Hi Lovelies! Caz here, Co-Founder & CEO of Samson & Charlie. Here at Samson & Charlie HQ (currently in lockdown in Melbourne) we receive a lot of questions around how to treat recent changes in their skin and what products might be best suited to help. So let’s dive in!
When do hormonal breakouts occur?
Hormonal breakouts are incredibly frustrating and can occur throughout your life when your body experiences change. This can occur throughout your normal menstruation cycle, or during big events such as puberty, pregnancy, gender reassignment, perimenopause, menopause, and breastfeeding.
- Menstruation / Ovulation
- Gender re-assignment
The upside? If you’re going through hormonal breakouts, rest assured, There is light at the end of the tunnel, it is a temporary stage you will pass through and there is relief to calm and balance your skin during these times. So here’s what I’ve learned, that will help you manage your hormonal breakouts.
Why do hormone imbalance skin problems happen?
Hormones are really just chemical messengers that act on specific body part and tissues, which include your skin.
"Hormones known as androgens, for example, testosterone, increase sebum production and cause thickening of the skin. These can contribute to pore-blocking and can trigger breakouts,” Dr Justine Kluk, a London-based consultant dermatologist told Refinery 29.
It’s all about hormone balance. For example, many women notice they breakout a week before, or even a few days before their period starts.
Dermatologist Dr Mahto says: "This is because female hormones are at their lowest, and male hormones (androgens) are higher at these points.”
What does a hormonal breakout look like?
Hormonal breakouts can look different on different people, it’s more about where on your body it pops up, and timing.
“Hormonal acne isn’t so much a description of what acne looks like, rather a reflection of what may be causing it," Dr. Kluk explains. "Blackheads, whiteheads and cysts are all possibilities."
Hormonal breakouts will usually form in distinct areas including:
- Lower face including the jaw line
- Upper back
How common are hormonal breakouts?
Around 50% of people in their 20’s and over 25% of women aged 40-49 experience hormonal breakouts. It’s not just the ladies either. Many men and transgender people experience breakouts too. So we’re all in this together!
Best ingredients for hormonal skin
Reading the fine print on your skincare can help you choose the best products for your skin if you’re prone to hormonal breakouts. Here are the three key types of ingredients that are hugely beneficial to treating hormonal skin.
BHA stands for beta-hydroxy acids commonly referring to salicylic acid white solid first isolated from the bark of willow trees. A top favourite is bromelain enzyme found in the stems of pineapple is also a BHA. These acids are amazing for breakouts as they helps slough off the dead skin cells so they don’t clog pores and cause excess sebum build up. Bromelain is a personal favourite of ours as its gentle on the skin perfect for sensitive skin types.
In a nutshell, BHAs are amazing because they:
- Are chemical exfoliators that loosen dead skin cells so they’re easily sloughed away.
- Work inside the pores to help regulate cell turnover and the shedding of dead skin cells (keratinization)
- Penetrate deep down into your skin’s layers to create maximum change.
- Effective treatment for Blackheads and whiteheads.
- Ideal for sensitive skin types as oil soluble nature does not cause irritation.
We love BHAs as they work on a deep level, which enables them to clear trapped sebum in your pores to stop your pores clogging and breakouts forming. They also slow down oil secretion, which is handy during hormonal swings when your sebum levels can increase.
Bromelain enzyme derived from pineapple is a super gentle and effective BHA that works wonders on hormonal breakouts. You’ll find it everywhere in this summer’s favourite skincare.
AHAs stand for alpha hydroxy acids which are derived from fruit acids like sugar cane, citrus, apples and even almonds. AHAs work to get rid of rid skin cells just like BHAs, but in a slightly different way. AHA 's have a stronger exfoliating effect, which will make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Therefore, you need to ensure to wear sunscreen.
AHA’s are great because they:
- Break down the ‘glue’ holding your skin cells together to encourage your skin’s normal shedding process.
- Help remedy superficial skin concerns like red marks and hyper-pigmentation thanks to encouraging constant sloughing off of dead skin cells.
- Improve your skin’s moisture content as they’re made up of cells that are hydrophilic and love water, reducing the look of fine lines.
The 3 main types of AHA:
Glycolic Acid: This is the most common and strongest AHA type typically derived from sugar cane. It's not allowed to be used in cosmetics in percentages of 30% or more in Australia, nor should the formula pH be lower than 3.5. The molecule size of glycolic is quite small and can cause irritation to new users or those with dry, mature or sensitive skin.
Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is made from the lactose in milk, and is a gentler and more hydrating option than any other AHA's ideal for sensitive skin and mature skin types. With a slightly larger molecular size of 3 microns opposed to glycolic acid's 2 microns, lactic acid is less irritating too. This AHA also uniquely increases ceramide; the skins vital protective barrier lipids, and improves water barrier properties.
