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Millions of Women Facing Hormonal Acne

For all too many women, the acne that they once feared would flare up just in time for prom as a teenager has resurfaced into their adult years - causing anxiety for events from weddings to job interviews.

The reason? Chronic, persistent acne is a common medical condition for women who either have suffered with it since adolescence or for those who first develop it during adulthood. Either way, the physical and emotional toll that acne causes can be devastating.

"When adult women experience acne outbreaks, hormones are usually the primary culprit," said dermatologist Diane S. Berson, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York, N.Y.

"Hormonal acne can be particularly frustrating because it may not respond to the same over-the-counter treatments that worked for some women during their teenage years."

While acne typically first appears during adolescence, hormonally influenced acne usually begins in the early-to-mid twenties and can persist well into adulthood.
The cause of hormonal acne is most often linked to androgens, which are the hormones that stimulate the sebaceous - or oil - glands and hair follicles in the skin. When the sebaceous glands are over-stimulated by androgens, acne flare-ups can occur. Nearly half of all women experience acne flare-ups and increased facial oiliness during the week preceding menstruation.

Dr. Berson emphasized that while most women with acne have normal androgen levels, some women may have a more serious medical condition for which acne is just one symptom.

"When persistent acne is accompanied by excess facial hair, known as hirsutism, and hair loss or thinning hair, it could signal increased androgen production common in conditions such as polycystic ovaries and adrenal hyperplasia," said Dr. Berson.

"In addition, women with hormonal acne also may experience irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, infertility or diabetes. It's vitally important for these women to consult with their physician, as a blood test can determine the cause of these symptoms and the best treatment option."