Common causes of Acne in women

‘Acne Vulgaris’ is a condition of the skin. It happens when the body creates excess sebum, a skin-hydrating oil, which clumps together with dead skin cells and bacteria in a pore. In the location of this ‘clogging’, an acne lesion or a zit can form.

What's Inside?

Types of acne

Acne in women can persist for years – well into the ages of 30 to 40. This can be a very upsetting ordeal, with many women harbouring feelings of depression, and low self esteem along with a poor body image. However, we at Proactive believe that this needn’t be the case for any woman once they learn how to tackle their symptoms effectively. And a step towards that direction is to equip yourself with the right knowledge and understanding of this issue. And one of the understanding stems from making yourself aware of the main root-causes behind this ever-perplexing dilemma.


One of the main causes of acne in adult-women is Hyperandrogenism – which is the presence of a high amount of hormones known as androgens, also known as male hormones. In the context of acne (and issues such as hirsutism, hair-loss, virilization, etc – which we will address eventually), this refers primarily to the hormone ‘testosterone’, one of the most well-known male-hormones. Excessive free testosterone in your body can increase the production of ‘sebum’, the oily substance secreted at the base of body hair to protect and lubricate the skin.

Hyperandrogenism is itself a manifestation of many underlying causes or endocrine disorders that will be covered in another post.

Fluctuating Female Hormones

Sometimes fluctuating levels of female hormones, such as oestrogen, can also cause excessive production of sebum. Such fluctuations could be due to menstruation, pregnancy, the postpartum period, breast feeding, etc.

Contact Irritation

Anything that causes friction against the skin can cause an outbreak of acne. Skin irritation can lower the defences of the skin and cause a protective reaction that leads to inflammation. Other than friction based irritation, skin irritation can be caused by harsh cleansers, razors against dry skin, etc.

Emotional Stress

Stress can create many biological changes that can lead to acne outbreaks. When you are scared, anxious, or pressured, your adrenal glands make more of the stress hormone called cortisol, which can cause imbalances in your skin.

Physical stress

Physical stress or triggers can cause hormonal changes, weakened immunity, and inflammation. It may arise from extreme weather, lack of sleep, illness, dehydration, environmental irritants, etc. Few researches show that people who have allergies or migraines, or those who smoke, are also more likely to have adult acne.


Certain medicines may also trigger acne in adults. These may include certain corticosteroids, antidepressants, and epilepsy treatments. Although contraceptives are used to treat adult acne, certain formulations may also cause it.