How to Tell if Acne is Hormonal or Bacterial?

How to Tell if Acne is Hormonal or Bacterial?

5 min read

APRIL 07, 2024 - BY THE ONESKIN TEAM
April 07,2024
SKIN SCIENCE
How to Tell if Acne is Hormonal or Bacterial?

How to Tell if Acne is Hormonal or Bacterial?

5 min read

APRIL 07, 2024 - BY THE ONESKIN TEAM
April 07,2024
SKIN SCIENCE
Dealing with acne can feel like a never-ending battle. As common as it is, not all acne is the same. To tackle it head-on, you need to first understand whether your acne is hormonal or bacterial. What works wonders on bacterial acne may not suffice for hormonal acne, and vice versa. Getting to the root of your acne type is essential for finding the right treatment that makes a difference.
Dealing with acne can feel like a never-ending battle. As common as it is, not all acne is the same. To tackle it head-on, you need to first understand whether your acne is hormonal or bacterial. What works wonders on bacterial acne may not suffice for hormonal acne, and vice versa. Getting to the root of your acne type is essential for finding the right treatment that makes a difference.
01

Hormonal

If you're tired of battling breakouts that seem to pop up out of nowhere, especially around your jawline, chin, or even down to your neck and shoulders, you might be dealing with hormonal acne. This type of acne breakout isn't just for teenagers adult acne is common too, and it often hits women the hardest due to hormonal imbalances.2 Hormonal acne can manifest as everything from blackheads and whiteheads to deep, painful cystic bumps.3 You'll notice this type of acne flares up with hormonal changes, like during puberty or menstrual cycles.
01

Hormonal

If you're tired of battling breakouts that seem to pop up out of nowhere, especially around your jawline, chin, or even down to your neck and shoulders, you might be dealing with hormonal acne. This type of acne breakout isn't just for teenagers adult acne is common too, and it often hits women the hardest due to hormonal imbalances.2 Hormonal acne can manifest as everything from blackheads and whiteheads to deep, painful cystic bumps.3 You'll notice this type of acne flares up with hormonal changes, like during puberty or menstrual cycles.
02

Bacterial

Bacterial acne, on the other hand, is characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, and sometimes pustules. This acne is often more superficial than the cystic acne seen in hormonal acne. It is commonly found in areas with a high density of oil glands where external factors like excessive oil production, dead skin cells, and bacteria buildup lead to breakouts.4 Bacterial acne can be worsened by dirty or oily skin, water quality, or makeup. Although related to hormone levels, bacterial acne is kick-started by environmental contaminants and is more common among teenagers and young adults.
02

Bacterial

Bacterial acne, on the other hand, is characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, and sometimes pustules. This acne is often more superficial than the cystic acne seen in hormonal acne. It is commonly found in areas with a high density of oil glands where external factors like excessive oil production, dead skin cells, and bacteria buildup lead to breakouts.4 Bacterial acne can be worsened by dirty or oily skin, water quality, or makeup. Although related to hormone levels, bacterial acne is kick-started by environmental contaminants and is more common among teenagers and young adults.
03

Causes of Hormonal and Bacterial Acne

All acne has environmental stressors and intrinsic factors that contribute to its development. Here are some steps you can take to avoid triggers and address the root causes of acne!

Causes of Hormonal Acne

The underlying cause of all hormonal acne
is some form of hormonal imbalance. Because hormone imbalances affect both men and women, hormones like estrogen and testosterone are especially important in the development of hormonal acne.2 These hormones trigger the overproduction of sebum, an oily substance, leading to the clogging of pores and the perfect conditions for acne-causing bacteria.

Causes of Bacterial Acne

The frequency and development of bacterial acne are linked to the health of your skin microbiome and can be triggered by several factors, such as:
  1. Diet - Although it may not be intuitive, the foods we eat can be triggers for both hormonal and bacterial acne. They can create the conditions for acne-causing bacteria to spread. Foods with preservatives can weaken your gut health and, in turn, your skin microbiome. A weaker skin microbiome can increase your risk of bacterial acne. Similarly, probiotic and prebiotic foods can tackle acne by strengthening your gut health and skin
    microbiome.5
  2. Environmental Triggers - You might not realize it, but some everyday habits can feed into acne-causing bacteria. Bacterial acne is often caused by environmental factors that clog hair follicles and pores, leading to inflammation and pus formation. Habits like frequent touching of the face, improper cleansing, and the use of oily or comedogenic products can worsen acne by introducing impurities and spreading acne-causing bacteria. Unclean bed sheets and expired cosmetics can also develop bacteria within them and trigger bacterial acne breakouts. Factors such as high humidity, pollution, sun exposure, certain foods, and smoking triggering acne can also disproportionately affect sensitive skin
    types and cause acne.6
03

Causes of Hormonal and Bacterial Acne

All acne has environmental stressors and intrinsic factors that contribute to its development. Here are some steps you can take to avoid triggers and address the root causes of acne!

