Do Anabolic Steroids Cause Acne?

Anabolic Steroid Abuse Increases the Risk of Its Development

Do Anabolic Steroids Cause Acne?

Article Summary

The use of anabolic steroids, especially testosterone, is highly correlated with acne development. In other words, if you take anabolic steroids, your chances of developing acne, including severe acne, go up dramatically.

Why is this the case? Anabolic steroids increase the amount of skin oil produced in pores, and people with more skin oil tend to have more acne and more severe cases of acne.

Additionally, abuse of steroids can cause other serious conditions, including hormonal imbalances, liver damage, and heart problems. They also can cause less serious, but still troubling problems, such as gynecomastia (breast growth in men), thickened skin, and premature aging.

Because anabolic steroids can be damaging to the body and skin, they should be taken only under strict guidance from a medical professional, and only when absolutely necessary.

Steroid hormones naturally exist in the human body. They are responsible for important body processes that include the development of sex organs, as well as the formation of the immune and stress response.

Anabolic steroids, also called anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are a subtype of steroid hormones called androgen steroids. Steroids of this type grow the skeletal muscles (anabolic function) and promote the sex development of both sexes (androgenic function). One common and familiar anabolic steroid is testosterone, which is present in both males and females

While AAS naturally exist, they can also be man-made and supplemented through either injecting into muscle tissue or swallowed orally. 

Androgen (Testosterone)


Although doctors use AAS to treat a variety of health conditions, including delayed puberty, reduced sex drive, and the wasting of the body due to severe diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer, AAS treatment can cause severe side effects, including, but not limited to, hormonal imbalances, hypertension, liver damage, heart problems, hair loss, excessive hair growth, and skin problems like acne. In fact, anabolic steroid abusers are likely to experience acne not only on the face but also on the shoulders and back.1

Steroid Abuse Side Effects


Anabolic Steroids Increase Sebum (Skin Oil) Production

Anabolic steroids trigger acne by increasing the production of sebum in the pores of the skin. Research shows us that increased sebum production normally leads to more acne.2

Acne Formation


Adding evidence to the connection between androgens and acne, other studies that have focused on castrated men who do not have androgen hormones have found that due to a lack of androgens, castrated men “do not develop acne.” However, scientists can observe acne in castrated men who receive testosterone replacement.2,3

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that an increase in the level of androgens leads to an increase in sebum and potentially in acne. Since AAS are part of the larger class of androgens, they also result in increased sebum production.

How Steroid Use Affects Acne


Anabolic Steroids Are Correlated with Acne Development

One independent study found that people with naturally high levels of testosterone tend to notice more acne. And five more studies show that externally administered anabolic steroids also cause increased acne.

Studies Show That Anabolic Steroids Increase Acne

 


Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

The following are the most common side effects from anabolic steroid use:

Most Common Clinical Side Effects of Anabolic-androgenic Steroids


And here we can see what side effects anabolic steroid users report:

Ten Most Common Side Effects Reported by Anabolic Steroid Users in Sweden


The Bottom Line

Anabolic steroids, especially testosterone, are highly correlated with acne development. Additionally, abuse of steroids can cause other undesirable side effects like reduced testicular volume and breast growth in men. They can also cause serious conditions, including liver damage and heart problems. Anabolic steroids can be damaging to the body and skin and should be taken only under strict guidance from a medical professional.

The Experts at Acne.org

Our team of medical doctors, biology & chemistry PhDs, and acne experts work hand-in-hand with Dan (Acne.org founder) to provide the most complete information on all things acne. If you find any errors in this article, kindly use this Feedback Form and let us know.

References:

  1. Kuhn, C. Anabolic steroids. Recent Prog. Horm. Res. 57, 411–434 (2002).
  2. Degitz, K., Placzek, M., Borelli, C. & Plewig, G. Pathophysiology of acne. J. Dtsch. Dermatol. Ges. 5, 316–323 (2007).
  3. Leyden, J. et al. A systemic type I 5 α-reductase inhibitor is ineffective in the treatment of acne vulgaris. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 50, 443–447 (2004). 
  4. Lawrence, D. Shaw, M. & Katz, M. Elevated free testosterone concentration in men and women with acne vulgaris. Clin. Exp. Dermatol. 11, 263–273 (1986).
  5. Bagatell, C., Heiman, J. R., Matsumodo, A. M., Rivier, J. E. & Bremner, W. J.  Metabolic and behavioral effects of high-dose, exogenous testosterone in healthy men. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metabol. 79, 561–567 (1994).
  6. Bhasin, S. et al. The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men. New Eng. J. Med. 335, 1–7 (1996).
  7. Evans, N. Gym and tonic: a profile of 100 male steroid users. Br. J. Sports Med. 31, 53–58 (1997). 
  8. Melnik, B. Jansen, T. & Grabbe, S. Abuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids and bodybuilding acne: an underestimated health problem. J. Dtsch. Dermatol. Ges. 5, 110–117 (2007).
  9. Hartgens, F. & Kuipers, H. Effects of androgenic-anabolic steroids in athletes. Sports Med. 34, 513–554 (2014).
See More References

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