Best Skincare Products For Hormonal Acne In 2022

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When that time of the month comes, you might expect several unpleasant symptoms, from bloating to muscle pain. However, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, there's one PMS symptom that 63% of adult women face — hormonal acne.

Hormonal acne occurs when the hormone levels in your body fluctuate. Before you start your period, the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body decrease, leading to higher levels of testosterone (via Healthline). This causes your skin to increase sebum production. Since hormonal acne is caused by fluctuating levels of hormones occurring internally, topical treatments may offer some temporary relief against acne (per Midland Skin). According to WebMD, they will not tackle the root of the issue like the combined oral contraceptive pill would.

Colloquially known as the birth control pill, this pill contains estrogen and progesterone and helps regulate hormones in people with hormonal imbalances that can subsequently cause hormonal acne. If you cannot or do not wish to go on the pill, then you still may be able to manage your hormonal acne by using products with pimple-fighting ingredients. Certain ingredients will help prevent pimples and treat existing acne.

So when that pesky Aunt Flo decides to drop by for a visit once again, you won't break a sweat about your skin — neither literally nor figuratively.

How we selected products

The products we recommend for people with hormonal acne include several dermatologist-approved ingredients. We searched the Internet top to bottom for the most effective and highly rated acne treatments that feature these scientifically-tested actives.

One ingredient we prioritized in our selection process was salicylic acid. Also known as beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA), it's one of the most highly-recommended ingredients for mild-to-moderate acne. Per NetDoctor, salicylic acid is oil-soluble, meaning it dissolves easily in oil-based substances. Salicylic acid goes deep into the skin's pores, clearing out any oil and debris. This makes it especially suitable for oily, congested skin — a common PMS symptom that leads to acne (via WebMD).

Some of the products we recommend contain alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA), which not only helps reduce acne but also aging and hyperpigmentation. Easily one of the most powerful anti-acne ingredients available over-the-counter though is adapalene gel. Adapalene is a potent retinoid that promotes cellular turnover, sloughing off the mixture of oil and dead skin cells that tend to clog pores. 

Of course, it's easy to overdo the anti-acne actives. Personal discretion is advised in selecting which acne-fighting ingredients and products you want to incorporate into your routine. Make sure to go easy with acid-containing products, and avoid using them simultaneously with adapalene gel, as Differin notes. 

No matter what your specific hormonal acne-related concern is, we have a comprehensive list of anti-acne products that are guaranteed to keep your skin clear.

Best cleanser

One of the most important parts of a skincare routine for acne-prone skin is cleansing your face, according to West Lake Dermatology. If you don't cleanse your face, dirt can mix with sebum and dead skin cells, blocking your pores with sticky build-up. As Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Mount Sinai Hospital's director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology, told SELF, "Proper facial cleansing prevents acne breakouts, can improve skin health, and may even reduce skin inflammation."

New York-based dermatologist Evan Rieder recommended La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash for acne-prone skin, per New Beauty. The mild concentration of 2% salicylic acid along with lipo-hydroxy acid helps control sebum production, which tends to increase during that time of the month (via WebMD).

According to La Roche-Posay, the formula mildly exfoliates the skin without the use of any harsh physical exfoliants that could irritate the skin. The product works on papules, whiteheads, clogged pores, and enlarged pores. Unlike other more drying acne treatments, glycerin in the cleanser helps to restore moisture that can be stripped away from the acne treatment. Board-certified dermatologist, Jenny Liu, told La Roche-Posay, "Many of my patients further irritate their skin when using too many acne products. This cleanser with salicylic acid helps reduce acne and excess oil, but is still gentle enough for sensitive skin."

Buy the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash from Amazon for $14.99.

Best toner

People with acne-prone skin can benefit from using a toner, per Derm Collective. That's because toners remove the last bits of stubborn makeup, dirt, and oil on your skin — effectively unclogging the pores. Using a toner that contains both AHA and BHA can be especially beneficial. Together, they remove dead skin cells and deep clean your pores.

The Pixi Beauty Clarity Tonic is a toner with AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid), as well as BHA (salicylic acid), that helps clarify the skin. An influencer known as Doctor Anne, who is a German-based medical doctor in the public health industry, recommends the toner for preventing minor pimples from turning into larger breakouts (per YouTube). For the self-described skincare enthusiast, the product works best when used a week before and after your period, as that's when the skin's pores are most prone to congestion and subsequent breakouts. She finds the product gentle enough to use with her tretinoin prescription.

