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The ins and outs of skincare for hormonal acne

  • 5 min read

Hormonal acne is a plight that many of us face, resulting in sore, swollen red bumps that always seem to make an appearance at the wrong time. 

While it can be easy to feel hopeless when dealing with hormonal acne, there are some skincare ingredients and products which can help your skin to recover.

What is hormonal acne?

Hormonal acne is a type of acne that is caused by hormone imbalances or fluctuations. Changes to levels of hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, can result in acne – ranging from blackheads and whiteheads to deep, angry spots that never come to a head.  

Make no mistake, hormonal acne isn’t just reserved for teens; many adults also suffer from this too. Conditions that are associated with abnormal hormone levels, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, can also cause hormonal acne. 

Can skincare help hormonal acne?

While skincare can’t prevent acne caused by various hormonal imbalances, it can help to manage the effects of hormonal acne on your skin. 

Skincare that is formulated with ingredients rich in anti-inflammatories, antimicrobials and antioxidants can help to reduce the redness and swelling often associated with hormonal acne. 

Skincare ingredients for hormonal acne 

When it comes to caring for hormonal acne breakouts, there are several hero ingredients to look out for with antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.

1. Niacinamide 

Also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinamide, niacinamide is a staple ingredient in many acne-prone skincare routines for its anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce the sore inflammation often associated with hormonal acne. 

That’s not the only way in which niacinamide helps with acne though – it is also able to help regulate the production of sebum which can cause further breakouts, and helps to strengthen the skin barrier, keeping your skin protected from environmental stressors. 

2. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is effective when dealing with hormonal acne as it has the ability to unclog stubborn pores and can control sebum production. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory,  helping to reduce the redness, swelling and inflammation caused by trapped bacteria. 

3. Retinol

Exfoliating the skin to remove surface level dirt and impurities, retinol also reduces oil in your pores. A form of vitamin A, retinol can also penetrate slightly into the dermis (the middle layer of skin) to promote cell turnover and stimulate collagen production.

With hormonal acne, cell turnover is especially important to reveal healthy skin, as well as collagen production to help strengthen the skin.  

4. Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is an organic compound that is primarily used in the treatment of acne. Helping to fight the bacteria on your skin and neutralise free radicals, this ingredient can be helpful in the management of hormonal acne. 

A study found that after treatment for six months with topical 20% azelaic acid cream, the effects were of comparable efficacy to topical 0.05% tretinoin cream and topical 5% benzoyl peroxide gel. Both tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide are strong acne treatments, with the former only available on prescription in the UK. 

5. Alpha hydroxy acids

Organic acids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are typically used as chemical exfoliants, removing dead skin cells to reveal newer and brighter skin. The main types of AHA are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and citric acid.

AHAs are a helpful skincare ingredient for hormonal acne as they can penetrate the upper layers of the skin. They break down the bonds between dead skin cells and slough them off, revealing newer skin underneath. 

6. Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil is not only a wonder haircare ingredient, but also a great tool in your arsenal against hormonal acne. Studies have shown that rosemary oil is a good antioxidant, helping to reduce inflammation and the impacts of oxidative stress on the skin.

7. Tea tree oil

With its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil has long been a hero skincare ingredient for hormonal acne and cystic acne. A study found a six week course of 5% tea tree oil to be effective in reducing both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory acne lesions, with no or minimal side effects of usage. 

8. Thyme oil

A recent study assessed the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of thyme oil on acne, reporting thyme essential oil nanoemulsion as a possible alternative anti-acne therapeutic agent. 

Hormonal acne skincare routine

At UpCircle, we know that there most certainly isn’t a one-size-fits all when it comes to skincare – your skincare routine needs to be adapted to the skin concerns you have. That’s why we created the Acne-Attacker Bundle, bringing you hardworking products to help banish the breakouts. 



A complete routine for those suffering from hormonal acne, find out more about the products we’ve included in the bundle below. Better still, shopping this bundle saves you 20% on the RRP.

1. Cleanse your skin

Frequency: Twice daily

The first step in your hormonal acne skincare routine should always be to cleanse your skin of any traces of surface-layer dirt, makeup and impurities. 

We always recommend double cleansing your skin, to ensure any excess oils as well as bacteria – that can easily get stuck in your pores – are removed. Start with an oil-based cleanser, and then use a gente water-based cleanser. 

2. Exfoliate the skin

Frequency: Two to three times per week

Exfoliation is key when trying to combat hormonal acne, as acne is caused by bacteria becoming trapped in the pores. Our Herbal Blend Coffee Face Scrub is a gentle exfoliator formulated with rosemary, thyme and tea tree oil to help reduce acne.

3. Use a face mask

Frequency: Two to three times per week

Using a clarifying face mask two to three times per week can help to reduce the impact of hormonal acne on your skin. Our award-winning Kaolin Clay Face Mask is full of skin-loving ingredients. 

Formulated with antioxidant-rich olive stone powder, this face mask uses Kaolin clay to gently draw dirt and impurities from the skin, helping to minimise the appearance of large pores and blackheads. 

4. Spritz some toner

Frequency: Twice daily – or more for a midday refresh! 

After cleansing your skin, spritz some of our uplifting Face Toner on the skin. Formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and salicylic acid to unclog pores and control sebum production, this toner is a staple in your skincare routine for hormonal acne

This toner also includes biologically active mandarin fruit water – from green mandarin fruit, a by-product of the juicing industry – which is clinically proven to protect the skin against inflammation. 

5. Add some moisture back

Frequency: Twice daily 

Even acne-prone skin needs a hit of moisture! Our award-winning Face Moisturiser with Vitamin E is deeply hydrating, fast-absorbing and plastic-free. Sage oil in this product helps to soothe irritation and diminish the appearance of blemishes and large pores. 



Discover our complete range of cruelty-free and vegan skincare at UpCircle