Causes of Hormonal Acne

The underlying cause of all hormonal acne
is some form of hormonal imbalance. Because hormone imbalances affect both men and women, hormones like estrogen and testosterone are especially important in the development of hormonal acne.2 These hormones trigger the overproduction of sebum, an oily substance, leading to the clogging of pores and the perfect conditions for acne-causing bacteria.

Causes of Bacterial Acne

The frequency and development of bacterial acne are linked to the health of your skin microbiome and can be triggered by several factors, such as:
  1. Diet - Although it may not be intuitive, the foods we eat can be triggers for both hormonal and bacterial acne. They can create the conditions for acne-causing bacteria to spread. Foods with preservatives can weaken your gut health and, in turn, your skin microbiome. A weaker skin microbiome can increase your risk of bacterial acne. Similarly, probiotic and prebiotic foods can tackle acne by strengthening your gut health and skin
    microbiome.5
  2. Environmental Triggers - You might not realize it, but some everyday habits can feed into acne-causing bacteria. Bacterial acne is often caused by environmental factors that clog hair follicles and pores, leading to inflammation and pus formation. Habits like frequent touching of the face, improper cleansing, and the use of oily or comedogenic products can worsen acne by introducing impurities and spreading acne-causing bacteria. Unclean bed sheets and expired cosmetics can also develop bacteria within them and trigger bacterial acne breakouts. Factors such as high humidity, pollution, sun exposure, certain foods, and smoking triggering acne can also disproportionately affect sensitive skin
    types and cause acne.6
04

Effective Skin Care Approaches for Hormonal and Bacterial Acne

Effective skin care approaches for hormonal and bacterial acne require a tailored skincare routine addressing your skin's specific needs. Keep in mind that bacterial and hormonal acne can exist in conjunction!

What Does My Skin Type Mean for My Acne?

Understanding your skin type is crucial in managing different types of acne. OilyOily skin can sometimes be a real headache. When your skin pumps out too much sebum, it's like rolling out the red carpet for acne-causing bacteria. Excessive sebum production makes the skin more susceptible to trapping environmental sources of bacterial acne in oily pores. Managing this type of skin involves using products that cut back on oil production without over-drying the skin.This underlying cause of this acne could also be hormonal so make sure to pinpoint where the acne is originating. If it’s in the jawline, chin, neck, or shoulders, it’s likely hormonal. DryDry skin doesn't produce much sebum, making it extra sensitive to harsh acne treatments that strip away natural oils. Many acne remedies strip the skin of its natural oils, which can worsen naturally dry skin. Prefer hydrating treatments and moisturizers that support skin barrier function, and reduce irritation and peeling. Dry acne can often occur later in adult life during perimenopause and menopause in women.SensitiveSensitive skin is particularly susceptible to certain ingredients and irritants that can damage the skin and trigger acne. For these skin types, gentle, non-comedogenic acne treatments that do not provoke redness or inflammation are preferred.CombinationCombination skin is characterized by an oily T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin) and either dry or normal cheeks. This variation demands a more balanced approach to acne treatment, requiring different products for different areas.
04

Effective Skin Care Approaches for Hormonal and Bacterial Acne

Effective skin care approaches for hormonal and bacterial acne require a tailored skincare routine addressing your skin's specific needs. Keep in mind that bacterial and hormonal acne can exist in conjunction!

What Does My Skin Type Mean for My Acne?

Understanding your skin type is crucial in managing different types of acne. OilyOily skin can sometimes be a real headache. When your skin pumps out too much sebum, it's like rolling out the red carpet for acne-causing bacteria. Excessive sebum production makes the skin more susceptible to trapping environmental sources of bacterial acne in oily pores. Managing this type of skin involves using products that cut back on oil production without over-drying the skin.This underlying cause of this acne could also be hormonal so make sure to pinpoint where the acne is originating. If it’s in the jawline, chin, neck, or shoulders, it’s likely hormonal. DryDry skin doesn't produce much sebum, making it extra sensitive to harsh acne treatments that strip away natural oils. Many acne remedies strip the skin of its natural oils, which can worsen naturally dry skin. Prefer hydrating treatments and moisturizers that support skin barrier function, and reduce irritation and peeling. Dry acne can often occur later in adult life during perimenopause and menopause in women.SensitiveSensitive skin is particularly susceptible to certain ingredients and irritants that can damage the skin and trigger acne. For these skin types, gentle, non-comedogenic acne treatments that do not provoke redness or inflammation are preferred.CombinationCombination skin is characterized by an oily T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin) and either dry or normal cheeks. This variation demands a more balanced approach to acne treatment, requiring different products for different areas.
05

Targeted Solutions for Differentiating and Treating Acne

With so many factors determining the type of acne and how the skin will react to acne, focusing on the underlying causes of acne while promoting a gentle skincare routine that manages symptoms is key. Here are some targeted remedies that can treat hormonal and bacterial acne.

