The Problem With Underactive Thyroid: Does Hypothyroidism Cause Acne?

The Problem With Underactive Thyroid

Have you ever wondered if it’s your hypothyroidism that’s making your skin breakout? Or does hypothyroidism really cause acne?

The answer to both questions is yes. On top of the weight gain, cold intolerance and dry skin, hypothyroidism can also cause large and painful cystic acne.

But, how?

What Happens To Your Body When You Have Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism happens when your body don’t produce enough thyroid hormones- the Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).

When you don’t get the right amount of thyroid hormones in your system, a lot of your bodily functions slow down. As these thyroid hormones are basically responsible for regulating your metabolism, temperature as well as cell renewal, its deficiency can cause weight gain, dry skin and intolerance to cold.

Anyone can get hypothyroidism, but if you’re a woman or older than 60, then you’re more at risk of this disease.

Your Skin and Hypothyroidism:

Getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism is not easy. Along with the anxiety of undergoing treatment, you also have to deal with its symptoms.

While some of these effects are internal, there are also visible signs of hypothyroidism. And one of them involves skin breakouts.

It’s not actually uncommon for people with this disorder to have pimples. But in case you’re wondering (which I’m sure you are), here are some of the ways hypothyroidism can cause acne.

Dry Skin

Low levels of thyroid hormones can decrease the secretions of your sweat and oil glands. Without enough sebum and sweat, your skin becomes dry and coarse.

And you don’t only get dry skin with hypothyroidism.

Because your metabolic rate has slowed, skin renewal becomes impaired, too. As a result, you also get itchy skin.But, how is your dry skin related to acne?

Well, as I’ve mentioned, dry skin has limited ability to renew itself. Over time, dry and dead skin cells pile up.

Dry skin also tends to have smaller and tighter pores in an attempt to keep as much fluid inside as possible. As these pores tighten up, it becomes harder for dirt, sweat and oil to get out.

Your body senses these things as potential threats and reacts with an inflammatory response causing your skin to break out.

Low Vitamin A

Vitamin A is one of the best vitamins when it comes to treating acne. It particularly triggers the growth of new skin cells and prevents toxins and microorganisms from penetrating your skin.

However, with low thyroid hormone levels, your body’s ability to convert Beta-carotene to vitamin A becomes impaired. Beta-carotene are the carotenoids (precursor of Vitamin A) you can get from the food you eat, such as carrots, squash and pumpkins.

Because these beta-carotenes are not successfully converted, you’re likely to suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, too.

Without enough vitamin A, your skin can get scaly and rough. It can also make your skin less resistant to comedones which are considered to be great acne culprits.

Low progesterone

Low thyroid hormones make progesterone receptors less sensitive. So even if you have a normal progesterone level, your body will still sense that it’s low on the hormone.

When your progesterone levels are low, it can cause your DHT or Dihydrotestosterone to increase. DHT is a byproduct of testosterone which is naturally present in both men and women.

Too much DHT can block your skin’s elastin production which can cause your skin to thicken and be inelastic.

Aside from acne, DHT is also one of the reasons why hair loss happens with hypothyroidism.

How Do You Prevent Acne When You Have Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is best treated with thyroid hormone medicine. After a few weeks, you can expect to see improvements in the symptoms.

While your body is healing, you can do the following steps to help manage your skin issues:

  • Use a gentle facial wash when cleansing your skin. As much as possible, go fragrance-free.
  • Stay away from skin products that contain alcohol or astringent as they can be drying to the skin.
  • After taking a shower, make sure to follow-up with a good moisturizer. Apply it while your skin is still damp to help seal in the moisture.
  • You can use a humidifier at home to keep the moisture in the air.
  • Avoid staying in the shower for too long or using hot water for your bath.
  • Make sure you’re hydrated. Unless contraindicated, drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
  • If you wear makeup, remember to take them off before you go to sleep.

If your acne is not that severe, you can treat your skin issues even without consulting a dermatologist. Usually, these tips and a good skin care routine are enough to heal hypothyroidism-related breakouts.

However, in the event that your acne progresses in severity and you begin to see signs of infections, such as pus, severe swelling, pain and redness, you may need to consider seeing your doctor. Do not attempt to self-medicate.

And I am extremely emphasizing this one. As there are medications, particularly antibiotics, that can interfere with your thyroid hormones, be sure that you only take medicines that have been prescribed by your doctor.

Aside from that, early treatment of these infections can save your skin from acne scars and lesions. 

Hypothyroidism, Diet and Acne

Aside from good skin care, your diet is also critical when it comes to healing your acne. Make sure to avoid consuming too much fried and sugary food.

You should also limit your caffeine intake. Coffee is a known diuretic which means that it can make you pee more.

This can mean more fluid loss and you can get more dehydrated.

You can also try eating more fish, specifically cod and salmon, to combat vitamin A deficiency. Sweet potatoes and cantaloupes are also great sources of the vitamin.

If you are thinking about taking Vitamin A supplements, I suggest you talk to your doctor first about it. He can run a series of tests to confirm if you have vitamin A deficiency and how severe it is.

Do not take vitamin A supplements on your own as toxicity can also happen. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and taking it in large doses can cause liver damage over time.


There are a lot of things that can happen when you have hypothyroidism. And just like this medical condition, its symptoms are also manageable.

Hypothyroidism-related acne can be treated with a good skin care routine and a change in your diet. The key thing is to avoid the factors that can make your skin’s condition worse.

And although the symptoms I’ve enlisted in this article can happen to people with hypothyroidism, don’t assume that you have the condition just because you are experiencing dry skin, sensitivity to cold and weight gain.

If you suspect that you have an underactive thyroid, make sure you see your doctor first and get checked.

The Problem With Underactive Thyroid: Does Hypothyroidism Cause Acne?

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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