Acne sucks at the best of times, but it really is no fun when we are in adulthood. At FUTURE WOMAN we’re on a mission to help you back to clear, glowing skin.
In this article, we’ll cover the main 7 causes of acne – from hormone and gut imbalances to inflammation and stress – and what to do about it.
What causes acne?
Acne is complex and can have many causes, which is why we always recommend working with one of our FUTURE WOMAN practitioners as one of the first steps alongside testing your hormones.
There are around 7 causes of acne or key contributing factors. Let’s start by having a look at what acne actually is and some commonly asked questions.
What is acne and where does it occur?
Acne is a common skin disorder that occurs when hair follicles under the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. This results in the development of acne.
Acne commonly occurs on the face, forehead, neck, shoulders, chest and upper back.
What are the Different types of acne?
- Papules – red bumps
- Pimples (contain pus)
- Nodules – Large and solid
- Cystic – Painful and pus-filled
The 7 Causes of ACNE
Let’s take a look at the 7 causes of acne, or possible contributing factors.
1. Underlying leaky gut
If there is a leaky gut or intestinal permeability present, it can cause toxins and food particles to move into the bloodstream and cause systemic inflammation. This inflammation is known to contribute to a number of health issues including acne, therefore the gut is always one of the first aspects addressed in acne. Stress and anxiety have also been shown to contribute to acne through contributing to a leaky gut.
2. Gut and skin dysbiosis
When the microbiome in the gut and the skin (and even the mouth!) are out of balance and it can result in acne. This is why antibiotics can for some result in an improvement in acne (although the antibiotics often are only a short term solution and the acne often comes back worse). If there is dysbiosis in the skin microbiome, specifically the loss of diversity of c.acnes phylotypes can then lead to skin inflammation and acne. This is why both the skin, gut and oral microbiome must be involved in healing acne.
3. Preference for the 5a pathway
If your androgens (like testosterone) prefer to move through the 5 alpha reductase pathway (rather than the 5 beta pathway) then you are more likely to have symptoms like acne, head hair loss, body hair growth and weight gain.
That’s because this pathway converts your androgens into 5a-DHT, which is up to THREE TIMES more potent than testosterone. So when you have a preference for the 5a pathway, it can lead to symptoms associated with too much testosterone, including head hair loss, body hair growth, acne and oily skin.
We can determine which pathway your body prefers in any of our FUTURE WOMAN hormone tests.
A common driver of acne is underlying inflammation in the body. There are a number of different ways that inflammation can contribute to acne. One of the most common ways that we see at FUTURE WOMAN is inflammation causing an increase in testosterone. This increase in testosterone causes an increased stimulation of the oil glands and results in acne.
It is vital here to find the root cause of inflammation in the body. We test for neuro-inflammation, gut-inflammation and oxidative stress in the Advanced Hormone Test, as well as your preference for the inflammatory 4-OH oestrogen pathway in Phase 1 oestrogen detoxification. These can provide a clear picture of your inflammatory status.
5. Cortisol imbalance and stress
Stress is at the root of all illness, and it is no exception when it comes to acne.
Stress is known to exacerbate ace and can even be considered a root cause too. When we are under stress we release cortisol, this prompts the sebaceous glands in the skin to release more oil, this can lead to acne. The reverse can also happen, when we are under long term stress we might end up with low cortisol which is linked to higher inflammation levels, this can in turn contribute to the development for acne too.
We test cortisol and your daily cortisol pattern in our Advanced Hormone Test.
6. Underlying nutrient deficiencies
Interestingly you might be more likely to experience acne if you have a vegan diet. This is due to the decreased availability of zinc, vitamin A and omegas in a vegan diet. These are all vital for skin health and acne, therefore if you are vegan it is important to work with a practitioner via a 1-1 consultation to ensure you have all the right vitamins and minerals included in your diet.
7. Poor liver detoxification
It always comes back to the gut and the liver. If you have poor liver detoxification then it can result in toxin overload (connected to acne) but it can also result in hormone imbalance as the hormones are not cleared correctly from the body and this too can result and contribute to acne.
These are just the main 7 causes of acne, but other factors may be contributing, such as underlying viruses, fungal infections like candida, mold exposure and much more.
If you are suffering from any type of acne, mild or severe, FUTURE WOMAN are here to help.
Shop the Advanced Hormone Test
What are my next steps to treat acne?
We recommend starting with our FUTURE WOMAN Advanced Hormone Test. This is a comprehensive hormone test which looks at the following vital markers to assess and understand your acne:
- Estrogen – estrogen levels can contribute to changes in oil released from the sebaceous gland which can contribute to acne. Therefore testing the levels of estrogen are important.
- Estrogen detoxification phase 1 and 2 – We look at your estrogen detoxification to understand if poorly detoxified estrogen is resulting in pro-inflammatory changes in the body such as increased oxidative stress.
- Progesterone – We cannot look at androgens and estrogen without looking at them in relation to progesterone. Progesterone also can suppresses the 5a pathway by reducing the conversion of testosterone to DHT
- Androgens including testosterone and 5a-DHT – As mentioned above androgens are a main cause of increased sebum production and must be carefully assessed when addressing acne.
- 5a pathway preference – We assess if you have preference for the 5a or 5b pathway. The 5a pathway is much more likely to result in acne.
- DHEA and DHEA-S – High DHEA can result in increased oil production and acne. Low DHEA-S in relation to DHEA suggests inflammation may be present.
- Cortisol – As mentioned above high or low cortisol can contribute to acne.
- Indican (gut dysbiosis) – As mentioned above gut dysbiosis is a major contributor to acne.
We test all of these and more in our Advanced Hormone Test.
On top of taking the Advanced Hormone Test, we recommend booking in for a 1:1 consultation with one of our women’s health experts so they can create an even more personalised and tailored health plan for you.