Managing hormone levels

Treatments for hormonal acne revolve around balancing or managing hormone levels. While many sources of hormonal acne, like pregnancies, puberty, or the menstrual cycle, cannot be changed, you can take actions that minimize the effects of these hormone imbalances.DietStart by reducing your intake of acne-causing foods
rich in sugar and dairy. There's no need to stop there, reinforce the skin through anti-inflammatory oils and fatty acids that can be found in foods like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts. These healthy fats and oils can help regulate the overproduction of sebum.7 Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet will also supply your skin with the essential nutrients, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates it needs to stay healthy, balance hormones, and maintain stable blood sugar levels.7
Stress
Adopting stress-relief activities, such as consistent exercise, tackles stress in two primary ways. First, exercise stimulates endorphin release, diminishing stress and helping you sleep better. Additionally, it helps lower blood sugar levels, potentially easing the intensity of hormonal acne outbreaks. Over the long term, regular exercise can enhance sleep quality, mitigating stress-related hormonal fluctuations that lead to acne and promoting overall health.8
Preventing environmental sources of damageIn addition to managing long-term hormonal acne, you can prevent outcrops of bacterial acne damage through your skincare routine. These 6 skincare steps involve an approach that uses gentle cleansers to clean the skin and protects then protect it with non-comedogenic products to build up the skin barrier. In addition to managing long-term hormonal acne, you can prevent outcrops of bacterial acne damage through your skincare routine. These 6 skincare steps involve an approach that uses gentle cleansers to clean the skin and protects then protect it with non-comedogenic products to build up the skin barrier.
  1. Cleanser - Start with a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser
    used in the morning and night to clean the skin and remove excess sebum without damaging the skin barrier.9
  2. Toner - Toners can help you reach that next level of clear skin by catching anything left by your cleanser. Choose a toner built specifically for acne, and tailor it to your skin's needs.
  3. Moisturizers - Locking in moisture and refreshing the skin after you have cleansed it is important but can introduce unwanted impurities into your pores. Choose a lightweight, oil-free face moisturizer and body moistuirzer free of pore-blocking ingredients.
  4. Sunscreens -
    Finish by protecting your skin long-term against unwanted sun damage that can worsen acne.9 Choose a
    broad spectrum sunscreen that compliments your skin without causing unwanted irritation or breakouts. Pro tip: Zinc oxide is a safe mineral SPF ingredient that is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and an astringent to control excess oil.
  5. Exfoliate -
    Exfoliation through both physical and chemical means cleans pores and primes the skin for new growth and long-term skin health. 10 Over-exfoliating can damage the skin by stripping the skin barrier of oils, leading to irritation. Exfoliating before your skin is ready, for instance, over a breakout, can worsen the area, so limit exfoliation to three or four times a week and wait for the skin to heal before taking action
  6. Medication - Some acne can only be addressed with targeted medication. Some popular options include accutane, antibiotics, and birth control, although you should always consult with your dermatologist about the best steps for you and your acne.
Never compromise on your skin care routine with OneSkin’s OS-01 proprietary peptide found in OS-01 FACE, EYE, and BODY products! These products are not only non-comedogenic but specifically formulated to support skin’s repair pathways and barrier function, plus promote a healthy skin microbiome. While not designed as an acne treatment option, these formulas are champions at soothing and rejuvenating your skin. Read more about integrating OneSkin’s topical supplements into your skin routine today!
05

Targeted Solutions for Differentiating and Treating Acne

With so many factors determining the type of acne and how the skin will react to acne, focusing on the underlying causes of acne while promoting a gentle skincare routine that manages symptoms is key. Here are some targeted remedies that can treat hormonal and bacterial acne.

