What is the Connection Between Androgens and Acne?

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  • Written By: S. Reynolds
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Excess androgens and acne are strongly related. Androgens are hormones that cause sebaceous gland stimulation on the face, skin and back and cause increased sebum production. When the sebum, also called oil, combines with bacteria and dead skin cells, it causes a plug to form inside a pore, which turns into a small infection known as a zit. Men have a higher level of androgen hormones than women, so they tend to have more acne problems than women do.

Acne is not just for teens in the middle of puberty, although puberty causes hormone levels to rise, which produces acne. Even middle-aged people can suffer from skin conditions such as cysts, blackheads and whiteheads that form on the face, chest or back. Androgens and acne go hand-in-hand. If an adult has an elevated level of androgens in his or her bloodstream, acne is likely to form. Women are especially sensitive to high levels of androgen, and their bodies typically respond with severe acne skin flare-ups.

Women who have a high amount of androgens and acne might have a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This disease is characterized by increased androgen production, excess body and facial hair as well as cysts that form on the ovaries. Women who have PCOS and want to get rid of their adult female acne need to address the symptoms of their disease by taking specific medications and losing weight to bring their insulin levels back to normal.


Adult acne is rarely caused by bad grooming habits. There usually is a genetic, dietary or androgen-related cause. High stress levels can cause a relationship between androgens and acne, because stress raises hormonal levels. This is commonly called hormonal acne, because hormones are the main cause.

In order to get rid of hormonal acne, one needs to bring the hormone levels back into balance. A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates might also trigger the formation of acne. Sugar raises insulin levels, which in turn increases sebum production. Extra oil on the skin surface can cause the pores to clog, which in turn becomes acne.

Treatments for adult acne include antibiotics, which kill the bacteria that cause inflammation. Hormonal therapy can lower the excess androgen levels and thereby reduce acne flare-ups. Birth control pills will also reduce the androgen levels.

There are prescription acne products that can treat acne quickly. Over-the-counter drugs such as salicylic acid can increase cell turnover. Benzoyl peroxide, when applied topically to acne, will kill bacteria and dry up the oil.


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Post 4

My friend had PCOS, and she had acne spots all over her face. She also had a mustache that she had to wax regularly, and she was so embarrassed by her appearance.

She became depressed and ate a lot of bad carbohydrates to cheer herself up. This only made the situation worse, because she gained weight, and her acne became more severe.

She finally wised up and switched to whole grains. She ate fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods, and her condition began to improve.

Amazingly, this helped even her acne clear up. I guess your diet really does affect your overall wellbeing.

Post 3

Birth control helps acne clear up so much. I started taking the pill a few years ago, and I am amazed at how much better my skin looks these days.

It also seems to have reduced my PMS. I would get really emotional and feel just awful in the days before my period, and I know this was related to hormones. I guess the pill has those under control now, so I am more well-regulated all around.

Post 2

@DylanB – I developed severe acne after starting a stressful job. There really was no way to reduce my stress in this situation, so I don't know if that would have helped or not.

I had to see a dermatologist. He gave me chemical peels twice a month, drained the worst zits, and put me on antibiotics. He also gave me a triple antibiotic cream.

I know that the reason I got acne was because my hormones were out of whack. However, the acne treatments that worked for me didn't address the hormonal issue. Strangely, once my acne cleared up, it didn't come back.

Perhaps by that time, I had learned to manage stress better. I do think I'm more self-assured and calm at my job than I once was, so it could be that during the six months that I was receiving acne treatment, my hormones became balanced.

Post 1

I think I must have a hormonal imbalance, because I am stressed all the time, and I have bad acne on my face. It didn't start until my boyfriend broke up with me. Since then, I have had terrible breakouts that have been nearly impossible to treat.

Has anyone else here ever gotten acne because of stress? Does managing your stress make it go away, or will I need some kind of hormone pills to get my skin back to normal?

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