How Estrogen & Progesterone Levels Play A Part In Hormonal Acne

Hormonal fluctuations are a natural part of our cycles but if the levels of estrogen and progesterone are off, it can play a role in hormonal acne.

Ideally, during the first half of the cycle, estrogen balances the effects of testosterone and keeps sebum production under control. During the second half of the cycle, estrogen levels decrease and progesterone levels increase.

Estrogen reduces sebum production, which is a good thing. Without the balancing effect of estrogen, testosterone stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. You’ll see information regarding high estrogen causing acne, but in those cases, it’s usually the other root causes impacting estrogen metabolism that factor in— not the estrogen itself. Other symptoms that often present with high estrogen tend to be the real culprits that cause acne, such as:

  • Poor blood sugar control
  • Inflammation
  • Gut bacteria imbalance
  • Poor liver detoxification
  • High stress levels

Progesterone helps regulate testosterone metabolism. It blocks 5a-DHT and blocks estrogen activity in the skin. Some research suggests that too much progesterone can trigger acne, so the exact relationship is still somewhat unclear.

The end result of these hormonal fluctuations is that the skin becomes oily and you are more likely to get acne. Therefore, when either of these hormones (estrogen or progesterone) are too low in relation to testosterone or when progesterone is too high (in relation to testosterone), acne can arise.

To read more posts about all-things acne, check out our dedicated section to the topic on our blog, Period Matters

This is an excerpt from a post written by functional medicine dietitian nutritionist, Robyn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD, CLT.
Content curated and edited by Nayla Al-Mamlouk. 

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