Are chin spots hormonal? And other breakout myths.

Acne as an adult can be one of the most stressful things in life. Apart from the inconvenience of going about our daily lives trying to cover our teenage-esque blemishes, it leaves us frustrated, thinking we’d left these issues behind in our teens. It also leaves us out of pocket while we’re darting to every shop on the high street and visiting every skincare website trying to find the solution. But more than anything, there’s nothing worse than someone pointing out that the cause is your hormonal imbalance, or it’s because of that dairy you ate, or the sugar in your fruit. Acne has become far more complicated than it used to be.

The myths that come with breakouts and acne as an adult are endless and can be somewhat confusing. Knowing what to take on board and what to ignore can become more of a challenge than tackling the problem areas themselves. I wanted to know which of these skincare rumours were worth listening to and if there are actual reasons for our breakouts and Dr. MJ Rowland-Warmann from Smile Works Liverpool gave me an insight into what we can blame for our inconsistent skin issues.

So, my first question was whether the myths about acne and breakouts were true. “In adults, we often see acne develop due to a number of different factors.  This can be hormone related in women – such as changes seen relating to the menstrual cycle, use of birth control and pregnancy.  Acne does seem to be more prevalent in women.” Dr. Rowlan-Warmann explained, however it’s not just women who suffer. “In men we are also seeing an increase in adult acne and there is a worrying trend of steroid use for muscle gain (and thus hormone fluctuations) resulting in very severe cases of acne that I’ve encountered in my practice.”

While there are many reasons that we might develop skin conditions like acne or have unusual breakouts, I wanted to know if tales of breakouts in target areas have specific causes, the most prevalent one being on our chins. “Acne on the lower face and neck in women is on the increase and is associated with hormonal imbalance.  Under the chin is made worse by collections of makeup and cosmetics which are often not cleansed properly, resulting in breakouts in this area.” The next thing that she told me completely shocked me; if you’re a face-toucher, brace yourself…

He said, “it’s also an area that is touched lots – studies show that people touch their faces up to 23 times per hour – that’s once every 2.5 minutes.  Imagine that with unclean hands and you’re adding all sorts of germs into the mix.  Speaking of which, you know your mobile phone that you cherish and press against your face to make a call?  Well, research has shown that there can be more bugs on that than on a toilet seat – and they get transferred straight to your cheek!” 

She went on to explain how it’s not just our faces that can be affected by these kinds of issues. “Clusters of small pimples on the upper arms can be a symptom of something called Keratosis Pilaris, which is an otherwise harmless condition.  The skin in the area can feel rough and dry to touch.  It can be managed well by exfoliating and using moisturisers which contain glycol acid and urea, and there are a number of easy use over-the-counter preparations for this.”

So assuming that we can easily identify why break outs are happening, this should be able to help us target them and prevent them from happening. Dr. Rowland-Warmann agrees to an extent. “If there is a distinctive cause that can be identified then it is much easier to treat.  However, with a lot of acne the cause is hormonal and fluctuations are very difficult to control.” While aspects of a bad diet won’t positively contribute to skin, it isn’t certain that it’s what causes hormones to react in such a way that causes acne and Dr. Rowland-Warmann insists that it is still important to “have a balanced and healthy diet to make sure that the body is supplied with all the nutrients it needs in order to repair itself.”

It’s confirmed that various factors can make acne worse, however, at the end of the day acne comes down to just one thing: an excess production of sebum. Sebum is “a natural oil produced by the skin which is designed to protect it.” She clarified, and continued, ” In certain people, sebum production goes in to overdrive, blocking pores and causing what we recognise as the pimple.  Spots are an accumulation of sebum coupled with a pore blocked with dead cells and bacteria.”

So, there we have it. There can be specific causes behind why our skin is playing up in our adult lives, however it’s never quite that simple. The most important thing is that we get treatment to suit us. Just because something worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you too. Tailor your skincare so that you can make the most of it, and you’ll get the best results. Keep your skin clean and your insides healthy for an extra positive input. It turns out, hormonal chin spots aren’t just a myth. Who knew?

Feature image: Vogue India