Hormones and Breakouts – Does Testosterone Cause Acne?

Hormones and Breakouts

There are a lot of reasons why you get acne- diet, bacteria, genetics and everything in between.

And if you’ve been very diligent about your research, you probably already know that the most notorious of these acne-triggers are your own hormones, specifically testosterone.

But do you know exactly how testosterone can cause acne? Well, you’re about to find out.

All About Testosterone

Let’s begin with a brief overview of the hormone.

Inside your body, there are a group of glands called the endocrine system. This system is in charge of releasing hormones, the chemical messengers of your body, into the bloodstream.

There are around 10 types of glands within the endocrine system, including the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands. Each of these glands releases specific hormones to assist with bodily processes- sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood to name a few.

Testosterone, a type of male hormone, is specifically produced by the adrenal gland. It’s responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics.

Although it’s a male hormone, women also have circulating testosterone inside their bodies.

How Does Testosterone Cause Acne?

Within normal levels, testosterone doesn’t pose any serious issues. The problem happens when you get more testosterone than you’re supposed to.

Too much testosterone can affect your sebaceous glands, which causes them to produce excessive sebum or the natural oil that lubricates and protects your skin.

Sebum also prevents dryness and keeps your skin flexible and supple.

Under normal conditions, the presence of sebum isn’t really that bad for your skin. But when it gets excessive, it can clog your pores and make your skin a favorable breeding ground for those nasty acne-causing bacteria.

As long as you have too much testosterone and excess sebum, you’re looking at a vicious cycle of endless breakouts.

But, What Causes High Levels of Testosterone?

There are actually a handful of reasons why your testosterone can get excessive. Here are the most common of them:

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are synthetically produced male hormones. People typically use them to increase muscle mass and to enhance secondary male characteristics.

Adrenal Disease

Any issues with your adrenal glands, such as tumors, could cause them to overproduce testosterone.


Vitamin D and Zinc have both been linked to high testosterone levels. Even garlic and Korean red ginseng can also increase your testosterone.

Additionally, supplements like Nugenix contain ingredients like Testofen, which have actually been clinically proven to increase free testosterone levels in adult males

Thyroid function

Hypothyroidism, or the condition where your body doesn’t have enough thyroid hormone, can result in too much or too little testosterone.


Eating high glycemic food can increase your blood sugar and your insulin level. As your insulin increases, it triggers the ovaries to produce more male hormones.


Aside from these causes, there are also certain foods you eat that can directly affect your testosterone.

Tuna, for example, is low in calories but it can greatly increase your testosterone because of its high vitamin D content. It doesn’t take much and in fact, just one serving is enough to boost your testosterone.

So, if you suspect you have too much testosterone in your body, it would be best to steer clear of tuna. The same thing applies to oysters as they are rich in zinc.

If you enjoy eggs, you may want to hold the yolk the next time you prepare them as egg yolks are also high in vitamin D.

Bananas are a triple threat when it comes to testosterone. Bananas contain three separate nutrients that all drive higher testosterone levels- potassium, B vitamins, and bromelain.

Red meat is a doozy and it can seriously increase your testosterone levels because of its high protein and amino acid content. In addition to those, it also contains a nice amount of zinc that is highly absorbable.

Are Your Testosterone Levels Too High?

Skin breakouts and acne are good indicators that you probably have high testosterone levels. But aside from the bumps on your face, there are other signs that can indicate the presence of too much testosterone.

Feeling down and gloomy?

Depression could be an indication of too much testosterone. It is usually accompanied by loss of appetite, sleep disruption and changes in weight.

Other than depression, aggression, and frequent mood changes can also signal imbalanced hormone levels. It’s your body’s way of responding and adapting.

However, if you want a more definitive way of knowing how high or low your testosterone is, you can get your hormone levels checked. This will typically involve getting a blood sample and your doctor can check the level of androgens in your blood.

Testosterone levels change throughout the day, so it’s best if you can get checked in the morning.

How To Lower Your Testosterone

If you suspect that your testosterone is the culprit behind your acne, it’s best if you can be proactive about lowering it. However, before you take on any drastic measures, make sure to talk to your doctor first.

A testosterone level that’s too low can also cause problems for your health. It can reduce your sexual drive, make you gain weight and affect your sleep pattern.

So, how do you lower your male hormones naturally?

Women, in general, are supposed to have naturally low levels of testosterone in their blood. One way to get them back into balance is by exercising.

Physical exercise at a moderate level of intensity will lead to a decline in testosterone and androgens overall.

Soy and lima beans, on the other hand, can naturally increase the estrogen levels in the body and counteract the effect of high testosterone. But you will need to be careful about taking them because high estrogen can also be as bad as high testosterone.

Testosterone: Differences Between Men and Women

With the exception of puberty, testosterone in men will always be naturally higher than they are in women.

This means that women will be especially sensitive to an increase in hormones and their skin may react more severely. Of course, there are other factors that come into play such as genes and your body’s unique chemistry.

Keep in mind that right before a menstrual period, testosterone levels will increase naturally. This is because the first half of a woman’s cycle is dominated by estrogen.

The second half is when progesterone begins to take over, and progesterone produces testosterone.

So if you’ve ever wondered about those breakouts right before your period, yes, it’s your testosterone causing your acne.

Aside from the direct effect of the hormone, women also tend to crave sweets during that time as well. The combination of high testosterone and high sugar intake make your skin more prone to breaking out.

This doesn’t mean that guys are off the hook. It’s actually quite the contrary.

Since men are starting out with naturally high androgens, it only takes a minimal amount to push the testosterone level over the threshold.


So does testosterone cause acne? Yes, it definitely does, but only if the levels in the body are too high.

If you have been breaking out excessively and you suspect that it’s related to high testosterone, it may be a good idea to consult with your doctor.

If you recognize any of the testosterone boosting foods as a staple in your diet, try substituting it for a food that increases estrogen. In this way, you can have a shot at balancing your hormones.

It can also help if you can be mindful of your monthly cycle. As much as possible, try to really decrease or eliminate foods that increase testosterone during the second half.

Make sure to avoid sugary food, too.

Balanced hormones are essential for your skin to stay clear, but they are not entirely the cause. Like what has been mentioned, there are several other reasons why your skin is breaking out.

Eating the right foods, adopting a good skin care routine and changing your lifestyle are still some of the best ways you can get rid of acne for good.

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

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

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