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What Is Steroid Acne? Causes & 3 Effective Treatments

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People who have started a course of steroid medications may experience what is called “steroid acne.”

The only thing that differentiates this type of acne from any other kind of acne is the cause. This steroid side effect might occur because of high levels of circulating corticosteroids.

Let’s outline what steroid acne is and what you can do about it.

What is steroid acne?

Steroid acne is similar to that of typical acne, but the cause is triggered by the use of prescription steroids or anabolic steroids (often used for bodybuilding or Testosterone replacement therapy).

This type of acne occurs most often on the chest but can occur on the face, back and arms. There are two main kinds of acne that have been linked to steroid use: typical acne vulgaris and a fungal form of acne called Malassezia folliculitis.

Malassezia folliculitis is caused by a yeast infection of the hair follicles. This can occur naturally but can also be a side effect of steroid use.

What are the causes?

It’s still unclear why steroids can cause acne, but there are a few theories.

Some studies suggest steroid-induced acne may be caused by the production of an immune receptor called TLR2. It’s also thought that the use of steroids might cause the oil glands to become more vulnerable to inflammation.

Steroid acne occurs in those who have high levels of corticosteroids in their bloodstream, often as a result of prescribed corticosteroids or with the misuse of anabolic steroids.

What type of steroids cause steroid acne?

A variety of drugs might cause acne. In the case of steroid acne, there are two common steroid types that might cause acne. These medications might be injected, inhaled, or taken orally.

Prescription corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, are commonly prescribed by doctors to help treat inflammatory health conditions. When Corticosteroids are taken in high doses acne might occur. Typically this side effect might occur within the first few weeks of treatment.

Anabolic steroids

Athletes and bodybuilders sometimes misuse anabolic steroids to increase performance. Or, the anabolic steroid Testosterone may be prescribed for hormone replacement therapy. Anabolic steroids are comprised of synthetic male sex hormones to create androgenic steroids.

Higher than normal levels of androgens have been linked to a higher instance of acne. About 50% of people who take anabolic steroids in large doses will develop steroid-induced acne. This is often called “bodybuilders acne”.

3 effective treatments for steroid acne

Since steroid-induced acne is not much different from typical acne, the topical treatments are very similar. Although, reducing your dose or regimen of steroids may be part of the treatment, too.

#1 Over the counter acne treatment

If you are experiencing the acne vulgaris type of steroid acne, you might find relief in using over-the-counter acne treatments that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These are most effective with mild forms of acne.

Benzoyl peroxide is commonly recommended when it comes to steroid acne. It works to kill acne-causing bacteria. It’s considered an effective antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.

#2 Prescription acne topical treatment

Prescription-strength acne treatments might be required if you are experiencing a more severe case of acne. The treatments that might be prescription are topical antibiotics and prescription retinoids. Retinoids have been called the foundation of effective acne treatment. These help by increasing the production of healthy skin cells and reducing levels of inflammation.

Retinoids for acne:

  • Tretinoin
  • Tazarotene

Studies have shown the topical application of 0.5% Tretinoin was found to reduce acne in those with steroid acne.

#3 Prescription oral antibiotic treatment

Oral antibiotic tablets or topical antibiotics are often prescribed to those with bacterial inflamed acne. These are prescribed to those with moderate to severe steroid acne. These medications include doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline. These antibiotics can kill acne-causing bacteria and help reduce inflammation.

The bottom line

  • Steroid acne can be caused by the use of steroid medications.
  • Steroid acne might be caused by the use of corticosteroids or anabolic steroids.
  • This can be treated with OTC acne medications, prescription antibiotics, and retinoids, or adjusting your steroid dosages. 

Strut Health treats acne online with prescription retinoids

Here at Strut Health, we treat acne online. Prescription acne treatment has never been so easy. Our Strut Acne Formula utilizes the retinoid tretinoin and topical antibiotic clindamycin to treat acne.

If you would like to see if our formulas can help reduce your acne, complete a questionnaire-based online doctor's consultation to see if our acne treatments are right for you. If our doctors find you’re a good candidate for our formula, we’ll ship your prescription right to your doorstep.

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