to know what’s best? Fortunately, once you’ve narrowed down the type of acne or breakout you’re suffering from, it becomes easier to determine the cause and solution. That’s why we’re going to focus on battling one very common form of acne for teen girls— hormonal acne.
A trick called face-mapping is the best way to determine what kind of acne you’re dealing with, based on where it’s located on your face. Here are a few tricks dermatologists use to find out if a pimple or breakout is hormonal:
Hormonal acne typically occurs in your T-zone, but specifically your chin and jawline, according to Dr. Robert Anolik, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine.
Those painful, red bumps under your skin— the ones you try to pop but can’t. They’re called cysts, and Anolik points out that this kind of pimple is usually hormonal.
That time of the month being your period, if you’ve gotten it already. Dr. Samer Jaber of Washington Square Dermatology in New York says that hormonal acne follows the normal fluctuations of oil production in your pores, which increases during puberty and your period.
Acne in general is caused by a bacteria that lives our skin, that comes to life when our hormones cause our body to produce excess oil, throwing fuel on the ‘breakout’ fire. According to Dr. Anolik, “our skins’ oils area wonderful environment for acne bacteria to thrive in, unfortunately”. Lucky us.
As our hormones fluctuate, so does our oil production, and therefore- so does our hormonal acne breakouts.
The important aspect of hormonal acne, is the fact that it’s directly related to what’s going on inside your body. Luckily, here at Zenzy, we believe that everything should be treated from the inside out, and skin issues are no exception. While your first reaction might be to try 100 different face masks or acne treatments, dermatologists suggest a more thorough approach (but spot-treatments are included- don’t worry).
Here is the sad news that no one wants to hear, and many choose to ignore. There are many studies that directly relate hormonal acne (and acne in general!) to dairy and sugar consumption in your diet. I’m sorry, but it’s true. The milk in your lattes and your love for pasta (I get it) could be causing your acne.
Dr. Anolik explains that any foods that are high in sugar (like processed foods, dairy and wheat) are known to feed bacteria and increase inflammation— aka the bacteria that’s living in your skin and causing your acne. Think of it as every time you take a sip of milk, you might be inadvertently providing energy to the evil little minions that are ruining your skin-life. However, this might not be the case for everyone.
A good way to test this theory, according to Dr. Jaber, is to cut out any or all of these food groups (processed foods, dairy and/gluten) for 30 days. That’s just one month, you can do it. If your acne begins clearing up in this time, it’s pretty safe to say you’ve found the cause. Besides, cutting out gluten and dairy doesn’t mean you can longer enjoy your bowl of cereal in the morning, or pasta at night. Natural alternatives like almond milk or chickpea pasta are great, skin-friendly alternatives!
Here’s the good news. There are tons of yummy foods that can actually help fight your acne. For example, green tea is known for decreasing inflammation in your body, and therefore can help target acne. Consider switching your cup of coffee for a matcha latte to not only improve your skin, but also your energy levels and ability to focus!
In addition, foods like strawberries, blueberries, kale, dark chocolate (oh yeah), carrots and more are great at fighting acne. I’m down with any reason to eat more good-quality dark chocolate. These foods are high in antioxidants, making them great at fighting inflammation (say it with me- inflammation is the enemy).
Finally, Dr. Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist from Briarcliff Manor, suggests adding a probiotic supplement (aka good bacteria) to your morning routine to help fight the bad bacteria, aka the stuff that’s causing your acne.
What goes on inside, is just as important as what goes on outside. The main rule here is that consistency is key— as with all skincare issues, it’s important to develop a consistent skincare routine and then stick with it! Your basic acne-fighting skincare routine should consist of the following:
Dr. Anolik recommends any products that combine salicylic acid with benzoyl peroxide— two serious acne-fighting agents. Read more to find the best face wash for every skin type.
Getting rid of the dead skin cells can help unblock your pores and allow them to be cleared of the bacteria more easily. Instead of using a rough, physical exfoliant and scrubbing your face clean (been there), opt for a more gentle chemical exfoliant. We’ve got some great suggestions below. Start with once a week, and see how your skin reacts.
What is a retinoid, you ask? This is any cream, lotion or gel that contains Vitamin A. Vitamin A is super helpful in skin cell production, and has been found to be a powerful acne-attacker. Applying a Vitamin A serum after you’ve washed and exfoliated, but before you’ve applied any moisturizers or spot treatments, can help get rid of hormonal acne. The serums below can be found at Sephora, Ulta or Birchbox, but should be used in conjunction with a great sunscreen as it can make your skin more sensitive.
Ok, we got here. Everyone’s favorite step. Once again, Anolik recommends any products that include salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. An effective, natural option is tea tree oil. Once study found that five percent tea tree oil helped relieve acne symptoms of those with mild to moderate acne. We’ve got a complete guide to spot treatments here.
What fun would a skincare routine be without a good face mask. Clay masks can decrease excess oil and get rid of dead skin cells. Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask is a mix of pink clay and salicylic acid, making for the perfect one-two punch. Say buh-bye, hormonal acne. We’ve also compiled a list of the best face masks for you, right here.