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What Could Your Endocrine System Have To Do With Your Acne?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

If you have acne then you are probably predominantly focusing on your skin as the culprit. You are probably wondering why it is that your complexion, in particular, is making you suffer and what you can do to improve it. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that our outer appearance is a reflection of what is going on inside1 of us.

When it comes to acne, scientists have suggested various internal issues that may be causing breakouts, including an unhealthy diet2 and high levels of stress3. One less explored potential culprit is your endocrine system4. This is the part of your being that oversees your hormones and the glands that secrete them. Could your endocrine system be causing your acne?

Our skin reflects what’s inside our body. Beautiful skin means healthy and regulated hormones by our endocrine system.

Scientific Research On The Relationship Between Your Hormones And Acne

Let’s take a look at two scientific explorations of this relationship. They both found that hormones that are not functioning as well as they should be may cause skin inflammation. More specifically, females who may be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and males who had a higher resistance to insulin were found to be more acne-prone than persons with normal hormonal levels.

Study number one found that the increased levels of androgens that result from PCOS can definitely cause acne5. Indeed, the polycystic ovarian syndrome also manifested through other physical signs such as the appearance of dark spots, excessive masculine-looking hair growth (hirsutism) and weight gain.

The other experiment6 was based on two hundred males, precisely half of which suffered from acne. One fifth of the test subjects prone to breakouts also experienced insulin resistance. This occurs when one’s system becomes less responsive to insulin and therefore has a harder time managing sugar within the body. The outcome of this condition is a damaging abundance of both sugar and insulin which can turn into type two diabetes.

On the other hand, only 11% of men in the study without acne suffered from insulin resistance. Either way, however, no relation was found between the severity of acne and the severity of the insulin resistance. Still, the men not experiencing the condition were still monitored for a while after the study to ensure that they wouldn’t develop the ailment, as well. The researchers opted for also checking if a similar connection exists between acne and metabolic syndrome but such a relationship was not discovered.

What Does This Mean For You?

So, how do these studies contribute to acne-related research, and, by extension, to your skin and body health? The researching scientists suggested that the results demonstrate the crucial need for dermatologists to examine their patients beyond a mere skin-deep check-up. While acne may simply be caused by an oily moisturizer, it can also be triggered by a much more serious condition that could be related to the endocrine system. Such comprehensive examination of acne patients would not only help pinpoint the essence of the problem and speed up the recovery process, but it could also end up uncovering a deeper physical issue that needs solving. This could turn out to be incredibly significant for many of the 40-50 million people suffering from acne7 in America.


  1. Lolis M.S., Bowe W.P., Shalita A.R. Acne and systemic disease. Medical Clinics of North America. 2009;93(6):1161-1181.
  2. Kucharska A., Szmurlo A., Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology. 2016;33(2):81-86.
  3. Yosipovitch G., Tang M., Dawn A.G., Chen M., Goh C.L., Huak Y., Seng L.F. Study of psychological stress, sebum production, and acne vulgaris in adolescents. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 2007;87(2):135-139.
  4. Elsaie M.L. Hormonal treatment of acne: An update. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2016;9:241-248.
  5. Iurassich S., Trotta C., Palagiano A., Pace L. Correlations between acne and polycystic ovary. A study of 60 cases. Minerva Ginecologica. 2001;53(2):107-111.
  6. Nagpal M., De D., Handa S., Pal A., Sachdeva N. Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome in young men with acne. JAMA Dermatology. 2016;152(4):399-404.
  7. White G.M. Recent findings in the epidemiologic evidence, classification, and subtypes of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 119;39(2 Pt 3):S34-37.
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