Up to 50 million Americans suffer from acne. Although acne creams and serums fill up drugstore and supermarket shelves across the country, few Americans find relief from acne through the use of topicals alone.
Here’s why: Acne may occur on the surface of the skin, but much of what’s responsible for acne occurs in your endocrine system.
The endocrine system consists of a series of glands that secrete hormones. These glands tell your muscles to grow, and they influence your breathing rate, metabolic rate, and sexual development. The endocrine system also impacts how much sebum your skin produces.
To better understand the link between hormones and acne, we asked our expert at Colorado Skin Care, Dr. Kimberly Stone, about what hormones are responsible for acne and what you can do to prevent acne.
Hormones responsible for acne
Both men and women who have more androgen receptors and elevated levels of androgens are more likely to develop acne.
Some studies suggest that insulin plays a significant role in the development of acne. Insulin is a hormone secreted each time we consume carbohydrates, regardless of the type of carbohydrate. When insulin levels increase, the secretion of many other hormones (namely androgens and insulin-like growth factors) increases.
Medications and dietary interventions that reduce insulin levels have been shown to reduce androgens and insulin-like growth factors and, consequently, eliminate acne.
The causes of hormone imbalances
Hormones are the messengers in your body. Even tiny changes in the amount of the circulating hormones can throw off the delicate hormone balance.
There are many reasons why hormone imbalances occur, including the following:
- Insulin resistance
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Exposure to xenoestrogens
- Exposure to high levels of phytoestrogens
Some hormone imbalances may be caused by environmental pollution and dietary choices, as acne is absent from traditional hunter-gatherer societies.
New infant formulas containing soy as opposed to milk have been shown to cause negative changes in the reproductive system of infants. Other studies show that high soy consumption negatively impacts hormones in adult women as well.
Soy is high in phytoestrogens. These estrogen mimickers can throw off the delicate estrogen to testosterone balance in the body.
A diet high in carbohydrates can also trigger acne because it raises insulin levels, and as a consequence, it may stimulate androgens in women.
Exposure to xenoestrogens found in cleaning products, plastics, and cosmetics may be contributing to lower sperm counts in men and an increase in reproductive problems in many wildlife species.
Achieving a spotless complexion
It’s annoying to deal with acne that doesn’t respond to topicals. However, acne itself is a symptom of a much larger problem.
Certain medications can alleviate acne breakouts, but unless you address the root causes of your acne, issues such as insulin resistance and hormone imbalances may eventually lead to more significant health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The good news is that acne can be manageable with healthier lifestyle choices and certain medications. Keeping an acne diary can also help. Some people experience breakouts in response to certain foods, and removing those foods can reduce inflammation.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the root of your acne, contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Stone will be more than happy to respond to all of your acne-related questions.