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Acne Flare-Ups Are Affected by Hormones: Study

For those women who believe that they alone experience an increase in acne during their monthly cycle, the latest study proves that nearly half of all women experience premenstrual flares of their acne. Studies have shown that acne has an underlying hormonal basis.

"Acne has often been associated with hormones and a woman's monthly cycle," stated dermatologist Alan R. Shalita, MD, co-author of "The Effect of the Menstrual Cycle on Acne," published in the December 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

"This study confirms that many women do, indeed, have a premenstrual flare of their acne. While it is likely that this is due to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, further study needs to be conducted to confirm this."

In the study, a group of 400 women ages 12 to 52 were surveyed as to whether their acne got worse before, during or after their menstrual period as well as whether their acne appeared to be related to their menstrual period. The women were grouped into categories according to age, severity of acne, ethnicity and whether or not they took oral contraceptives. Overall, 177 of 400 women (44 percent) reported premenstrual acne.

While the study found that severity of acne, ethnicity and oral contraceptive use did not affect the premenstrual flare rates, age did play a factor. The study found that 53 percent of women over age 33 experienced a higher rate of premenstrual acne than women under age 20 -- who only reported a 39 percent increase in premenstrual acne.

Hormonal acne is most often influenced by androgens in the body. Androgens are hormones that stimulate the sebaceous glands and hair follicles in the skin. When the sebaceous glands are over-stimulated by androgens, for example around the time of menstruation, women, both young and old, tend to have acne flare-ups.

In fact, previous studies have shown that the oil duct opening on the skin was smallest in days 15 to 20 of a 28-day cycle, increased in days 21 to 26, and decreased again in the two days before menstruation. On average, premenstrual acne flares were found to be the worst on day 22 of the average 28-day cycle.

"Acne that worsens during a women's monthly cycle isn't something that women will grow out of as they get older," stated Dr. Shalita, of the Department of Dermatology, State University of New York.

"Seeing your dermatologist to determine the best treatment plan for acne flare-ups is recommended for the most successful result."