Acne is something that roughly 85% of young adults are subdued to, and the severity of the Acne depends on the type of scarring you may be left with as a grown adult. There are so many factors such as Hygiene, diet and gut health, genetic make up and more…the aspect that we will delve into today is the role that our Sex hormones play in the Causation and development of Acne.
Types of Acne/ Acne Vulgaris:
- Black heads
DHT link with Acne:
Dihydrotestosterone is a product of converted Testosterone via the 5-Alpha reductase enzyme responsible for this conversion. There is a large link that attributes DHT as an offender in acne production. Androgens such as DHT bind with the receptors in your sebaceous glands and these glands produce more sebum, this DHT rich sebum causes an oily and waxy form of sebum that widens the pore and welcome in dirt to the pore, stimulating an immune response for the body to rid the foreign particles via the delivery of a nice little pimple to rid the infected follicles foreign bodies. This DHT rich Sebum in the pore throws out the natural fatty acid base oils, Waxes, Esters and Squalene’s present in the epidermal layer of skin. In particular the delicate balance of Linoleic and Oleic acids present and as such the development of a low oxygen environment and room for bacteria to move in and contribute to Acne Vulgaris.
This androgen conversion is also seen often in women who get an outbreak on their jawline roughly day 22 of their cycle when progesterone surges, this is an indication that progesterone may be converting down the DHT pathway also and contributing to this break out before your period.
Controlling the 5-alpha reductase enzyme activity is imperative in this instance, some natural 5-alpha reductase inhibitors include:
- Green tea
- Foods higher in L-lysine
- Foods containing Lycopene’s
- Saw Palmetto
- Reishi Mushroom
IGF-1 and mTOR
Studies are now showing that there is a link between these pro-growth hormones released in response to training and recovery of muscle tissue and acne. This may be due to two things, the ability to stimulate more sebum production and rapid recovery and growth meaning that the pores not only produce more sebum but also close the foreign dirt and sebum under a fine layer of skin tissue contributing to the perfect recipe for Acne. High amounts of insulin present in the body also increase levels of DHEA from the adrenals stimulating the sex hormone production and increase of androgens, contributing to the production of more DHT derived acne.
Stress and Cortisol:
The same enzyme that detoxifies excess cortisol is also responsible for the detoxification of excess androgens. The body will prioritise in an orderly fashion which is more important and this will always be the life hormone of flight or fight and that is Cortisol. This Enzyme is called Cytochrome p450 and protein sources are utilized for the creation of this hormone. This Liver detoxification enzyme is responsible for but not limited to:
- Phase 1 liver detox pathway
- Converting alcohols, toxins and chemicals into forms that can be excreted from the body
- Detoxification of Bilirubin (break down of old red blood cells)
- The synthesis of Vitamin D
When exposed to high levels of stress the body will utilize its resources to maintain balanced levels of Cortisol, thereby increasing androgen status and contributing to the Waterfall effect that converts these androgens over to DHT instead of the ability to effectively detoxify the excess.
Combating Acne from the hormonal profile aspect:
- Avoid avoidable stressors, sounds silly but its true! Simple things such as your cup of coffee in the morning can be contributing to the cascade of events that take place in the development of that pesky pimple on photo day!
- Find areas in your diet that may be increasing mTOR and IGF-1, if you are directly stimulating these effects through training and diet choices and are prone to Acne then this may be an area to address
- Zinc – Zinc is crucial for healthy skin and cellular health as well as being an important factor of so many processes in the body it also blocks the 5-alpha reductase enzyme and including other foods high in these enzyme inhibitors is a great tool also!
- Keep up good hygiene without drying out the skin which can trigger more sebum production to protect the dry skin
- Pay attention to what fatty acid content you may be putting on your skin for hydration be it from facial oils or moisturises with an oil base. Studies have shown that in the Sebum responsible at the core of acne, there is higher concentrations of Oleic Acid. Oleic acid is prevalent in our diet in the form of cereals, grains, dairy and are huge contributes to insulin issues too in the western diet. When combatting acne, opt for foods and oils higher in Linoleic Acid instead for example, Tamanu oil is a great oil for the balance of oleic and linoleic acids at roughly 41.4% oleic and 29.7% linoleic.