When it comes to treating hormonal acne, it’s important to take a multi-pronged approach to your diet, lifestyle and skincare. Each plays a role in affecting your hormones, meaning any one or all may require tweaking.  


Although skincare products alone can’t cure hormonal acne, using the right products as part of a targeted skincare routine will go a long way to helping soothe inflammation, end breakouts as quickly as possible and minimise any scarring.


We’re sharing some of our tried and tested Korean skincare tips and the beauty products that will help to effectively and holistically treat hormonal acne.



If you thought pimples were a teenage problem, suffering from acne later in life can take you by surprise. Unfortunately however, hormonal acne is actually most common in women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and is caused by fluctuations in our hormones. These changes arise due to a number of factors, including stress, fatigue, poor diet, the menstrual cycle and menopause. Other more serious conditions can occasionally also be to blame, including polycystic ovarian syndrome.




If you are experiencing acne in your 20s and 30s, the cause is often hormonal. Many women of childbearing age are afflicted by hormones going haywire, as the body is preparing itself for pregnancy, childbirth and lactation (even if you aren’t!)

Similarly, if you find your acne tends to be concentrated around the chin and jawline, you can almost guarantee the culprit is hormones, as these cysts are caused by spikes in androgens.

Many of us already know the tell-tale signs of period-induced breakouts, which are caused by cyclical hormonal imbalances. In this case, fluctuating progesterone and estrogen levels are to blame. You’ll usually find these blemishes pop up in the same place each month.

Stress is also the root of many evils, and hormonal acne is one of them. When the body is subjected to prolonged periods of stress or even short periods of acute stress, the cortisol levels in the body fluctuate, contributing to hormonal acne flares.




Treating hormonal acne requires lifestyle adjustments, and may require dietary changes. Cutting out dairy, refined sugars and alcohol can help, as can changing your pillowcases regularly, to avoid a build up of sweat, dirt and oil. Washing your face and drying it with a towel is also not recommended, as this can result in a spread of bacteria and is often overly sensitizing for irritated skin.

In addition, using the right topical skincare products will also assist. Topical and prescription retinoids can assist managing hormonal breakouts.

If these measures are not enough, medication may also be an option, including certain types of birth control pills, and anti-acne medicine.

Usually, the best approach is a combination of the above.



When it comes to the best skincare products to apply to the skin to treat hormonal acne, it is less about the specific products and more about the right method for applying them, in addition to choosing products with the best ingredients for your skin.

Tip 1: Double Cleansing is your new BFF

When dealing with any type of acne, it is best to start your routine with a two-step cleanse. This is a key part of the Korean Beauty routine as it ensures that you properly cleanse your face, remove any makeup and sunscreen and prepare the skin to be treated with the next layers in skincare.

The first cleanser – the oil based cleanser – will break down any dirt, makeup and sunscreen. The second cleanser – the foaming cleanser – will remove everything else.

When the skin’s barrier is weakened by acne, it is best to opt for pH balanced cleansers. For more on the benefits of pH balanced face washes, see our previous article.

Our top cleansing picks for sensitive, acne-prone skin are B-Lab I Am Sorry Just Cleansing Natural Cleansing Oil or Beauty of Joseon’s Radiance Balm as the first cleanser, followed by Tosowoong’s Enzyme Powder Wash as the second cleanser.


Tip 2: Chemical exfoliation is a must

Acne-prone and sensitive skin is best served avoiding manual exfoliants and scrubs, as they are overly sensitizing and can even spread infections, leading to more pimples.

That doesn’t mean you should skip exfoliation altogether though, as this will help get rid of any dead skin cells, which can contribute to clogged pores, blackheads and further breakouts. Instead, the best option is to use a chemical exfoliant, which gently exfoliates the skin without the need for any harsh scrubbing or rubbing.

Korean beauty brands are having a love affair with chemical exfoliants, often choosing fruit acids to assist with peeling. Our favourites include COSRX’s BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, COSRX AHA Whitehead Power Liquid and Mizon’s AHA 8% Peeling Serum.


