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Bacterial Acne vs Hormonal Acne (What You Need to Know)

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions affecting millions worldwide. But did you know there are different types of acne, including bacterial acne, hormonal acne, and even fungal acne?

Understanding these distinctions is crucial to developing an effective skincare routine and targeting your treatment to the specific type of acne that's causing your breakouts. This post will focus on bacterial acne vs. hormonal acne, and their unique causes, symptoms, and effective treatments.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Bacterial acne is often caused by an overgrowth of bacteria due to excess sebum and dead skin cells, while hormonal acne is primarily driven by hormonal fluctuations that trigger sebum overproduction.

  • Identifying the type of acne is essential to determining the most effective treatment. Over-the-counter products and lifestyle changes can help manage both bacterial and hormonal acne, but in some cases, hormonal acne may require medication that targets hormonal imbalances.

  • Persistent or worsening acne could indicate an infection or other underlying issue, warranting consultation with a dermatologist for a comprehensive treatment plan.

  • Exposed Skin Care offers a well-rounded approach to acne treatment with products that control oil production, unclog pores, and boost collagen production. However, their effectiveness can vary depending on the specific type and cause of acne.

Asian woman looking at mirror with pimple

Understanding Acne: The Basics

To comprehend the nuances between bacterial acne and hormonal acne, it is crucial first to understand the basic premise of acne. Acne generally forms when the hair follicles or pores on your skin become clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. This clog can result in different types of acne, including blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts.

Bacterial Acne

Bacterial acne is likely the type of acne that first comes to mind when you think of breakouts. An overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria causes this acne type, specifically Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), in your pores.

When excess sebum production and dead skin cells clog your pores, these bacteria thrive, leading to inflammation and infection and, thus, acne breakout.

Woman with bacterial acne

Hormonal Acne

On the other hand, hormonal acne is primarily driven by fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly during the menstrual cycle in women. These hormonal changes can trigger excess sebum production, leading to clogged pores and creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth and acne development.

Distinguishing Between Bacterial Acne and Hormonal Acne

So how can you tell if acne is hormonal or bacterial? Certain signs and symptoms can help distinguish bacterial acne from hormonal acne.

Symptoms of Bacterial Acne

Bacterial acne often appears as a red lump, or a pustule, on the skin's surface and can occur anywhere on the body. Other signs of bacterial acne include:

  • Large, inflamed blemishes
  • Pimples filled with pus (pustules)
  • Pimples that are tender to touch

Symptoms of Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne often develops on the lower half of the face, particularly along the jawline and chin. Key indicators of hormonal acne include:

African American woman side view with hormonal acne

  • Deep and painful cysts under the skin
  • Acne flare-ups that correlate with the menstrual cycle
  • Prolonged breakout periods, especially if you're dealing with other signs of hormonal imbalance

Treating Bacterial Acne Vs. Hormonal Acne: What Are Your Options?

Identifying whether your acne is bacterial or hormonal is just the first step. Next comes treatment. Different causes of bacterial acne and hormonal acne imply different treatment strategies.

Bacterial Acne Treatment Options

For bacterial acne, treatment options often involve products that reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria and lessen inflammation. Some effective over-the-counter acne treatments include:

Woman cleaning face with toner

  • Benzoyl peroxide: This common topical treatment kills bacteria and helps exfoliate (peel) the skin.

  • Topical Retinoids: Products like tretinoin and adapalene help prevent clogged follicles by promoting cell turnover and reducing inflammation.

  • Salicylic acid: It is an exfoliant that can penetrate and unclog pores, making it particularly effective against blackheads and whiteheads.

Keep in mind that treating bacterial acne requires patience. Maintaining a consistent skincare routine is crucial, which includes gently washing your face twice daily, using a chemical exfoliant, and applying a suitable moisturizer.

Hormonal Acne Treatment Options

When it comes to hormonal acne, treatment options often involve measures that target hormonal imbalances. Some of these options include:

  • Topical Treatments: While hormonal acne is rooted internally, topical treatments like retinoids and benzoyl peroxide can help reduce inflammation and prevent clogged pores.

