The Hormone – Acne Connection


istock_ropeknotAcne is a heartbreaking and disfiguring disease that can (and does) strike at almost any age. About the only groups immune are pre-adolescent children and senior citizens.. On the website of the American Academy of Dermatology, they list the age of approximately 2 to 6 years of age as an “acne free zone, during with acne vulgaris rarely occurs.

Even newborn infants can develop acne, possibly due to hormonal changes as the fetus develops.  So you can see that very few of are immune to acne!

Despite this fact, acne is firmly ensconced in our consciousness as an adolescent disease. Throughout the past decades both the advertising and the treatments have been almost exclusively directed at this age group. Television and magazines are rife with images of teenage angst peering at itself in the mirror as they try to cover up their unsightly blemishes.

However, as any dermatologist can tell you, this is only half of the story.  Acne affects almost as many women in their late twenties, thirties and forties, as it does adolescents.  My waiting room is frequently filled with both groups eager for acne treatment.  And yet we need to develop an entirely new bag of tricks for adult acne treatment in women.  To begin with, a woman is unique, and an older woman is even more unique in many different ways—and all of them may coalesce to bring about the onset and flare-ups of acne.

Women have very  different skin types from adolescents, in fact, they almost at opposite ends of the spectrum.  This makes the appropriate treatments for adolescents unacceptable for adult women.

Because of the changes in hormones during the mid-cycle of the menstrual period, sebaceous glands can be affected.  While there is controversy as to the effects of estrogen and progesterone, we do know that altering the hormone status to prevent hormonal surges can be therapeutic to some women.  I believe that estrogen acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and exerts a systemic anti-inflammatory effect that is helpful to the skin. Many oral contraceptives have an androgen effect on the body, causing it to become more acne prone.  Other drugs that have a higher level of estrogen will balance the surges of progesterone.   Some physicians believe that taking oral contraceptives on a regular basis is helpful to women with acne.  I believe, however, the most effective and safest course of treatment is to control our hormonal surges and acne flare ups through an anti-inflammatory diet and anti-inflammatory supplements.  Both work systemically to heal and balance the body.

How are you currently dealing with your acne flare-ups?

37 thoughts on “The Hormone – Acne Connection

  1. I started following the Perricone diet and using pericone topical treatments a year and a half ago. Before that I had suffered with adult acne/rosacea/eczema for 13 or more years. I had no significant problems as a teenager and my problems started when my doctor changed the type of contraceptive pill I was on in my early 20’s. I cannot sing the praises of the diet and products enough and they have changed my life. I live in the UK and products are not easy to get hold of and are not well known and I only found them by chance. I feel the brand is marketed too much as an anti ageing product and needs to be advertised as helping adult skin problems as I think there is a huge untapped market that could be helped.

  2. i have been suffering with acne since i was thirty which was 18 years ago and had tried many topical creams and spent a small fortune on treatments such as derma abrasion. ipl, facial massages, oxygen treatments to no avail.
    7 yars ago i was advised to go on roaccutane by my dermatologist which i refused to do as there were so many side effects.
    5 years later i did take it due to my daughter having very severe acne of the scarring type and she was getting to the state where she would not go out, so i said to her the only way she could go on the drug was if i went on it as well and if i had any side effects from roaccutane i would take her of it immediately.
    it did effect my liver and was told it would correcrt itself once coming of it but i do believe it bought on an MS attack 8 months after stopping.
    the majority of spots have disappeared i still get acne which does not go away at all and is quite painful.
    i would never recommend any one to take the drug and would have preferred to have treated my symptoms as naturally as possible,

  3. My 21 yr old is suffering terrible with acne, all of a sudden. She had been on oral contraceptives for a while..her skin looked amazing..she has now been off for about a year and her skin is a mess! She is a Jr in college and this is causing her much difficulty. Help!!

  4. Thanks for the information. I never had acne in my life, not even as a teenager, but now since I’ve hit 40, my skin is breaking out. I didn’t expect to have to deal with this at my age. I had wondered if it was hormonal, since I can’t attribute it to any other changes I’ve made in my skin care routine.

