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Hormonal Factors Key to Understanding Acne in Women

Posted: March 21, 2012

Information presented at American Academy of Dermatology’s 70th Annual Meeting by Bethanee Jean Schlosser, MD, PhD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology and director of Women’s Skin Health at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.

Although teenagers are the age group most commonly thought to struggle with acne, dermatologists are finding that late-onset or adult-onset acne is becoming increasingly common in women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s.

Although there is no one single cure that works in all clients with acne, dermatologists can recommend client-specific treatment regimens to control acne and minimize future breakouts. In women, hormonal therapies are commonly used to treat acne safely and effectively.

How hormones influence acne

Primary causes of acne include:

  • Excess sebum, or oil gland, production (influenced by hormones);
  • Skin cells that shed, become abnormally sticky and accumulate in, or clog up, the hair follicle (influenced by hormones);
  • An increased number of the acne-causing bacterium Propionbacterium acnes (P. acnes); and
  • Skin inflammation.

The role of androgens includes the following

  • Androgens, the male hormones present in both men and women, can contribute to acne flares by overstimulating the oil glands and altering the development of skin cells that line hair follicles in the skin.
  • Although the majority of women with acne have normal androgen levels, hormonal testing is recommended for females who have acne accompanied by excess facial or body hair, deepening voice, or irregular or infrequent menstrual periods.

Treating acne in women