Mandelic Acid: Mandelic acid is derived from bitter almonds and is the most gentle AHA of all. It can be combined with other AHAs to increase exfoliation. However, used as a standalone AHA, mandelic acid is amazing at improving pigmentation, texture and pore size.
Despite its pH of 3.41, stronger than glycolic acid, it is generally not irritating and is well tolerated by sensitive skin. Studies have shown mandelic acid has reduced melasma by as much as 50% in four weeks, resulting in a more even-toned complexion.
Caz’s top tips during hormonal breakouts
When you’re breaking out, it’s easy to overdo it with strong AHA's or by washing and over-scrubbing your face with brushes as you try get rid of those blemishes. But please don’t. Breakouts need specific skincare to heal but they also need you to adapt your routine as you aim to clear them.
Here are a few routine tips to help you manage hormonal breakouts
1. If you're breaking out: Luke warm water is best
Avoid cleansing your face in the shower - hot water is not your friend. It will leave your skin irritated and dry.
Exfoliate with a gentle exfoliant twice weekly. That’s enough. BHAs and AHAs will help manage exfoliation at a micro level too.
The recent issue of counterfeit Ordinary 30% AHA being sold at Priceline is also a timely warning to not apply strong AHA's to your skin, they will do significant harm to your skin. Leave these to the professional esthetician doing acid peels. Also, sunscreen is imperative with an AHA regime.
As they're so rough and stringent, don't use coffee grounds on your face either please🙏
During breakouts, it’s even more important to remove impurities properly. We created a gentle BHA cleanser that could be used daily without stripping your skin.
Use a gentle approach to your evening routine by adding an efficient cleansing oil to remove any makeup or sunscreen. Don’t worry, our cleansing oil is made with non-comedogenic oils that won't clog your pores, and a plant-based emulsification system that wont't leave your skin oily.
Once you have completed your cleansing (at least 60 seconds 🙏please) simply rinse with luke-warm water and the oil will turn to a milky solution and rinse away leaving your skin clean, soft and refreshed with no oily residue. No pad, cloth or double cleanse required.
Recommendation: The Clarifying Cypress + Mint Cleansing Oil 🙌
When your skin is having a hormonal episode, pick a routine and stick to it as any new skincare routine needs time to work. Give your new products a good six weeks to create change.
In this time, your new routine will help restore balance to your skin’s sebum levels. If you quit too early, the products won’t have a chance to restore this balance. Read more about how this works here.
Recommendation: The Balancing Clarifying Essential Set
Often the double edge sword of Hormonal Breakouts is that you can have both dry skin and excess oil; the perfect storm for acne when things are misfiring. The imbalance doesn't need a nuclear response of high doses of benzoyl peroxide. I recommend a kinder approach. Giving your skin nourishment that will balance sebum production and calm inflammation will work wonders at clearing hormonal breakouts and is incredibly effective.
Recommendation: The Gift Blue Tansy + Marula Balancing Facial Oil, Hydrating Watermelon Niacinamide B3 + B5 Serum and Renewal Anti-aging B3 + Collagen Facial Toner, Blue Tansy B5 + Collagen Balancing Facial Toner
7. If your skin is looking very oily: Be flexible and always gentle
Your skin is in a state of flux, if your skin is feeling tight and drier than "normal" try Facial Oil + Moisturiser but don't go overboard. Just adding the moisturiser into your daily routine can give your skin that extra boost of hydration it needs.
Conversely, simplify the routine if your skin is seeming shiny and not absorbing products. Keep it simple with a toner and serum on those 'shiny' days.
On subsequent days; pick up your routine where you left off.💕
8. If you're experiencing Hot Flashes: Try an oil-free routine
You may need to skip products with oils a miss when it's extremely hot & humid weather, and when you have become a nuclear reactor with Hot Flushes. Facial Oils and Moisturisers create an occlusive layer over your skin that will keep moisture and heat in. This was the inspiration and necessity of our latest oil-free releases.
This routine delivers hydration and will help your skin retain moisture less the heat. Niacinamide B3 is the hero of this routine which has a host of additional benefits of Calming Inflammation redness, Brightening and refining
The best products during a hormonal imbalance
I hope you’ve learned a bit about how to manage hormonal breakouts. Here at Samson & Charlie we get so many questions about which products work best for breakouts so I’ve recommended our top skincare routine for hormonal breakouts:
Heads up though, this blog is about general hormonal breakouts. If you’re experiencing cystic acne or severe hormonal acne, please see a dermatologist.
Have a browse around our store, and as always, comment below or let me know your questions on our socials @samsonandcharlie.