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Like with any other skin affliction, there's no one-size-fits-all way to treat hormonal acne. You can go the medication route, make lifestyle changes, or dabble with lasers and light therapy. Everyone is different and skincare is hyper-personal, so how you choose to treat your hormonal acne is entirely up to you (in other words, there's no right or wrong way of going about it). With that said, there's nothing wrong with wanting to treat hormonal acne naturally. To get the full lowdown, we tapped three board-certified dermatologists for their expert insight on what causes hormonal acne—and how to get rid of it using natural remedies. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

What is hormonal acne?

Acne is caused by a combination of factors including—but certainly not limited to—excess sebum production, clogged pores, inflammation, and bacteria buildup on the skin. In some folks, however, hormones are the main culprit. As Joshua Zeichner, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains: "Hormonal acne refers to breakouts that occur in women around the time of their menstrual cycle, as the fluctuations in hormones stimulate oil glands, leading to acne flares." 

What causes hormonal acne?

While any menstruator can have hormonal acne (even without abnormal hormone levels), Marisa Garshick, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says it can be associated with certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). "Hormonal acne typically occurs on the lower third of the face, often affecting the jawline and chin, but can also contribute to breakouts on the chest and back," she explains. "Typically it appears with deeper, cystic breakouts, which may be stubborn and cyclical."

There's no one best treatment or cure-all for hormonal acne, so Dr. Garshick tends to suggest a combination of therapies. "It's important to also treat other potential causes of acne with a retinoid as well as benzoyl peroxide," she says. "But for the hormonal component, it's often most effective to treat with certain oral contraceptive pills or spironolactone, a blood pressure medication that can be safely used off-label for the purpose of treating hormonal acne."

How to Get Rid of Hormonal Acne Naturally

However, if you don't want to opt into medications, there are a variety of ways to treat hormonal acne naturally, from certain bacteria-fighting essential oils to prioritizing stress reduction. Here, the experts weigh in on the best natural treatments for hormonal acne.

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1 Reduce stress levels

Stress is detrimental to the body in myriad different ways, but it can do a serious number on the skin and cause hormonal acne to flare up. Take it from Chesahna Kindred, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in Columbia, Maryland: "During periods of stress, the body produces more testosterone, which in turn stimulates oil glands and hair follicles to trigger acne." For this reason, Dr. Kindred always drives home the importance of stress management to her patients. 

Dr. Zeichner adds that stress interferes with wound-healing as well as promoting acne breakouts. "The same hormones that help prepare our body to deal with stressful circumstances also have an impact on our skin, so whether it's meditation or yoga, do what you can to minimize your personal stress levels," he says. Daily meditation is a great way to minimize stress, as is exercise, talk therapy, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.  

2 Watch your diet

So, does diet actually contribute to hormonal acne? According to the experts, it definitely can. "Foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugary foods, have been found to worsen both hormonal and non-hormonal acne," says Dr. Kindred. "Refined sugars and starches increase our blood glucose level, leading to inflammation and driving acne breakouts," adds Dr. Zeichner, who recommends sticking to whole grains instead. Other skin-loving foods he recommends incorporating into your diet include fermented ingredients like kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi, which he says "help balance our bodies' microbiome and reduce the inflammation that leads to breakouts." 

Additionally, Dr. Zeicher advises steering clear of cows' milk if you suffer from hormonal acne, as it's been associated with worsening breakouts. "It's unclear whether it is the sugar or hormones in the milk from the lactating cow, but skim milk may lead to acne breakouts in predisposed individuals," he explains. "Consider a milk substitute like almond or oat milk, or opt for goats' milk if you're acne-prone."

Finally, Dr. Garshick advises upping your intake of green tea if you struggle with frequent hormonal acne flares. "Green tea is known to have anti-inflammatory benefits, making it another good option to reduce inflammation that may contribute to hormonal breakouts," she says. 

3 Try tea tree oil and ACV

"Tea tree oil kills C. acnes, the bacteria associated with acne," says Dr. Kindred. As a hormonal acne treatment, she recommends either using a tea tree oil-based cleanser or creating a diluted wash using a mixture of water with a few drops of raw oil that you can apply directly on your breakouts. Dr. Garshick notes that tea tree oil has been shown to reduce inflammation, meaning it may also help reduce the redness associated with hormonal breakouts. 

Another derm-recommended ingredient for hormonal acne? Apple cider vinegar. "ACV has antibacterial and antifungal properties and can help kill bacteria and yeast on the skin related to conditions like acne, eczema, and dandruff," says Raechele Cochran Gathers, M.D., a board certified dermatologist and founder of MDhairmixtress.com. However, always check with your dermatologist first as ACV is acidic and can cause severe skin irritation when used incorrectly.

4 Customize your skincare

As Dr. Garshick explains, when it comes to lifestyle factors like your skincare routine, it's important for those with hormonal acne to cleanse at least once or twice a day. "You want to ensure that you're getting rid of bacteria and excess sebum that contributes to acne, so don't skimp on cleansing, but also be sure not to over-cleanse or attempt to scrub the acne away, as this can damage your skin barrier," she explains. "Using harsh soaps or abrasive scrubs can actually irritate the skin and contribute to worsening acne." (Her favorite gentle cleansers include CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser ($15; amazon.com) and Dove's Beauty Bar ($5; target.com)). If you're interested in experimenting with benzoyl peroxide, Dr. Garshick suggests Panoxyl 4% Acne Wash ($10; amazon.com) or Humane 5% Acne Spot Treatment Gel ($20; amazon.com). Lastly, she adds that it's important to use products that are non-comedogenic or oil-free to prevent clogged pores. 

If you don't mind changing up your skincare routine, period syncing can also help. The first step is to track your menstrual cycle, which you can do via apps like FLO. The idea is that your skin undergoes a series of changes as your hormones ebb and flow throughout your approximately 28-day cycle, and therefore your skincare routine should change to accommodate this connection between your skin and hormones. This might mean using alpha hydroxy acids in the week before your period when estrogen drops (cue excess oil production) or using hydrating face oils the week of your period, when low hormone levels result in a duller complexion. By doing this, you can anticipate the skincare changes happening in your body—and tailor your routine to match your unique cycle.