  • Oral Contraceptives (Birth Control Pills): Some birth control pills have been shown to help regulate hormones and effectively treat hormonal acne.

Close up of young woman holding contracptives

  • Anti-Androgen Drugs: Medications like spironolactone work by blocking androgen hormones, which can reduce sebum production.

Remember, even though you may see improvements, don't stop your treatment regimen. Continued use is necessary to maintain clearer skin.

Hormonal Vs. Bacterial Acne: Prevention Strategies

Apart from the treatment, implementing certain lifestyle changes and skin care measures can prevent both bacterial and hormonal acne:

  • Maintain a Consistent Skincare Routine: Use products suitable for your skin type and ensure to cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize regularly.

  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Your hands carry oils and dirt that can clog your pores and trigger acne.

  • Monitor Your Diet: Some studies suggest that certain foods, including dairy products and high glycemic foods, can trigger hormonal fluctuations and acne breakouts.

  • Manage Stress: High-stress levels can exacerbate hormonal imbalance and, in turn, promote acne.

Benefits of Using Exposed Skin Care for Acne Management

Exposed Skin Care offers a well-rounded approach to treating your acne, whether traditional acne, bacterial, or even fungal acne. Rooted in dermatology and informed by the latest research, their products target different causes of acne to offer comprehensive solutions.

 Exposed Skin Care Ultimate Kit

Some of the potential benefits include:

  • Effective Exfoliants: Their skincare range includes potent exfoliants that unclog blocked pores, reducing the chance of acne formation.
  • Oil Control: Formulations help control the overproduction of sebum (excess oil), one of the primary factors leading to acne.
  • Collagen Boost: Some products contain ingredients known to boost collagen production, which can help heal acne scars and improve skin resilience.
  • Incorporation into Lifestyle: Exposed Skin Care products can seamlessly integrate into your daily skincare routine, complementing other lifestyle factors contributing to skin health.
  • Topical and Oral Solutions: They offer both topical and oral products to address various acne types and causes, providing a comprehensive treatment plan.

While home remedies can have their place for persistent or worsening acne, it may be best to use comprehensive treatments like Exposed Skin Care.


Understanding the nuances between bacterial acne vs hormonal acne and even fungal acne can be a pivotal step in figuring out how best to treat acne specific to your skin. Both types have different causes, symptoms, and, most importantly, treatment plans, indicating that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work when it comes to skincare.

Exposed Skin Care products can play a crucial role in managing various types of acne by offering a balanced and comprehensive approach to skincare. It can control oil production, unclog blocked pores, and even boost collagen production to promote healthier skin.

Lastly, remember that acne may not always be a skin issue. Sometimes, it's a reflection of our internal health. Lifestyle factors, including diet, stress, and certain medications like diuretics, can also influence acne. Therefore, a holistic approach that involves maintaining a balanced lifestyle and a consistent skincare routine is essential for achieving and maintaining clear skin.


Q: What's the difference between bacterial acne and fungal acne?

A: While bacteria cause bacterial acne, fungal acne (also known as Malassezia or Pityrosporum folliculitis) is caused by yeast (a type of fungus). Fungal acne often appears as small, itchy, uniform red bumps. It is typically caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia on the skin.

Q: How can I tell if acne is hormonal?

A: Hormonal acne typically appears in the lower part of your face-- like the bottom of your cheeks and around your jawline. Fluctuation with the menstrual cycle, menopause, or other hormonal conditions indicates that your acne is likely hormonal.

Q: Can over-the-counter treatments work for hormonal acne?

A: Over-the-counter products can help with hormonal acne but may not completely clear it. This is because hormonal acne is often the result of an internal imbalance, so topical treatments might not fully reach the root of the issue.

Q: How can I reduce the occurrence of bacterial acne?

A: Maintaining a consistent skincare routine can help. This includes washing your face twice daily, using a chemical exfoliant, and using non-comedogenic skincare products that won't clog your pores.