If you’re a woman struggling with hormonal acne, you may be interested in learning about the hormone that your body produces called progesterone and its effects on acne.
Next to estrogen, progesterone is the other most famous female sex hormone. It is produced in the ovaries and in lesser amounts in the adrenal glands.
Progesterone has a number of important jobs including normalizing blood sugar levels, facilitating thyroid hormone, regulating the menstrual cycle, allowing a woman to have a healthy pregnancy, as well as being a natural anti-anxiety and anti-depressant.
It also enhances the positive effects of estrogen, while preventing the state called estrogen dominance.
Your hormones never work alone; they always work in ratios. Often when a hormone goes out of whack, it causes symptoms (like acne) because it is out of ratio with its partner hormones.
In the case of progesterone, it’s important that it is in the right quantity in relation to estrogen.
Having low progesterone in relation to estrogen can lead to acne by way of increasing insulin which can lead to excess androgens, as well as amplify testosterone and DHT conversion in the skin.
DHT is a potent acne causing form of testosterone that other forms of testosterone get converted into in the skin via an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. Having a normal progesterone level in relation to estrogen can prevent 5-alpha-reductase from converting testosterone to DHT, which will, in turn, prevent acne.
Progesterone that is out of sync with estrogen is usually the hormonal cause behind the dreaded pre-menstrual breakout that many of you are so familiar with. It also usually plays a role in the acne that people sometimes get when they go off hormonal birth control.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Symptoms of estrogen dominance (and acne) usually occurs when estrogens are high and progesterone is too low, but not necessarily. It all depends on the ratio. You can have normal estrogen and low progesterone and have symptoms, or you can have normal progesterone and high estrogens and have symptoms.
These are common symptoms of low progesterone:
- PMS (moodiness, cravings, cramping, bloating, etc)
- Belly-centric weight gain
- Low libido
- Difficulty handling stress
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Anxiety or depression
- Headaches; joint and muscle aches
- Painful or lumpy breasts
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Elevated cortisol levels
- Low bone density
You can take a stab at guessing if you have low progesterone or not. You may find it fairly obvious, and it does play a role in most women’s hormonal acne. But the only sure way to know is to get a hormone test done. I recommend saliva hormone testing.
My Experience with Low Progesterone
In November of last year, I got a saliva hormone test done and it said that I had very low progesterone. I wasn’t really surprised. I’m not sure if I always had low progesterone, but at that time I was really feeling it!
Progesterone has a very intimate relationship with stress. When you’re chronically stressed, your body actually steals the resources your body was going to use to make progesterone, and instead uses it to create stress hormones. This can result in low progesterone levels.
Ironically, at that time I was quite stressed because of writing my Female Hormonal Acne Guide! We were about to go to India for three months and I was overworking myself trying to get the book finished in time and do all the trip preparations.
The symptoms I ended up experiencing:
- One fairly big-ish pimple right before my periods
- Very sore breasts for quite a while before period
- A small benign lump in my breast called a fibroadenoma (which comes and goes with hormonal changes)
- Noticeably not sleeping as well as I normally do. Having a hard time getting to sleep; always waking up in the middle of the night.
Anyway – next post we’ll go over ways to treat this imbalance. And don’t forget to check out my Female Hormonal Acne Guide if you want an in depth look at how all your hormones work and how to stop hormonal breakouts for good!
Do you know or think you might have low progesterone?