Hormones are the main culprits in acne production. When puberty hits, you begin to produce androgens, “male sex hormones” that are present in both males and females. Androgens trigger your sebaceous glands to produce an overabundance of oil, especially on your face, chest and back, which is why these areas are “hot spots” for breakouts. All the extra oil mixes with dead skin cells, causing clogged pores and starting the cycle of pimple formation.
Your androgen levels can also be affected by stress. That’s because when you go through periods of anxiety—finals week, a fight with your best friend, and the general stress of high school—your body releases higher levels of a “survival hormone” called cortisol. The side effects of cortisol include increased androgen production, which means more oil production and inflammation.
Where androgens are concerned, males generally produce more of the hormones than females, which is why teen boys also tend to suffer more severe and longer-lasting breakouts. Teen girls, on the other hand, are often affected by a spike in androgen levels during certain points in their menstrual cycle. Many will notice that their acne worsens a few days before their periods start, when androgen levels are at their highest.
No matter the reason—puberty, stress, your menstrual cycle—hormonal acne can be controlled. Learning how to de-stress and getting a good night’s sleep can go a long way, while the consistent use of proven acne medicines can help you get your skin under control once and for all.