  5. For over 2 months now I have been following Dr. Perricone’s advice from a previous article on acne & taking supplements (multi-vitamin w/specific ingredients, evening primrose oil, borage oil.) I have had an ongoing battle w/cystic acne since early 20’s & have not had one of those “bumps” since starting the supplements! While I still have some regular pimples, it’s nothing compared to the underground “bumps!”

    Thank you Dr. Perricone :)

  6. Dr. Perricone, have you considered putting out a pill to treat Menopausesal hormone deficiency/imbalances? You are the one I trust can help us 55 years olds better than anyone else. BTW, love the almost instant results I get from the Cold Plasma treatment. Thank you for being there for us doctor. Hope you have a great day.

  7. I have every product in the market from prescribt to over the counter and nothing has worked for me I have thyroid problems I wonder if thats the reason for my acne I never had this problem as a teen, I see my skin aging quickly due to this matter, I need help soon.

  8. Can u give me more info on anti-inflammatory diet and supplements? i am 49 and still have terrible acne or should i say cysts…that sometimes get so big i need them surgerically removed and scaring from trying to sqeeze them is also terrible. I realize squeezing is worst but the pain associated with this cysts is unbarable. ty for any help

  9. Hi I just read your email and having acne has been so hard for me as a highschool teacher. I have a few questions what are some examples of anti inflammatory diet, and I was looking at your new acne line which I think is great. But I cannot take the supplements because it has gelatin. I will purchase the other products but is it possible to provide me with anti inflammatory supplements. I have used many products before and I loved them. But I developed acne in my 20’s and I dont where to turn.
    Thank you,

  10. what are considered anti-inflammatory foods? I find this article very interesting because when I was younger I would wash my face often and do what I felt was the right thing to do but still get acne. This explains what was going on…Thx!

  11. I agree. A diet high in fruits and veggies, devoid of additives, preservatives and hormones ( I try to avoid all animal products for this reason-except for wild fish), works best for me. I have polycystic ovaries, which causes an imbalance of hormones. I also supplement with a topical progesterone cream to help balance the hormones. Thank you Dr. Perricone for your mission in life! Helping to educate women on this topic is a wonderful thing. Most woman do not know why many of their symptoms and diseases are simply due to diet, and completely unavoidable.
    I have all your books and I read them again and again! Thank you.

  12. For two years, plus I have had acne at the same area (between my eyebrows). My dermatologist prescribed tri luma for my brown spots (on my creeks)and suggested I apply tri luma in the acne area between my eyebrows. I continue to have the same acne in the same area.

  13. Thank you for the article on this topic. As a woman in her mid-fifties, full menopausal, I am frustrated that I still deal with occasional flare-ups that last for a week and some scarring remains. This has been going on since mid-twenties and after having my daughter. Not sure it is enough of an annoyance to take something orally but would definitely want to try methods of reducing inflammation.

  14. I am currently controling my acne with your anti-inflammatory diet, vitamin supplements and your clear skin products. The clear skin products are the most effective I have ever used to treat my acne.I am 54 years old and have had acne prone skin since I was 12. I have tried many products throughout the years and have never been able to keep the flare-ups under control until I applied the regiments that you suggest. Thank you!

  15. I currently deal with acne and extremely oily skin. I am 47 years old. When I take contraceptives, it all stops and my skin looks beautiful, minus the hair that grows all over it and I am constantly plucking and waxiing. Sometimes, the breakouts are caused by the hair trying to come through, sometimes, it’s just acne. I have done the anti-inflammatory diet which in fact does cure excess yeast and yeast infections (I’ve only had yeast infections around areas such as under my breasts and only one vaginally), but doesn’t seem to cure the acne, hair, or oilyness. I have also lost 85 lbs. on this type of diet (hurray, now there’s a plus). I do not know what to do anymore about this situation. I’ve been told through bloodwork that my testosterone is low and my doc wants to prescribe more to me, but I don’t want more facial hair. I’ve done progesterone before and that adds to the problem as well. It seems that the estrogen, or contraceptive, is the only way to go. I’m getting mine refilled today. My pores are large as well. I’m told I’m a beautiful woman, but I sure don’t feel it with all this going on. So, if you have any other suggestions on balancing the hormones and making my skin beautiful again, please let me know. I agree with you as far as making yourself well from the inside out, but it isn’t working for my hormones.

