Medications as the cause of acne

Despite the fact that most drugs act selectively on the body, they all have a number of contraindications and side effects. The use of some causes changes in the work of the endocrine system and the glands of external secretion in a person. In combination with individual characteristics of metabolism, they can cause acne.

Features and types

The trigger mechanism for the development of acne is hormonal imbalance, lack or excess of enzymes, toxins, increased sweating and sebum production , decreased immunity or thinning of the skin. All these prerequisites are associated with the need to take medications for the treatment of various diseases. If you understand how a particular remedy affects the condition of the skin, you can avoid negative consequences and unpleasant cosmetic side effects.

Hormonal agents

An increase in the blood plasma level of some hormones increases the secretion of the sebaceous glands of the skin.

These include:

  • Androgens, male sex hormones. They are also present in the body of women, but in smaller quantities. In addition, girls’ metabolism is more sensitive to even minor fluctuations. Even a small increase in titer makes the skin more oily and sensitive.
  • Progesterone, a substance necessary for the onset and maintenance of pregnancy. Normally, it is secreted from the second half of the menstrual cycle to prepare the endometrium for the reception of a fertilized egg, to make it thicker and friable. Against the background of an increase in progesterone levels, the amount of estrogen falls. This leads to a temporary decrease in immunity and the ability of the epidermis to heal itself. In combination, both effects force the glands to produce more sebum than necessary, pathogens easily start up in it, and the immune system is not ready to deal with them quickly enough, which causes inflammation.
  • Glucocorticoids secreted by the adrenal cortex. These include the stress hormone cortisol. Some drugs artificially provoke the development of Cushing’s syndrome – hypercortisolism . Their effect is similar to chronic stress. Patients experience increased sebum secretion and more intense sweating.

Contraceptive drugs

In most cases, oral contraceptives, as well as implants and hormonal coils, on the contrary, improve the condition of the skin. They help a woman cope with sudden surges in hormones during the cycle, or even suppress the production of some of them. However, sometimes the skin rash gets worse.

This could be due to:

  • Adaptation of the body to the drug. This usually takes 2-3 weeks. Against the background of the restructuring of the body, the secretion of the sebaceous glands increases, after which it gradually returns to normal.
  • Incorrect selection of contraception. Each woman has her own characteristics of the course of the cycle. This is due to genetics, lifestyle, age and many other factors. An unsuitable contraceptive can harm your general condition, including severely ruining your appearance.
  • Allergic reaction to components. In this case, the rash does not look like regular acne. They appear as small pustules filled with clear fluid and may be accompanied by redness, itching and burning.

Attention! Only a doctor can prescribe hormonal contraceptives after an examination. There is no need to hesitate to voice to a specialist all the features and problems associated with reproductive health. If the skin is initially prone to oily content, you should warn about this in advance. 

If negative manifestations appeared after the start of contraceptive use and did not disappear within a month, you should contact your doctor and change the drug.

Steroid hormones

The effect of these substances on the skin condition occurs in two directions.

On the one hand, almost all drugs used in the treatment of severe allergies and autoimmune diseases suppress the ability of the defense system to produce histamine. The body actually does not respond to pathogens: not only imaginary, as in the case, for example, with juvenile arthritis, but also quite real, such as Demodex or Staphylococcus aureus. The epidermis is not protected, and zanchit pathogens are easily propagated in the pores.

On the other hand, steroids increase the activity of the sebaceous glands and cause comedones .

Halogen-based preparations

This group includes fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine and astatine. To maintain metabolism, only iodine and chlorine are vital to a person, while bromine and fluorine are rather harmful. All these elements are powerful oxidizing agents, capable of accumulating in tissues and glands, and are extremely toxic in case of overdose. It is the excess and the process of its elimination that is associated with the formation of acne.


Element of the periodic table number 53 is needed by a person for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. It is involved in the production of many hormones, in particular those responsible for growth, immunity and the functioning of the nervous system. In case of excess, it is excreted in urine and sweat. Locally, iodine is irritating, provoking microinflammation .


This substance is found in strong sedatives. Its use is referred to as extreme measures, since the drug is toxic and has a destructive effect on tissues, including the dermis. Trying to get rid of the poisoning, the lymphatic system enhances the excretion of bromine through the skin, on which strong local inflammation soon appears.


Medicine knows the concept of “chlorine-acne”. These are acne that affects people who are exposed to short-term exposure to large doses of halogen or who work in constant contact with this element. Medicines in which chlorine is a concomitant, catalytic or main active ingredient cause local irritation and internal intoxication. Because the chemical slowly builds up in the body, it may take some time for breakouts to appear.

Attention! Halogen-containing drugs require not only a doctor’s prescription, but also constant monitoring of blood counts and the patient’s condition. Acne while taking such medications may indicate dangerous internal changes. If symptoms of the skin appear, you should seek advice and adjust the dosage. 

Antiepileptic drugs

AEDs are complex, complex medications, unfortunately, with many side effects. Doctors and patients are constantly striving to strike a balance between improving the quality of life and combating the negative effects of continuous medication. Chronic intoxication causes the skin to more intensively excrete metabolites along with sweat and sebum . In addition, some drugs affect the production and level of sex hormones.

When skin rashes appear during epilepsy therapy, the drug is immediately canceled and another is prescribed. This is due to the irreversibility of some types of dermatitis and eczema developing due to AED.


The main difference between antidepressants and sedatives is a complex and rather intense effect on all body systems. In the treatment of clinical depression, it is not enough just to stabilize the nervous system; it is necessary to align the hormonal background, to help the body overcome organic changes.

Each individual case of acne due to taking blood pressure must be dealt with separately. Only a doctor can reliably determine which system has failed. The reasons can range from banal allergies to toxic liver damage. With any new symptom, you need to go to the observing specialist.


Most often, acne occurs after a course of taking antibacterial drugs of the penicillin group. They exacerbate pre-existing skin problems. This is especially true for patients who have suffered from infectious mononucleosis. If you have or have had acne, it is best to choose a different antibiotic if possible.

In other cases, pimples are most likely due to individual drug intolerance or intoxication, if the drug is taken for a long time.


It is possible to cope with the rashes that appear from medications only after a complete diagnosis of the causes. You should not rely on self-medication and cosmetic methods, since the problem comes from within, and it will have to be solved systematically.

The first step is to inform the attending physician about the manifestation of undesirable symptoms, describe their nature and carefully observe the ongoing improvements and deterioration. You may need to reduce the dosage or find a more suitable equivalent. In the case when the therapeutic effect is much greater than the discomfort on the skin that appears, beauty should be neglected for the sake of health.

Only after that, you can connect a beautician who will tell you how quickly and safely to eliminate the consequences of pustules and rashes. Proper care will help prevent relapse and minimize the consequences if drug changes are not possible.


event_note November 27, 2020

account_box Dr. Peter B Milburn

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