Why Do Androgens Such As Testosterone Cause Acne
Androgens cause changes in the skin and directly drive inflammation. Here are the three reasons why androgens cause acne:
This diagram shows the complex effects of androgens in the skin that cause acne:
What’s The Best Birth Control For Acne
Quite frankly, there isn’t one.
Emily was experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone and lab testing showed that she was indeed lacking adequate amounts. But her acne persisted.
Thats because the pill doesnt fix acne or regulate hormones for that matter. It simply suppresses it.
And for some women, acne is worse after stopping birth control.
Over 2 years Emily had been on 5 different birth control pills and felt like her skin was getting worse. So, instead of reaching for another new prescription, it was time to take a holistic approach to her skin.
Iud And Hormonal Acne: The Skincare Products
I use Renee Rouleau’s Anti Cyst Treatment for whenever I felt a painful bump coming on to dissolve the infection from the inside. Post-Breakout Fading Gel to get rid of post-breakout dark spots. “The inflammation from the blemish triggers the skin to produce pigment cells,” she explains.
Every three days, I cycle between her Skin Drink Concentrate and Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum. I’ve waxed poetic about the latter before the main takeaway here is to ensure that you’re exfoliating your skin with chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid while keeping it hydrated with super moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe.
I’ve also incorporated the Rapid Response Detox Masque into my routine it’s gentle but powerful and contains tea tree leaf oil, licorice and a salicylic acid complex that was designed to keep hormonal breakouts at bay.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Elite Daily’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
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Things To Try When Acne Wont Clear
The following tips from dermatologists can help you get started.
1. Give an acne treatment at least 4 weeks to work.Using a new acne product every few days may seem useful, but that approach can worsen acne. Acne treatment needs time to work. Using a different product every few days can also irritate your skin, causing new breakouts.
If a treatment works for you, you should notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks. It can take two to three months or longer to see clearing.
If you notice improvement, keep using the treatment. Even when you see clearing, you’ll want to keep using the acne treatment. This helps to prevent new breakouts.
When to see a dermatologist about acne?
Seeing a dermatologist can help prevent acne from worsening. You can benefit from seeing a dermatologist when acne:
Causes acne cysts and nodules
Hasnt cleared with treatment you can buy without a prescription
Makes you feel uncomfortable, and you want clearer skin
2. Attack the different causes of acne.If you dont see improvement after 4 to 6 weeks, add a second acne product to your treatment plan.
This approach can help attack the different causes of acne. Bacteria, clogged pores, oil, and inflammation can all cause acne.
Benzoyl peroxide decreases P. acnes bacteria
Retinoids, such as adapalene gel, unclog pores and reduce oiliness
Salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores
Won’t clog pores
Testosterone And Acne: Are They Connected
Yes, testosterone and acne are connected. Hormonal acne usually occurs in response to a rise in certain hormones, especially testosterone. During puberty, the production of testosterone increases and can prompt hormonal acne in teenagers. Rising testosterone may stimulate more sebum production from glands in the skin. Then, excessive sebum combines with dirt and dead skin cells, clogging the skin pores. The infection of these clogged pores by acne-causing bacteria may lead to pimples. Your bodys immune system may react to the bacteria and its metabolites and produce inflammation, which looks like redness alongside acne lesions.
Acne during menopause can occur because of hormonal fluctuations. People who develop acne around menopause usually have normal androgen levels but reduced levels of estrogen. Due to this imbalance, sebum production increases, and acne may flare.
For some people, hormone replacement therapy can actually trigger acne.
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What Are The Causes Of Hormonal Acne Breakouts
Hormonal levels can trigger hormonal acne breakouts during the menstrual cycle, higher amounts of a specific hormone in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome , hormonal changes before and during menopause, and increased androgen levels.
The hormones that influence hormonal acne are estrogen, progesterone, which fluctuates during the menstrual cycle month, testosterone , and cortisol that rises in periods of stress. These hormones can also fluctuate during pregnancy and breastfeeding and cause acne flare-ups.
Get Plenty Of Sleep And Relax
Managing your stress is key to managing your acne. Its important to get plenty of sleep and to take time to relax! Stress doesnt cause acne directly, but it causes your skin to produce more sebum, which can lead to more breakouts.
Acne is more than just a cosmetic problem its a serious dermatological condition that can cause a lot of stress and embarrassment. If you have persistent acne that isnt responding to over-the-counter treatments, it may be time to call a dermatologist, says Dr. Snitzer. There are many different treatment options available for women experiencing hormonal acne that can help to clear up acne and restore self-confidence.