Robert Stead, a skincare influencer with a YouTube channel called "Mad About Skin," also highly recommends the Clarity Tonic. Stead calls the fragrance-free formula an absolute stand-out for the calming aloe, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and skin barrier-strengthening probiotics in the product. The toner seems to be a mild exfoliant, but Pixi Beauty hasn't disclosed the exact concentrations of the acids. So while the company recommends using the product morning and night, it's important to consider your skin's sensitivity.

Buy the Pixi Clarity Tonic from Ulta Beauty for $18.

Best spot treatment

It's commonly said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The same can be said about skincare and the importance of preventing breakouts. Sometimes, it's too late to prevent a breakout and you're faced with a giant pimple the night before a big event. Having a spot treatment handy for such emergencies can be just as important as following a regular skincare regimen.

The Good Molecules BHA Clarify Gel Cream is an acne treatment that can banish such blemishes. According to dermatologist Andrea Suarez, this non-irritating cream will improve the appearance of pores and balance oily skin (per YouTube). The licorice in the formula will help remove post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (or acne scars), while centella asiatica will soothe the skin and speed up the healing process.

The gel-cream contains an ultra-mild concentration of 0.04% salicylic acid, which makes it suitable to use on acne that's still healing. Beauty product reviewer Maha raved about the product's ability to control oiliness on her YouTube channel. The cream effectively zapped away most of her chin acne.

Blogger Mary Dee used this product to help treat a cystic acne breakout from a hormonal imbalance, per Beauty Journals XO. She found the product reduced redness and calmed inflammation –- healing breakouts while hydrating the skin. The gentle formula can also be applied all over the face, if desired.

Bye, bye blemish! Buy the Good Molecules BHA Clarify Gel Cream from Ulta Beauty for $10.

Best serum

The aftermath of hormonal acne breakouts often leaves hyperpigmentation that takes a while to fade away. Breakouts caused by hormonal fluctuations tend to consist of cystic acne – pimples that form deep in the pores and don't surface (per Healthline). According to Byrdie, cystic acne tends to leave behind discoloration and scars. The best way to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and scarring is to regularly use mild chemical exfoliants that keep your skin clear.

A lightweight serum like the Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Serum can clear pores, preventing potential pimples from your period. The product offers mild exfoliation and brightens discoloration. In fact, 93% of Glow Recipe product testers claim the serum "visibly smoothed texture and bumps."

Hannah, a customer who deals with hormonal acne on her cheeks, reviewed the serum on YouTube and found that the product helped fade the PIH she has from breakouts. The serum features a water-gel texture that easily absorbs into the skin. The mild concentration of 1% AHA, paired with 2% salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C, gently resurfaces and brightens the skin while replenishing it with moisture.

Get glass skin and buy the Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Acid Serum from Sephora for $40.

Best exfoliant

Exfoliating your skin regularly is key to preventing acne breakouts, per West Lake Dermatology. The process clears your face of dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause pimples. Not all exfoliators are made equally though. Using a chemical exfoliant, rather than a physical exfoliant, is your best bet in gently sloughing off dead skin and deep-cleaning your pores. Some physical exfoliants contain harsh exfoliating beads that can potentially cause micro-tears on your skin.

One chemical exfoliant that dermatologists recommend for acne-prone skin is Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. While you can't technically shrink your pores, this product will reduce their appearance by unclogging them. According to Hypebae, the product gently exfoliates and effectively unclogs pores without drying your skin.

Insider reports that the liquid exfoliant contains salicylic acid and green tea, the latter being an antioxidant that shields your skin from damaging free radicals. Because this product is a stronger exfoliant, users are advised to customize the frequency to their skin sensitivity. Initially, you can expect some purging, but once your skin gets used to the actives, it will soon start looking smoother and brighter, with diminished pores.

Buy the Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant from Amazon for $30.40.