  16. I have been following Dr. Perricone’s diet since 2002. When I follow it carefully, my skin is clear. When I don’t follow it, my skin breaks out. The three items that seem to be the most powerful for me are : salmon, cantaloupe, and water.

  17. I developed adult acne and have tried everything. In July of this year I developed really bad acne once again and nothing worked. I then went on the anti-inflammatory diet and my skin is clear for the first time in years! Thank you so much Dr. Perricone

  18. I’m a 50 year old women who has, acne since I was 11 years old. I’m trying Dr. Perricone diet and am taking supplements as recommeded by my nutritionist this includes all the good stuff that Dr. Perricone had mentioned. I on a medication for acne called Tazorac and it helps a little, but I’ve still have not seen any improvement with my skin. It is heart braking that most of my life I’ve had brake outs and nothing really work so far, and I tried everything out there. You name it I’ve tried it, including Accutain.

  19. I have used the Perricone diet and topicals for just over six months and have found that to be superior to anything my dermatologist has offered (both topical and oral)… best of all I have lost weight too!!! Still occationally get the monthly pimple… but it heals quickly. I feel my improvement is directly related to my diet. Thank you Dr. Perricone!!!

  20. Do you have any product for body acnes .. I have some on my back and shoulders. Or have you any diet about this problem for the sollution.

  21. I love all of the perricone acne products, The acne treatment gel was the only thing thing that worked on my back acne and as a spot treatment. I have been terribly upset since Dr. Perricone discontinued it Will he be making another treatment product?

  22. I have been following the acne prescription diet for a couple of months and have had fewer breakouts, but I have lost about 10-15lbs. I dont want to lose wait, but I dont want to stop the diet. I dont know what I’m doing wrong. I have not even exercised and I am losing weight.

  23. How can i purchase Dr Perricone products online i looooove the products an have all his books, only problem is im from Australia an the store in Adelaide stocks very little of his products. I would like to purchase more an a wide range of Dr perricone products but am very limitted.

    rose curcio

    • Dear Rose,
      You can purchase Perricone MD products on our US and UK sites ( or ( and we ship to Autralia.

      Many thanks,

  24. I’M 61 and still get breakouts , unless I have a green tea daily, it works for me, always !! I miss I pay every time, really.

  25. I started following Dr. Perricone’s diet about 7 yrs ago. It has done wonders for my skin. I think omitting sugar has helped alot and eating salmon often. I love the concentrated restorative cream. Even if I do get a pimple, the cream heals it quickly. I can see the redness and infection clear over night. I’m out of it rite now and I have had the same two zits for 2 weeks now.

  26. I am wondering what products to use for rosacea. I get cystic acne on my chin around my mouth and I get itchy papules on my cheeks. I use finacea gel and I get very frustrated with my skin. Please help!

  27. I am in my late 50’s and have had acne problems all my adult life.
    Years ago I discovered milk, cream, butter, cheese and some beef to be the culprits. When I keep these totally out of my diet my skin clears up. I have bad scarring though, from before I discovered this connection. I was wondering if Dr. Perricone’s light therapy would help.

  28. At age 54 I began to suffer inexplicably from unrelenting, resistant Acne Rosacea. After months of tears and frustration and a fortune spent on OTC and prescription products, I somewhat resigned myself to accept my plight, trying to see the glass half-full – at least I didn’t have cancer or something life threatening, right? Then last night in the cozy confines of my kitchen, I accidentally stumbled upon what I now consider to be THE treatment – THE answer to my complexion woes… For the first time in my life I cooked and ate Wild Salmon. My skin’s response was nothing short of a miracle…almost immediately I noticed a difference in the way my skin began to feel – and in less than 12 hours my acne was all but gone. My husband recalled having heard Dr. Perricone speak about the benefits of eating salmon and we thought “could it really be???” All I can say is “wow”… Listen, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck -it’s a duck. So, I’m picking up more salmon tomorrow and plan on making it a regular part of my diet…Say what you will – I am definitely a believer!

  29. Adult acne is caused by sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands. Sebum clogs pores, which attract bacteria and become inflamed. For some adults, breakouts are a result of hypersensitivity or overproduction of androgens (male hormones). But an imbalance in both male and female hormones (estrogen) can also cause breakouts. For women, this can happen during pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause. Some medications, such as corticosteroids, and cosmetics can also contribute to the development of acne.


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