For women who have experienced scarring from severe acne in the past, there are a number of non-invasive treatments that can significantly improve the look and feel of your skin. These include chemical peels, laser skin resurfacing and microdermabrasion.
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Birth Control Pills Or Patch
Hormonal birth control including birth control pills and patches raise estrogen levels and reduce the effects of testosterone on women. Lower levels of testosterone reduce sebum levels, directly reducing breakouts and possible acne due to less oil and bacteria growth.
According to WebMD, hormonal birth control increase a protein known as sex-hormone binding globulin in the blood. In turn, SHBG acts like a testosterone sponge soaking up testosterone in your blood. In simple words, lesser testosterone equals lesser sebum which results in less acne.
Be patient when you first start hormonal birth control to control acne. Some women may experience increased breakouts for the first few months. However, this normally goes away as your body adjusts to the change in hormones.
Some birth control pills and patches are specifically useful for controlling acne, including Yaz and Evra Patch. Speak with your doctor before deciding if this is right for you!
What Are The Best Oral Contraceptives For Women With Hormonal Acne
We know that dealing with hormonal acne can be super frustrating, so the idea of taking a birth control pill sounds like an appealing way to help to regulate hormones and get breakouts under control. However, before you start taking birth control pills, you should know that not all contraceptives work the same way and that some birth control pills can actually make acne worse. Seriously. Talk about a bummer. But knowledge is power, and here’s what you need to know.
The best oral contraceptives to control hormonal or adult acne are the ones that contain Ethinyl estradiol and one of the following: drospirenone, norethindrone, or norgestimate. Beware that oral contraceptives are contraindicated in women with a history of blood clots, high blood pressure, breast cancer, and women that smoke.
A study recently published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology categorized the different types of contraceptives by their efficiency in clearing acne. These are the birth control pills the study said significantly improve hormonal acne: Yaz, Ocella, Yasmin, Trinessat, MonoNessa, Apri, and Reclipse. Pretty long list, right?
There are also some contraceptives that the study found to have little or no effect on acne. Those are Nuvaring, Microgestin pills, and Orthoevra . The study also found that some contraceptives can actually make acne WORSE. That list includes Depo-Provera , Skyla, Lylema, Implanon, and Nexplanon .
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An Acne Story By Emily
I havent let someone take my picture in over 3 years, 26-year-old Emily confessed at her first visit. She came to see me with one burning question What’s the best birth control for acne, can birth control pills help acne or am I doomed to have hide from every camera I see?
Emily had tried several pills with varying degree of success. And while some had reduced the number of breakouts, none of them gave her the clear skin her doctor had promised.
Like many women, Emily was prescribed the pill to treat a symptomher acne. Her acne was a symptom of something deeper, I explained.
Her doctor had told her that the pill would help her balance the hormones he believed was causing her to break out.
But the pill doesnt balance hormonesit masks them.
So here Emily was, on the pill without any relief from her acne and instead experiencing mild depression and an absent sex drive.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
- How severe is my acne?
- What lifestyle changes should I make to prevent hormonal acne from forming?
- What are the side effects to my acne treatment?
- Can I take this treatment if I become pregnant?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It can be frustrating to see breakouts on your skin as an adult, considering they are most frequent among adolescents. Talk with your healthcare provider if your acne is persistent and they will be able to offer advanced treatment options to eliminate pesky pimples.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/10/2021.
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What Are The Possible Side Effects
To reduce the risk of a woman developing serious side effects, dermatologists carefully screen their patients before prescribing hormonal therapy. Possible side effects include the following.
The pill. Taking the pill increases the risk of:
High blood pressure
While these side effects may not seem worth the risk, most women who are healthy do not have side effects. In fact, the risk of developing blood clots is greater during pregnancy and just after having a baby than when taking the pill.
Its also important to know that there is less risk of serious side effects today than in past. Today, the pill contains less estrogen.
Some women taking the pill develop melasma, or dark patches on their face. Protecting your face from the sun can help prevent these patches.
Breakthrough bleeding is another possible side effect. You can often prevent this by taking the pill at the same time each day.
Acne and the pill
If you take the pill, you can reduce your risk of blood clots by staying active, drinking lots of water, and not smoking.
Spironolactone. When taking spironolactone without a birth control pill, the most common side effects are:
Painful periods and cramping
These side effects may be decreased when women also take the pill.
Other possible side effects of taking spironolactone include fatigue, headache, and dizziness. These rarely cause a woman to stop taking the medication.
Watch Me Talk About Hormonal Acne In Video
Please share your experiences! What do you think of this protocol and have you found something that has made a big difference for your hormonal acne?