Managing hormone levels

Treatments for hormonal acne revolve around balancing or managing hormone levels. While many sources of hormonal acne, like pregnancies, puberty, or the menstrual cycle, cannot be changed, you can take actions that minimize the effects of these hormone imbalances.DietStart by reducing your intake of acne-causing foods
rich in sugar and dairy. There's no need to stop there, reinforce the skin through anti-inflammatory oils and fatty acids that can be found in foods like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts. These healthy fats and oils can help regulate the overproduction of sebum.7 Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet will also supply your skin with the essential nutrients, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates it needs to stay healthy, balance hormones, and maintain stable blood sugar levels.7
Stress
Adopting stress-relief activities, such as consistent exercise, tackles stress in two primary ways. First, exercise stimulates endorphin release, diminishing stress and helping you sleep better. Additionally, it helps lower blood sugar levels, potentially easing the intensity of hormonal acne outbreaks. Over the long term, regular exercise can enhance sleep quality, mitigating stress-related hormonal fluctuations that lead to acne and promoting overall health.8
Preventing environmental sources of damageIn addition to managing long-term hormonal acne, you can prevent outcrops of bacterial acne damage through your skincare routine. These 6 skincare steps involve an approach that uses gentle cleansers to clean the skin and protects then protect it with non-comedogenic products to build up the skin barrier. In addition to managing long-term hormonal acne, you can prevent outcrops of bacterial acne damage through your skincare routine. These 6 skincare steps involve an approach that uses gentle cleansers to clean the skin and protects then protect it with non-comedogenic products to build up the skin barrier.
  1. Cleanser - Start with a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser
    used in the morning and night to clean the skin and remove excess sebum without damaging the skin barrier.9
  2. Toner - Toners can help you reach that next level of clear skin by catching anything left by your cleanser. Choose a toner built specifically for acne, and tailor it to your skin's needs.
  3. Moisturizers - Locking in moisture and refreshing the skin after you have cleansed it is important but can introduce unwanted impurities into your pores. Choose a lightweight, oil-free face moisturizer and body moistuirzer free of pore-blocking ingredients.
  4. Sunscreens -
    Finish by protecting your skin long-term against unwanted sun damage that can worsen acne.9 Choose a
    broad spectrum sunscreen that compliments your skin without causing unwanted irritation or breakouts. Pro tip: Zinc oxide is a safe mineral SPF ingredient that is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and an astringent to control excess oil.
  5. Exfoliate -
    Exfoliation through both physical and chemical means cleans pores and primes the skin for new growth and long-term skin health. 10 Over-exfoliating can damage the skin by stripping the skin barrier of oils, leading to irritation. Exfoliating before your skin is ready, for instance, over a breakout, can worsen the area, so limit exfoliation to three or four times a week and wait for the skin to heal before taking action
  6. Medication - Some acne can only be addressed with targeted medication. Some popular options include accutane, antibiotics, and birth control, although you should always consult with your dermatologist about the best steps for you and your acne.
Never compromise on your skin care routine with OneSkin’s OS-01 proprietary peptide found in OS-01 FACE, EYE, and BODY products! These products are not only non-comedogenic but specifically formulated to support skin’s repair pathways and barrier function, plus promote a healthy skin microbiome. While not designed as an acne treatment option, these formulas are champions at soothing and rejuvenating your skin. Read more about integrating OneSkin’s topical supplements into your skin routine today!
Key Takeaways:
  • Acne is a widespread skin condition with hormonal and bacterial acne, each requiring distinct treatment approaches for effective management.
  • Hormonal acne, often dubbed as adult acne, primarily affects women and is linked to hormonal fluctuations, manifesting as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and deep cystic bumps on the lower face.
  • Bacterial acne is characterized by surface-level blemishes like blackheads and pustules, exacerbated by external factors such as excessive oil production, dead skin cells, and environmental contaminants.
  • Effective acne treatment for both hormonal and bacterial acne includes a tailored skin care routine that addresses the specific needs of your skin type, whether oily, dry, sensitive, or combination.
  • For persistent or severe acne, consider medication options like Accutane, antibiotics, and birth control under the guidance of a dermatologist.
Key Takeaways:
  • Acne is a widespread skin condition with hormonal and bacterial acne, each requiring distinct treatment approaches for effective management.
  • Hormonal acne, often dubbed as adult acne, primarily affects women and is linked to hormonal fluctuations, manifesting as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and deep cystic bumps on the lower face.
  • Bacterial acne is characterized by surface-level blemishes like blackheads and pustules, exacerbated by external factors such as excessive oil production, dead skin cells, and environmental contaminants.
  • Effective acne treatment for both hormonal and bacterial acne includes a tailored skin care routine that addresses the specific needs of your skin type, whether oily, dry, sensitive, or combination.
  • For persistent or severe acne, consider medication options like Accutane, antibiotics, and birth control under the guidance of a dermatologist.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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