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How I Deal With Hormonal Acne (& How K-Beauty Has Helped)


How I Deal With Hormonal Acne (& How K-Beauty Has Helped)
Sheryll Donerson
Sheryll Donerson

Jun 26, 2017

Yes, there’s more to hormonal acne than just topical treatments (sugar, we're looking at you!), but a K-beauty skincare routine makes a huge difference in the length and severity of a breakout. Here, how one K-beauty guru manages her hormonal acne.


Let’s keep it real. I have nice skin. I have worked very hard to have nice skin. And unfortunately, like clockwork, once a month, my skin is temporarily screwed over by my not-so-great-friend named Hormonal Acne. Hooray!


Despite my iffy skincare techniques in my youth, I had great skin all throughout high school and college. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s when ish got real, real quick. I developed terrible cystic acne that could only be tamed by Retin-A and harsh acne treatments. Birth control worked, too, but I had to stop that for various other health reasons.


Dealing with my hormonal acne is the ultimate struggle because I know every month it’ll be the same thing. Thankfully, I’ve learned to tackle my acne with love and care, instead of trying to purge them to death like I did in the past. Read on for my K-beauty inspired approach to keeping my hormonal acne at bay.


hormonal acne


What is hormonal acne?


Hormonal acne is characterized by breakouts along the chin, jawline, and sometimes cheeks, usually around the time of your period or by hormonal imbalances. It can also be caused by stress, a sugar or dairy heavy diet, and exhaustion. I’m sure we can all recall the times we pulled a stressful all-nighter and were blessed with a lovely care package of acne a couple of days later. Lovely, right?


Beauty from the inside out


I know it’s cliché, but what they say is true: You are what you eat. If I eat a lot of sugar, I break out. It’s inevitable. It’s especially worse when I am PMS’ing. I have thankfully weaned myself off of soda and most sugary desserts and candy, but I cannot say no to cupcakes and donuts. They are my kryptonite.


hormonal acne
Heather Schwartz/Unsplash


But now, when the cravings hit, instead of reaching for something super sugary, I like to drink La Croix, because it’s carbonated like soda without the sugar, and a piece of fruit and plain Greek yogurt. I don’t have much of a reaction with dairy, but the thing about hormonal acne is that it’s all trial and error. Try cutting out or limiting your sugar and dairy intake to see if that makes a difference.




I track my period using the Clue app on my iPhone. This is important for a few reasons. When I know I’m hitting that sweet PMS zone, I like to preemptively cut back on my sugar intake and increase my usage of acne-fighting AHA ingredients like lactic and glycolic acid. I’ve found that if I start working on the breakouts early, then I won’t have as much of a mess on my hands later.


Clean yo’ face


beer baths hormonal acne


One of the commandments of K-beauty is a clean face. Double cleansing has been a part of my life for so long I don’t even understand what I did before it. Even if I don’t wear makeup (and especially when I do), I use an oil-based cleanser to remove dirt, grime, and pollutants. I follow it up by using a pH balanced cleanser like the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser.


My K-beauty approach


For so long, I bought into the whole “if it hurts, it must be working” approach when it came to my acne. I used harsh scrubs, drying acne treatments, and alcohol-laden toners with reckless abandon, in hopes that it would help my adult acne. Needless to say, it made it worse. Drying out your skin actually produces more oil, which makes your acne worse.


This is where my K-beauty approach comes in. Instead of thinking about my acne as a mortal enemy that needs to be eradicated with hate, I nurture, hydrate, and moisturize my skin. And surprise. My skin is great!


bha hormonal acne


After I double cleanse my skin, I apply a chemical exfoliant of some sort. I rotate between using a BHA (to dissolve built-up oil, blackheads, and whiteheads, and “unglue” all the dead skin cells) and an AHA (to smooth out my skin). After about 15 to 20 minutes, I follow that up with a hydrating toner, then a sheet mask like my favorite Leaders Vaseline mask. After 20 minutes, I pat the remaining essence into my skin and apply a lightweight serum like the CELLNCO Super Hyaluronic Moisturizing Ampoule and slather on my all-time favorite Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask.


Focusing on a multi-step K-beauty routine instead of scrubbing my skin into oblivion has tremendously helped my hormonal acne. I still have minor breakouts, but I am able to manage them much better, and they don’t last nearly as long as they used to. #Blessed.


How do you deal with your hormonal acne? Let us know!




Sheryll Donerson
Sheryll Donerson

Sheryll Donerson got her start as a beauty writer by writing K-beauty reviews for her blog, The Wanderlust Project. These days, she's lifting heavy weights, eating tacos, drinking (too much) coffee and is 1/4 of the beauty podcast, Beauty Beyond Basics (or Triple Bees for short). You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @sheryllrenata.



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