For an updated, revised, and much more detailed version of this post, please check out my brand new ebook The Love Vitamins Guide to Female Hormonal Acne!
photo by greekadman, and kk
Blog author Tracy Raftl used to have severe acne now she teaches thousands of women how to take back control of their skin through natural, holistic, and mind-body methods.
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Prioritize Self Care To Lower Stress
Its easy to underestimate the effects of emotional stress and a busy lifestyle on hormonal acne.
Yet, as weve seen in this article, our bodies react the same way to all stress.
So, making time for self care can be a fun and relaxing way for you to lower inflammation and support health skin.
Now, when it comes to self care, theres no one-size-fits all.
What is relaxing and stress-relieving for one person can be boring and stress-inducing for another.
So, you might have to do a little experimenting to see what works for you.
However, here are some general tips to consider:
- Physical activities like yoga, dancing or hiking.
- Diffusing essential oils.
For more ideas, read this post on starting a self care routine for hormone imbalance.
Root Cause Of Hormonal Acne #: Gut Issues
The gut is the center of EVERYTHING in our bodies. Gut issues dont only cause hormone imbalances, but they are also a sign that something is off with your hormones.
The digestive system and endocrine system are so closely intertwined it can be hard to see where one ends and the other begins.
Your gut helps create and detox hormones out of the body, so problems with gut function can lead to hormonal issues. Both too little hormones and too many hormones can be the result.
Hormones also control some of the functions of the gut . Thats why some women experience diarrhea and constipation around their menstrual cycle.
The bottom line is if youre having digestive issues or hormonal issues, you must consider taking action on improving the health of your gut.
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The Link Between Our Hormones And Acne
Before we get to the three best natural treatments for hormonal acne, lets first discuss how hormones trigger breakouts. Bear with me for a moment while we have a mini biology lesson!
Hormones have a major role in the development of acne. Although the exact mechanism behind their powerful influence is unknown, we do know that androgen hormones gum up the follicle by triggering oil production.
Androgens are the so-called male hormones and are present in males and females. The testes, ovaries and the adrenal glands all produce androgens. The most well-known androgens are testosterone and its breakdown product is dihydrotestosterone .
This is all important because research has shown there are androgen receptors in the base of the oil gland and also in the cells that line the pores! If there are high levels of testosterone floating in the body, they are highly capable of binding to these receptors.
To put it simply, when these hormones attach to the oil glands in the skin, they trigger the gland to produce more oil as well as feed the bacteria. Then, an inflamed acne lesion is well on its way to the surface of your skin.
The key takeaway is that by lowering androgen and testosterone levels in the body, the skin will not produce as much acne or not produce ANY at all.
So how does Estrogen play into all this?
Estrogen and testosterone frequently act like a teeter totter. As one goes up the other goes down.
Why Do Androgens Cause Hormonal Acne
For the majority of women, hormonal acne occurs because their skin is sensitive to the normal levels of androgens like Testosterone.
Although considered to be a male hormone, it is normal for women to produce small amounts of Testosterone. Testosterone is an important hormone for women as it helps strengthen bones and muscles, provides a healthy libido and regulates the menstrual cycle. Androgens are the name for male hormones. Women produce other androgens as well as Testosterone. These are dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate , dehydroepiandrosterone , androstenedione . These three androgens are not very active by themselves and have to be converted to Testosterone or Dihydrotestosterone first.
Testosterone is produced by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. However, cells in the skin also make Testosterone from DHEAS. Skin cells, especially the cells in the sebaceous glands, also make DHT from Testosterone.
Hormonal acne also occurs when there are conditions in which too many androgens are produced such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
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What Else Can You Do When You Have Hormonal Acne
Follow a low glycemic diet, low dairy diet.
Research suggests that dietary factors such as insulin levels and glycemic index may be tied with acne breakouts and blemishes. Eating foods with a high glycemic index will quickly raise your blood sugar, causing a spike in insulin. This spike will trigger several hormonal reactions that will likely increase sebum production, leading to pimples and other skin woes. Foods with a high GI include processed foods like:
- Sugary soft drinks
Stress causes an increase in cortisol – also called the stress hormone. Cortisol affects the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum – leading to more acne breakouts.
Incorporate probiotics into your daily diet
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving gut health. When undigested foods leak through your gut and into your bloodstream, it can cause disease-causing inflammation and hormone imbalances. Optimizing gut health is a key way to keep hormone levels healthy and synthesize and regulate hormones and neurotransmitters the microbiome aids in regulating estrogen levels. Foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, and tempeh are great probiotics sources!