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How do sex hormones affect the skin?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
The sex hormones -- estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone -- take a lot of blame when it comes to problem skin, especially acne flare-ups. During puberty there's a huge surge of hormones that cause growth and development. Remember that the sebaceous glands are attached to the hair follicles; these kick into action during this amazing growth spurt. Male hormones called "androgens" (found in males and females) trigger these glands to produce more oil, and if the hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells, the oil does not have a way to get out. The unfortunate result is acne.

For the same hormonal reasons, the menstrual cycle is a surefire trigger for regular breakouts. Estrogen and progesterone levels spike at different times during the cycle, and when the androgenic progesterone rises (just before ovulation) it activates the sebaceous glands, which in turn causes premenstrual acne. This yin and yang of estrogen and progesterone is why acne develops, so taking birth control pills, which keep the hormones at a more consistent level, seems to keep breakouts at bay. Because the surges of androgens aren't so severe, there tend to be fewer flare-ups linked to them.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.