Tip 3: A pH adjusting toner will help reset your skin

Similarly to your pH balanced cleanser, a good pH adjusting toner is also essential to help reset your skin. If you’re using a Vitamin C serum or any other products whose efficacy depends on the proper pH balance of the skin, this step is not to be missed. Try cult-favourite Mizon AHA BHA Toner. 


Tip 4: Don’t be afraid of oils

While oil may sound like the last thing acne-prone skin needs – oil + oil = more oil, right? In fact, this is wrong. Oils can actually help to correct the balance of oil and moisture in the skin, which is essential for tackling pore problems, sebum production and breakouts.

The key is choosing the right oil, and one that contains ingredients that will help reduce inflammation and breakouts.

Our favourite is LJH Tea Tree Essence Oil. It’s the kind of product that makes you realise how good it is when it’s missing from your routine, as it’s jam-packed with soothing tea tree to deal with redness, inflammation and more.


Tip 5: Give your skin a Vitamin C boost 

Vitamin C marries perfectly with acne prone skin for a variety of reasons – not only does it increase hydration levels, it also improves active breakouts, has antioxidant and anti-ageing properties and increases collagen production.

The brightening properties of Vitamin C works to reduce and improve the appearance of pigmentation from post-acne scars.

Try the best-selling Vlancvere Power VC15 Ample, It’s Skin Power 10 VC Ampoule or Melano CC Essence.

Tip 6: Find the ingredients your skin loves

Anyone dealing with breakouts will tell you how important it is to find the ingredients that calm your skin and reduce the lifespan of breakouts. Whether it’s anti-inflammatory tea tree, soothing aloe vera or nourishing propolis try some new ingredients to find your skin’s jam. Some of our favourites are:


Tea Tree: a natural plant extract that helps calm skin and keep it clear of redness. It’s perfect as a spot treatment, or as part of a serum or face mask. We love iUNIK Tea Tree Relief Serum, LJH Tea Tree Essence Oil and Tony Moly I’m Real Tea Tree Mask,


Aloe Vera: another plant with moisturising and emollient properties. Due its high content of natural vitamins, Aloe Vera works well to relieve stress, rehydrate, and soften the skin’s outer layer. Try Tosowoong Pure Aloe Vera Mask, Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel, Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner and It’s Skin Aloe Relaxing Mask.


Propolis: a naturally occurring anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory made by bees, propolis is ideal for acne-prone skin. We can’t go past iUNIK Propolis Vitamin Synergy Serum and anything from K-Beauty’s King of Propolis – Tosowoong. Try Tosowoong Propolis Brightening Essence, Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule and Tosowoong Pure Propolis Mask.


Acids: These are the big guns of skincare – Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) and Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs) – they treat a variety of  issues, including blackheads, whiteheads, breakouts, hyper-pigmentation, and blocked pores. Try COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, COSRX AHA Whitehead Power Liquid and COSRX PHA Moisture Power Renewal Cream.


Snail secretion filtrate – a great ingredient because it naturally contains a heap of skin-friendly ingredients, including proteins, elastin, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and copper peptides. It effectively repairs photo damage and is especially helpful for mature skin, acne, uneven skin tone and acne scarring. It also has anti-microbial properties that help avoid bacteria. We love Mizon All in One Snail Repair Cream, iUNIK Black Snail Restore Serum and Tosowoong Pure Snail Mask.


Lactic Acid: another naturally occurring ingredient, lactic acid offers mild exfoliation benefits to remove dead skin. Try PACKage I Love Myself Makeup Boosting Mask.

Tip 7: Don’t touch your face

Touching your face and picking at pimples are two big no-nos when dealing with acne – not only are you introducing potential new triggers and dirt, you also risk spreading the infection.

If you absolutely must pick, use a professional extraction tool so that you do it with as minimal damage to the skin as possible. Better yet, apply a pimple patch to cover the entire blemish. Not only will this help in resisting the urge to pick, it also cures the spot as quickly as possible. Pimple patches have the additional added benefit of minimising scarring. We love COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch.


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