The skin is the body's biggest organ and is a major part of the endocrine system as it is a key site for hormone synthesis, particularly androgens (e.g. testosterone).
Acne is a condition involving the pilosebaceous units of the skin – cell lined follicles with a sebaceous (oil) gland and a fine hair – found mostly on the face, chest and back. Acne is caused by excess sebum production, inflammation, proliferation of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, and hyper-proliferation of the follicles. Androgens upregulate the function of the pilosebaceous units therefore when our androgens are elevated this can lead to increased growth and size of the sebaceous glands resulting in increased sebum production and in turn, the development of acne.
Of course like everything in the human body there is not one cause for the development of conditions and androgens may not be the sole factor influencing acne. Insulin-like growth factor, a hormone involved in the regulation of growth of body tissues and decreasing blood glucose, may also play an important role.
Studies on people with congenital insulin-like growth factor deficiencies due to a condition known as Laron syndrome, show they do not develop acne, however, when they are treated with insulin-like growth factor replacement therapies, acne and hyperandrogenism symptoms (increased facial and body hair, loss of head hair, absent/infrequent menstruation in women) develops.
Other hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone may be contributing to the development of acne which is often seen in women during times of pregnancy and peri-menopause when these hormones are in flux. Times of emotional stress have also been connected to the development of acne which may be related to the body's stress hormones becoming increased which then effects the balance of other hormones such as our androgens.
Supporting the body's ability to metabolise and clear hormones to create harmony and balance is just as important, if not more, than topical treatments. The lesson to take away from this is that not every person is the same and therefore we cannot assume the treatment for conditions such as acne will be the same for everyone. If you would like to get an understanding of what might be driving your acne and work on getting to the root cause, please get in contact with me or another naturopath who can support your body back into balance.