You’ve probably learned by now that acne is not necessarily an ailment that you leave behind in high school. In fact, many women suffer from it well into their 50s and older. Among other causes, acne is often the result of hormonal imbalances, more specifically DHT—the same hormone that causes men to lose their hair.
DHT, or Dihydrotestosterone, is a hormonal byproduct of testosterone that naturally occurs in both men and women. Everyone has DHT in their bodies, but problems like acne and hair loss occur when its levels fluctuate. While hormonal fluctuations are normal, they’re most common for men and women in their teens, women in their 20s and 30s and perimenopausal women. Medications like birth control and pregnancy can also cause hormonal fluctuations.
DHT can stimulate over-activity of the sebaceous glands, which causes your skin to produce more sebum. “This can result in greater acne forming by increased clogging of the pores,” says Tinton Falls, NJ, dermatologist Glenn Kolansky MD. “Therefore, it can be concluded that increased levels of DHT result in greater acne formation.”
DHT can also block your skin’s elastin production. “Elastin allows the skin to remain tight and youthful, preventing sagging and thinning of the skin,” says New York dermatologist Eric Schweiger, MD.
As if all that wasn’t enough, “DHT plays a role in hair growth and hair loss for both women and men,” says Dr. Schweiger. “Medications, such as Propecia, block the production of DHT, in order to prevent androgenetic alopecia, or genetic hair loss.”
But the real question is, what do we do about it when it comes to our skin? The easiest answer is that a quick trip to the dermatologist can get you a prescription treatment to block DHT-induced excess oil production that causes acne.
Now, if you don’t have time to get to a doctor’s office, there are also skin care systems you can purchase over-the-counter to topically block DHT. Clearogen Anti-Acne Treatment ($75) is a dermatologist formulated topical anti-DHT acne treatment that many swear by. “Clients love Clearogen because it does not ‘over dry’ the skin,” says celebrity aesthetician Gina Marí. Results can potentially be seen as early as one week into using the three-step system and significant improvement appears after about two months.
As far as anti-aging goes, Nu Skin products contain ingredients that have been proven to block the influence of DHT on the skin. “It prevents the elastin breakdown in the skin and promotes healthier, tighter, more youthful skin,” says Dr. Schweiger.
There are also ways to control DHT induced acne through your diet. “A ‘clean’ diet that creates balanced blood sugar levels creates the base for good skin and hormonal control,” says New York City nutritionist Ariane Hundt. Eat a diet of high-fiber vegetables and lean proteins like fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and nuts. There are also foods that directly block DHT like roasted pumpkin seeds, green tea, cinnamon, brussel sprouts, almonds, olive oil and dark leafy greens.
Sugar is a big contributor to avoid. “It increases insulin levels, which promotes inflammation and helps convert alpha-reductase of testosterone into DHT,” says Hundt. The same goes with dairy because it can cause breakouts especially around the chin and neck area.
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