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Hormonal Acne


Updated June 02, 2014

Most dermatologists believe acne is closely linked with hormonal changes that occur within the body. In fact, testosterone has been identified as a chief trigger of acne development. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, testosterone works to stimulate oil gland activity, creating an oilier skin more prone to acne breakouts.


Testosterone and the Sebaceous Glands

Androgens are hormones released from the adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. Testosterone is an androgen hormone. While it is typically thought of as a male hormone, it is present in both men and women.


Testosterone works with the enzyme 5a reductase to create di-hydrotestosterone. Di-hydrotestosterone stimulates the sebaceous glands, causing an increase in sebum production and leading to an oilier skin. As the follicles are filled with excess oil, they become blocked more easily. The blockage of the follicle creates a comedo, or acne breakout.


Teen Acne and Testosterone

There is a sharp increase in androgen hormones during puberty, which is why acne suddenly erupts during adolescence. Testosterone is present in both males and females, but it is found in higher levels in the male body. This may explain why, while acne strikes both young men and young women equally, males tend to have more severe and longer lasting acne than their female counterparts.



The Hormonal Impact on Adult Acne

Testosterone also impacts adult acne, specifically adult women. When the female body is lacking estrogen (typically known as a female sex hormone) there is often an increase of testosterone production.


This sharp decrease in estrogen and rise in testosterone is most often seen during ovulation and menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause, and can also be caused by using certain birth control medications. It is during these periods of life that women are more likely to develop, or have worsening, acne breakouts.

Certain conditions, such as polycystic ovary disease, can stimulate testosterone production, thereby causing an increase in acne breakout activity. Medications, including steroids and certain birth control drugs, can also interfere with hormonal production.

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