Roughly 60 million Americans suffer from acne—the most common skin condition in the US— and, unfortunately, it’s a number that only seems to be growing. This means, approximately 1/5 of the country’s population is prone to breaking out. 20%. This is a high statistic considering we tend to associate acne with teenagers. However, contrary to popular belief, you may be surprised to learn that this statistic is not confined or specific to a teenage demographic. Now more than ever, an increasing number of adults are experiencing a later onset of acne.
Let’s Talk About Hormones
Have you ever researched acne on the internet and ventured down a never-ending rabbit hole? Trust us, we have too.
Did you come across the term “hormonal acne”?
We generally associate hormones with a particular segment of people—adult women. This is a common assumption, and rightfully so, as women experience various hormonal fluctuations at different stages of their lives. Think puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause…the list goes on.
However, what we generally don’t assume is that all acne is hormonal. This means that regardless of age, regardless of gender, acne is directly related to hormones. In fact, recent research evidences that the acne found in adult women is strikingly similar to acne found in adolescents and teenagers.
But if you didn’t know this before, you’re certainly not alone. Even until recently, many dermatologists have incorrectly characterized hormonal acne as different—they often distinguished it as painful cystic-type acne occurring along the chin, jawline and around the mouth. However, now, even the experts have been disproven.
With that being said, what role do hormones play in triggering a breakout.
What is the Connection Between Hormones and Acne?
There are three important hormonal pathways that affect acne:
- Fluctuations and changes in androgen hormones (typically thought of as “male” hormones although both women and men have them), like testosterone and androstenedione
- Hormones induced by stress (commonly described as “stress hormones”)
- Food that either contains hormones (cow’s milk) or generates insulin (a hormone)
To varying degrees, these three hormone pathways encourage acne by:
- Increased production of sebum (oil)
- Changing skin cell production, which causes cells to become ‘stickier’ and makes pores more prone to become clogged
- Increased levels of inflammation
The Connection Between Sex Hormones, Breakouts and Acne
During puberty, teenagers experience a multitude of changes, both physically and emotionally, which contribute to the onset of acne. Regardless of gender, this age group produces significantly higher levels of androgen hormones (typically associated with ‘male’ characteristics), mainly testosterone and androstenedione. This sudden hormonal shift creates three changes in the skin:  increased production of sebum (oil),  a change in skin cell production, causing cells to be ‘stickier,’ which makes pore more prone to clogging, and  increased levels of inflammation.
For women, hormone fluctuations continue long after puberty—during monthly periods, pregnancy, and menopause, just to name a few. These continually changing hormone levels explain why women aged 20+ are more likely to experience acne than men of the same age. In fact, many women who never struggled with acne in their teens are surprised to discover breakouts in their 20’s (which can persist through their 50’s) due to the changes in their androgen hormones.
The Connection Between Stress Hormones and Acne
Hormones released in response to stress also contribute to the development of acne. Stress initiates increased inflammation in the skin, both directly and indirectly. Directly, stress can trigger hormones in the skin to increase inflammation. Indirectly, stress can kill the healthy flora (bacteria) in the belly, causing a common syndrome called ‘leaky gut’ that triggers low-grade inflammation throughout the body.
The Connection Between Food, Hormones and Acne
Although the data is not definitive, diet is another likely cause of hormonal acne. First, high glycemic foods (e.g. foods high in sugar) can elicit an insulin response that increases androgen hormones, which then leads to acne. Secondly, dairy products like milk often contain high levels of hormones (cows are fed hormones to increase production of milk), provoking acne both directly and indirectly in our bodies.
NOTE: Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).
A Complete Approach
At MD Complete, we have made it our ultimate mission to not only clear breakouts but to help acne-prone clients achieve their most beautiful, healthy-looking skin.
Why is this difference important?
It means we are capable of clearing acne without irritating or damaging the skin with harsh products. It means we work to reduce the appearance of the marks left after the acne has cleared, while also restoring a more refined skin texture and a healthy, beautiful complexion. It means we need to do more than even the best dermatologist acne treatments (which can cause irritation, dryness and redness!).
Due to a unique ingredient encapsulation system, the MD Complete Acne Clearing System is more effective, less irritating and provides total, holistic skincare benefits. This one-of-a-kind system combines hardworking, skin-clearing ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid with skin-refining ingredients like Retinol, Vitamins C, B (Niacinamide, Panthenol) & E (Tocotreinols, Tocopherols) and Omegas 3, 6 & 7.