Hormonal Acne – The 3 Hormones Causing Breakouts

The 3 Hormones that Contribute to Hormonal Acne

Dr. Newell wearing pink scrubs explaining the 3 causes of hormonal acne

If you've ever struggled with hormonal acne, you know how frustrating it can be to deal with those pesky bumps and blemishes on your skin. While there are many factors that can contribute to acne, including genetics and environmental factors, hormones also play a big role.

In fact, there are three hormones in particular that are commonly associated with acne: androgens, insulin, and cortisol. In this blog post, we'll dive into each of these hormones and how they can contribute to acne. We'll also discuss some tips for managing hormonal acne and improving the health of your skin. So whether you're dealing with occasional breakouts or chronic acne, this post is for you. Let's get started!


Androgens, a group of male sex hormones, play a significant role in the development of acne. Androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin to produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum is necessary for skin health, but when overproduced, it can contribute to acne development. Androgens also increase the size of sebaceous glands, leading to more sebum production. Additionally, androgens increase the production of keratin, a protein that can block hair follicles and contribute to the formation of acne. Studies have found that individuals with acne have higher levels of androgens in their blood than those without acne, suggesting a link between androgens and hormonal acne development. In fact, anti-androgen treatments have been shown to be effective in reducing acne in both men and women. Overall, the role of androgens in acne development is well-established in the scientific literature.

One of our most effective ways to prevent androgens from triggering breakouts is to work with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to create a plan that includes herbs that act as natural and effective androgen-blockers like reishi mushroom, saw palmetto and zinc. Topically, we have found that the ClearStem Cell Renew Serum (which contains a number of these same androgen-blockers) is a game-changer when included in your skincare routine.


Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, has also been implicated in the development of acne. Insulin is involved in regulating blood sugar levels and promoting the uptake of glucose into cells for energy production. However, high levels of insulin can lead to insulin resistance, a condition where the body's cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin. This results in increased insulin production to maintain normal blood sugar levels, which can lead to elevated levels of insulin in the blood. Studies have found that high levels of insulin and insulin resistance are associated with the development of acne. Insulin has been shown to stimulate the production of androgens, which can increase sebum production and contribute to the formation of acne. Additionally, insulin can stimulate the growth of skin cells and promote inflammation, which are also factors in acne development. Treatments that improve insulin sensitivity, such as the medication metformin, have been shown to be effective in reducing acne. Overall, the role of insulin in acne development is an area of active research.

To support healthy insulin levels and blood sugar balance our team works with clients to create dietary modifications that are easy to implement and don't leave them feeling deprived or afraid of food. We want to create a nutritional plan with sufficient protein and healthy fats to better modulate that insulin response and reduce it's impact on the skin.


Finally we are going to discuss Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is involved in the body's response to stress and can have both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory effects. When cortisol levels are elevated due to stress or other factors, it can lead to increased sebum production and inflammation, both of which are factors in acne development. Additionally, cortisol can lead to changes in the skin's immune response, making it more susceptible to bacterial infections that can contribute to acne formation. Studies have found that individuals with acne have higher levels of cortisol in their blood than those without acne. Treatments that reduce cortisol levels, such as stress reduction techniques and cortisol-lowering medications and supplements, have been shown to be effective in reducing acne.

A primary facet of all treatment plans that we create with patients in a collaborative manner is the inclusion of stress reduction techniques that they enjoy. These strategies can vary depending on each individual but we love the opportunity to help patients find what works for them while also supporting them with appropriate supplements or nutrients.

How do we determine which hormones are of concern?

When dealing with hormonal acne, we recommend working with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to create a personalized plan that gives you a roadmap to acheiving your goals.

First, we ask you a ton of questions about your overall health, stress, and skin history during your initial visit. Sometimes, this is sufficient to determine which hormones need to be addressed.
However, there are times where we may need to order additional lab work like blood or urine tests to really get to the bottom of the problem. This can be particularly helpful when the concerns are caused by the interplay of a number of hormones.

Book a complimentary discovery consult with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to learn more about how we can work together to help you get clear, healthy skin.


  • Thiboutot, D., & Strauss, J. S. (2004). Hormones and acne. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity, 11(5), 446-453. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.med.0000143572.26198.12
  • Zouboulis, C. C., & Jourdan, E. (2018). Acne, insulin resistance, and the polycystic ovary syndrome: a complex association revisited. Hormone molecular biology and clinical investigation, 33(1). https://doi.org/10.1515/hmbci-2017-0078
  • Arck, P. C., Handjiski, B., Peters, E. M., & Hagen, E. (2017). Stress and the skin. In Handbook of experimental pharmacology (Vol. 240, pp. 309-324). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/164_2016_120

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. Connected Health & Skin Ltd and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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