Doctors now recognize that acne is a result of hormonal imbalance. The blame for pimples belongs to a group of hormones called androgens. These are the same hormones that rage during puberty and help to explain why almost everyone gets acne at that age.
Unfortunately for an increasing number of people growing up doesn't bring relief from acne. Perhaps due to genetics some people are more sensitive to fluctuations in androgens. Acne and other skin diseases have been also linked to stress and negative emotions, which would also explain the prevalence of adult acne. After all, who wouldn't have too much stress today?
How hormonal imbalance leads to acne
Studies have shown that acne is linked to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. The body responds to blood sugar swings by releasing several hormones, such as insulin, IGF-1, and certain androgens.
These hormones have one thing in common. They can cause acne. For example insulin and androgens stimulate the skin glands to produce more pore-blocking sebum. These hormones also increase the turnover of skin cells. They cause skin cells to grow and die more rapidly, and this means there are more dead skin cells blocking the pores.
Treatments for hormonal acne
Since doctors discovered the link between hormones and acne drug companies have been busy developing new treatments. Hormonal acne treatments include:
- Oral contraceptives (birth control pills): Diane-35, Tri-Cyclen, Alesse, and Yasmin
- Antiandrogens: Spironolactone
These drugs attempt to artificially balance hormone levels; either by blocking the action of certain hormones (in the case of antiandrogens), or by introducing synthetic female hormones into the body (in the case of birth control pills).
Side-effects of hormonal acne treatments
Hormonal acne treatments have a major flaw. They are highly unpredictable. Dermatologists know that many women get clear after starting with the pill. But a casual look at any acne forums shows that for every woman that got clear with the pill there is one whose acne got worse.
Other side-effects include:
- Weight gain
- Changes in libido (some women notice an increase, others notice a decrease)
- Mood swings
- Uncontrolled appetite
These side-effects vary from person to person. Hormones are a part of the body's messenger system, and tampering with this system can produce unpredictable effects.
The best way to cure hormonal acne
The above treatments are unpredictable because they ignore the root cause of the hormonal imbalance that causes acne. They are an artificial attempt to manage symptoms, or stopgap solutions if you will.
They ignore the fact that the root cause of this hormonal imbalance can be traced to diet, lifestyle choices and emotional health (stress levels and whether you have an optimistic or positive attitude towards life). For example, studies now show that up to 70% of adult acne cases have emotional triggers, and that most skin conditions respond well to stress management and relaxation techniques. Other studies link acne to sugar and refined carbohydrates and further to insulin and androgens.
A pill can only go so far. Thinking who could fall for that, we all laugh at late-night infomercials promoting weight-loss pills. But when it comes to acne, are we not guilty of exactly the same behavior? We have to more beyond the magic pill and silver bullet mentality. Permanent freedom from adult acne is earned, not purchased in a pill. It's earned through diet and lifestyle choices and keeping stress under control.