Adult Acne & Facial Hair Related to a Hormonal Imbalance

For many teenagers, acne is a rite of passage, marking the transition from puberty to adolescence, and finally clearing up in adulthood. Most adults never imagine having to deal with it in later life, but for some--mainly women--acne remains. Although acne flareups can occur due to clogged pores, menses, menopause, or a hormonal imbalance, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is strongly indicated when acne is coupled with facial hair. As the name suggest, Polycystic Ovaries refers to a number of beaded cysts growing in and outside the ovaries.

A young woman is having unwanted hair removed. (Image: Carol_Anne/iStock/Getty Images)

Polycystic Ovaries

Normally functioning ovaries produce the hormones estrogen, progesterone and androgen. These regulate ovulation and the menstrual cycle. When a developed egg is released each month, a woman has a period. When elevated levels of androgens are released, the ovulation and menstrual cycle process is disrupted. Fully developed eggs are not released but instead mutate into fluid-filled sacs. After some time, cysts develop and build up inside and on the ovaries. Although both men and women have androgens, it is generally referred to as being the "male hormone" because the male body naturally produces and uses more of it. When a woman has an excess of this hormone, she may develop facial hair and acne, among other symptoms characteristic of PCOS.

Signs and Symptoms

Other signs of PCOS are male-pattern balding and acne, particularly around the jawline. Missed or irregular periods are another strong indication, as is obesity and weight gain, specifically around the midsection and waistline. Hair growth is not limited to the face, and a sufferer may experience superfluous amounts on the stomach, chest, arms and legs. Infertility is also a symptom, and one may face difficulty in conceiving or experience multiple miscarriages. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer are also complications of PCOS.


PCOS is both a genetic and environmental disorder. Although some may be predisposed, lifestyle and dietary factors can bring on, improve or worsen the condition. It’s not clear whether PCOS is brought on by weight gain, or if weight gain is a symptom of the disease. Research indicates this condition may develop as a result of elevated insulin or insulin resistance. When the body is resistant to insulin or is unable to utilize it, blood-sugar levels rise and glucose is transformed into fat, which explains the weight gain and obesity. Also, elevated androgens may result from insulin resistance or be a trigger for it.

Adult Acne Treatment

Sufferers of adult acne have to deal with issues involving both physical and mental health. Unsightly scars and pimples can be a great source of embarrassment, leaving the sufferer vulnerable to anxiety or even depression. Topical treatments that target a younger market can pose some problems for adults, as older skin is thinner and prone to dryness. Oral medications like the contraceptive pill and hormone-replacement therapy can effectively eradicate acne, but these are usually prescribed to counteract menopausal or hormonal symptoms or for birth control. Oral antibiotics can be used to treat severe cases of acne, and sufferers may benefit from oral isotretinoin. Be sure to consult a dermatologist for advice in determining a treatment plan suitable for you.

Hair Removal

Shaving is the fastest way to remove hair from the body, but it’s not effective when dealing with facial hair, as it can lead to razor bumps and stubble. Bleach kits and depilatory creams are safe and effective in removing facial hair, but make sure the skin is not broken or sensitive. Follow the instructions closely to avoid irritation. Tweezers work well with stray chin hairs, but not for large areas. Waxing is very effective, albeit quite painful. If you chose this option, you will be hair-free for longer periods, and the hair grows back finer each time you wax.

Electrolysis & Laser

Electrolysis is another alternative offering permanent hair removal. It works by attacking the hair follicle to inhibit hair growth. This technique can be time-consuming and expensive, and the results are not always permanent. Laser treatments are the most expensive of all hair removal procedures, and for some, it effectively removes hair permanently. Darker-skinned people should seek advice from a consultant to verify laser and electrolysis treatments are suitable, as injury to the epidermis may occur.

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