Best moisturizer

Even if you're dealing with hormonal breakouts, it's still vital to moisturize twice a day (per Bella Med Spa). Moisturizing your skin helps protect your precious skin barrier, and a damaged skin barrier can lead to more acne, according to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Furthermore, some exfoliating actives can wreak havoc on your skin barrier if overused. To replenish your skin after exfoliating, it's important to moisturize.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dehydrated skin will also often overcompensate and produce more oil, which can be counterproductive in preventing acne. At night, your skin tends to get drier as that's when transepidermal water loss, or skin dehydration, peaks (per HuffPost).

Using a rich moisturizer at night like the Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins Resurfacing Cream can offer acne-prone skin the best of both worlds. According to the brand's website, the moisturizer contains plant-derived AHAs that slough off dead skin cells. One of those AHAs, lactic acid, is a gentle exfoliant that increases cellular turnover, brightens the skin, and improves the skin's ability to retain moisture. The brand also notes that "Vitamins B, C, E, H & Calcium help replenish & fortify skin as you're lulled to sleep by essential oils of Neroli, Valerian & Vanilla."

Buy the Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins Resurfacing Cream with Fruit-Derived AHAs from Ulta Beauty for $38.67.

Best face treatment

If you deal with out-of-control acne breakouts, then you might benefit from adapalene gel. Per VeryWell Health, adapalene is a retinoid that boosts cell turnover, sloughs dead skin cells, and reduces excess sebum. Coveteur recommends adapalene for hormonal acne as it "prevents skin cells from sticking together and blocking the pores." Adapalene also reduces inflammation, making this retinoid specifically effective against acne.

Differin, the brand name of adapalene, now sells over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments and is the first topical OTC retinoid to be approved by the FDA. According to Differin, adapalene penetrates deeper than retinol, which makes it a more effective treatment than other retinol products at the drugstore.

If you decide to use the product, VeryWell Health reports you only need a pea-sized quantity for the whole face. The product should be used at night, as it can make the skin sensitive. Furthermore, even if you only have acne in a few spots, you have to apply this product regularly on the entire face for the product to keep the skin looking clear and prevent further breakouts. This product doesn't work as a spot treatment.

Initially, you can expect some sensitivity until your skin becomes accustomed to retinol, with symptoms such as dry/flaky skin, redness, irritation, and mild burning. When using the product, Differin warns against using any AHAs or BHAs in your routine.

Buy the Differin 0.1% Adapalene Gel Acne Treatment from Amazon for $32.37.

Best body wash

The only thing worse than a breakout on the face is dealing with body acne at the same time. According to Insider, body acne can be caused by your hormones. Right before that time of the month, it's common for some women to experience increased sweating from some of the hormonal changes that take place (via Bustle).

As Shape notes, when sweat mixes in with dirt and oil on your body, it causes a sticky mixture that can clog the pores on your body. To prevent and reduce body acne, board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner recommends using a an acne-fighting body wash with salicylic acid like Dove Acne Clear Body Cleanser. "Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy-acid that can help remove dead cells and oil from the skin to keep the pores clear, making your skin less likely to break out when you get sweaty," Zeichner told Shape.

According to Dove, the serum-infused body wash features a non-stripping formula with 1% salicylic acid that is free of parabens and sulfates. The gel-based body wash uses skincare ingredients usually used on the face to treat the body (per Target). Salicylic acid and bamboo specifically help acne-prone skin, treating existing blemishes and preventing further breakouts. The product has an impressive 4.5-star rating on Target's website.

Show your body some love and buy Dove Acne Clear Body Cleanser from Target for $7.99.

Best body scrub

You already know how important it is to exfoliate your face, but you may not know that it's equally important to exfoliate your body as well. Exfoliating your body is especially beneficial in managing body acne. In fact, Forbes reports that over half of people who deal with facial acne also suffer from body acne.

The outlet recommends the Differin Acne Clearing Body Scrub to help prevent and treat body acne breakouts. Differin's body scrub has AHA and BHA to unclog pores and reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), as well as retinyl palmitate –  a gentler retinoid that acts as a mild acne treatment. The product also contains vitamin E exfoliating beads, in addition to shea butter and glycerin to restore moisture to the body.

Sarah Vo, a beauty product reviewer on YouTube, deals with body acne and tried the scrub out. According to Vo, the product, which contains 2% salicylic acid and 1% glycolic acid, immediately cleared her chest breakout. She also told viewers that the large pimple on her shoulder reduced significantly.

