What is it About Steroids and Acne?


Acne is a bodybuilder’s scourge. When you go to the gym, it is highly likely that you will be afflicted with acne. Moreso, when on steroids. Somehow, steroids and acne almost always happen together like sex and babies. You very much love bodybuilding but somehow you are frustrated with having babies, I mean acne. And you ask, what the heck is going on? Are there any bodybuilding steroids that do not cause acne?

To understand the relationship between steroids and acne, it is important to understand what role hormone plays on acne formation.

Our skin has tiny holes called pores. These pores are connected to the oil glands under our skin via follicles or small hair canals. Now, the oil glands produce sebum which in turn carries dead skin cells through the hair canals and out to the surface of the skin. When the follicle is blocked, oil accumulates under the skin.

When dead skin cells, sebum and hair clump together like a plug, it becomes a very ideal environment for bacteria to thrive and when they do, the pore becomes infected and get swollen.

Studies show that individuals with acne have high androgen levels. Androgen is a type of hormone that causes oil glands to grow which also means more oil or sebum production. More sebum means additional cells that it can break down and therefore more dead skin cells transported to the follicles. However, the follicles or hair canals can only do so much.

Steroids are known to have both anabolic and androgenic effects. With the increase of androgen, particularly dihydrotestosterone or DHT levels, the more problematic acne will become. This is because the oil glands are producing more sebum which entails a clogged pore due to a sticky mixture of sebum and dead skin cells. The clogged follicle entices bacteria which thrives even more due to decreased oxygen to the skin.

To minimize the risk of acne, bodybuilders and steroid users are advised to always keep their skin clean and to avoid oily foods and substances. There are also steroids known to have a higher DHT level than others and those using it are therefore more prone to acne. Some steroid users report that acne can be remedied by using topical DHT blockers.

As for those who only experienced acne when using steroids, the effect will likely abate when taking steroids with lower DHT levels, or if they stopped using altogether.

However, there are still others who do not get affected by acne. There are regular joes and janes who, regardless of what they eat and how they age, never even have a single pimple outbreak. This may be because their genes are not so susceptible or sensitive to androgen levels.

The same can be said to steroid users who never experience acne. Somehow, their oil glands, cell breakdown, and follicles are all working seamlessly harmonious . It can be puzzling why even with an increased and elevated testosterone with their steroid use, they do not face any acne problems.



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