Your hormones play a major role in your breakouts. Many peer-reviewed studies conclude that androgens (your sex hormones, like testosterone) affect the oil production in your skin. There is also increasing evidence that CRH, a hormone released from stress, also influence your pores’ oil levels.
Quick recap of acne:
What it is and how it happens
Before we dive into the specifics of acne and hormones, let’s review how acne occurs. Each of your pores (called a follicle) has sebum (oil) in it, which is produced by a gland called the sebaceous gland. A pimple occurs when dead skin cells clog the opening of your pores, and your sebaceous gland produces excess levels of sebum. The trapped sebum creates an environment for bacteria to multiply and a tiny infection to grow in your pore. With a clogged pore and a bacterial infection, a pimple is born. For more on the lifecycle of acne, click here.
Back to the hormones:
Yes, the acne hormones
Androgens, present in both males and females, are hormones that control sexual maturation. The most commonly known androgen is testosterone. High levels of androgens, associated with sexually maturing, cause the sebaceous gland to enlarge. This leads to increased oil production in your pores, which we learned is a root cause of acne.
Let’s be clear: Androgens affect everyone differently, so just because you have acne, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an abnormally high level of sex hormones. It just means your sebaceous glands may be more sensitive than those without acne.
Acne Hormones and Stress:
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
The sebaceous gland is also affected by a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (we’ll call it CRH). This hormone is released during a stress response and effects all of your glands, not just your sebaceous glands. For many, the release of CRH caused the sebaceous gland in your pore to increase oil production. You know what happens after that… So make sure to stay stress free as much as you can. Not just for your skin’s sake, but for your sanity too.
Treating acne with hormones:
Hormones don’t just cause acne, they treat it too
Unless you have a hormonal abnormality (which is relatively rare), the only widely accepted hormone therapy is birth-control for females. Birth control pills are essentially hormones, and they work by countering the androgens with estrogen. This returns your sebum production to normal, which in turn improves your complexion. Birth control can only be acquired through a licensed physician who can write prescription medications.
Whether you’d like to give birth-control a try or look at other option to clear your skin, your best option is to consult a dermatologist. These skin-doctors will examine your skin-type and acne severity and then create a customized treatment plan with prescription medications, which you can only get from a doctor. If you’re interested in consulting with a dermatologist, click here.
- Gollnick, H. “Management of Acne*1.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 49.1 (2003): S1-S37. Web <https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(03)70015-2/fulltext>
- Thiboutot, Diane, Harald Gollnick, Vincenzo Bettoli, and Brigitte Dréno. “New Insights into the Management of Acne: An Update from the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne Group.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 60.5 (2009): S1-S50. Web. <https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(09)00082-6/fulltext>.