Vo, who is based out of Houston, Texas, says that the humid climate where she lives tends to worsen her body acne. She finds the Differin scrub to be a game-changing product for her and perfect for any part of the body that is prone to get sweaty, have build-up, and subsequently get acne.

Scrub-a-dub-dub! Buy the Differin Acne Clearing Body Scrub from Amazon for $10.42.

Best body treatment

Treating hard-to-reach spots like "bacne" can be difficult. That's why Forbes recommends the Bliss Clear Genius Body Acne Spray — to target those areas your hands can't reach. The formula contains 2% salicylic acid, pore-minimizing niacinamide, oil-controlling zinc PCA, and calming centella asiatica. This spray is perfect for after a workout to prevent body acne, but it also treats existing body acne.

According to Bliss, the spray is "clinically proven to reduce acne severity by 50% in 7 days (without irritation, flaking, or over-drying)." Over the duration of two weeks, the product also reduces oil production by 23%. Customers who tried the product out reported more clear and calm skin, in addition to existing acne reducing in size and redness.

Skincare influencer Sarah Vo tested this product on her body acne and found that she gets considerably fewer breakouts now (per YouTube). According to Vo, existing breakouts heal faster and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation fades from using the spray. Vo had been dealing with the humidity from living in the Texas heat, as well as hormonal fluctuations, and felt those were factors that led to an increase in body acne. "I think that this is great to target those particular areas where you feel maybe you're not exfoliating as well. Those hard-to-reach areas — just spray this and it will do the trick for you.," she said.

It's a stroke of genius — buy the Bliss Clear Genius Body Acne Spray from Amazon for $14.99.

Best treatment for post-acne marks

Cystic acne breakouts, which tend to occur because of hormonal changes, can leave behind pink, brown, or purple marks, which can be permanent but are often temporary (per Skin of Color Society). The main active ingredient in Inkey List Mandelic Acid Treatment can help with dark acne marks. Mandelic acid is a gentle exfoliator that evens out any marks as a result of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and is suitable for sensitive skin.

According to Refinery29, it's a gentle treatment because mandelic acid is made up of larger molecules that don't penetrate the pores as quickly. It exfoliates the surface layer of the skin, creating a brighter complexion. Dermatologist Elif Benar told Refinery29, "Mandelic acid also helps to regulate sebum (oil) production, and can help prevent breakouts in acne-prone skin." Healthline also notes mandelic acid's ability to calm inflammation.

One study from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that mandelic acid at a 45% concentration was as effective in treating mild-to-moderate acne as a 30% concentration of salicylic acid. Most significantly, researchers concluded mandelic acid may even be a safer, more targeted treatment for inflammatory acne – which is commonly caused by hormones.

Don't apply other retinol products when using this mandelic acid treatment, though, as this specific product already contains retinol (via Refinery29).

Buy The Inkey List Mandelic Acid Treatment from Sephora for $10.99.

Best acne spot stickers

While there are several acne treatments that can treat surface-level whiteheads, there are few options for deep, cystic acne. Otherwise called blind pimples, the cystic acne that often occurs as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs deep in your skin and is full of pus (per Cleveland Clinic). These pimples are inflammatory, hard to treat, and can often be painful. Oil production typically increases during PMS, which leads to oil getting trapped under the skin and blind pimples forming.

This type of acne will appear as a slightly raised, red area on your skin, with swelling from pus and oil accumulation. This causes pressure and triggers pain in some people. For this pimple to clear, it has to come to the surface, which isn't easy to do with over-the-counter treatments.

The ZitSticka KILLA Kit Deep Zit Microdart Patch can reach deeper into your pores to help calm the spot with anti-inflammatory ingredients. According to Slate, microdarts penetrate the pores so the active ingredients can reach deeper into the skin. This is great for "early-stage cystic acne," which often occurs during that time of the month. Slate writer Shannon Palus tested the product and found that it helped shrink her pimple.

To calm a blind pimple, Real Simple recommends applying a warm towel on the spot, encouraging it to emerge. Then use the cleansing wipe that comes with the microdarts before applying the sticker.

Buy the ZitSticka KILLA Kit Deep Zit Microdart Patch from Amazon starting at $54.