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Do Steroids Help With Acne? (According to a Dermatologist)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 11, 2022

With my experience as a personal trainer, I have encountered a lot of athletes who took anabolic steroids. And I always try to educate my clients on the risks they are taking.

At the same time, many of them have clever counterarguments, and sometimes I’ve struggled to deal with them. One comment I recently heard was someone telling me that they took anabolic steroids to help with their acne.

So, I spent some time with a dermatologist who’s also my client, and we did some research into scientific studies on how steroids impact your skin.

Quick Summary

  • Many people believe that because dermatologists often prescribe steroids for acne that it’s always a good treatment option.
  • The problem is that anabolic and corticosteroids have very different impacts on the body, and this can lead to some nasty surprises.
  • The wrong dose and type of steroid can make acne significantly worse, and it’s a very common side effect that gives away steroid abuse.

Can You Use Anabolic Steroids for Acne?

A person looking at his face in the mirror

No, you can’t use androgenic anabolic steroids to treat acne.

There have been many studies and detailed case assessments showing that regular use of such steroids can cause severe and ulcerated acne [1].

There are even more severe forms of acne than what most people may be used to.

These can affect people who never suffered from acne before, and these side effects are often referred to as steroid acne [2].

It’s also important to note that certain corticosteroids that can reduce immune responses and inflammation could still have a negative effect on acne [3].

Cortisone-based creams may have a positive effect, but they are also not suitable for long-term and widespread use [4].

“On the acne front, you may have heard of dermatologists using cortisone injections to quickly calm large, angry pimples. While both cortisone and hydrocortisone belong to the same family of corticosteroids, cortisone has to be converted to hydrocortisone in the liver, and won't work topically.”

- Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD at Byrdie.com.

What Is Bodybuilder’s Acne?

Bodybuilder acne is also known as steroid acne and is a side effect of excessive use of anabolic steroids.

Some studies suggest that up to 50% of bodybuilders who take such performance-enhancing drugs will suffer from this skin condition [5].

The severity of this can vary a lot, with some people experiencing painful acne.

The reason for this effect is very similar to why people get acne during puberty.

This is mainly caused by hormonal imbalances and sudden fluctuations [6]. And that’s exactly what happens to people who take anabolic steroids.

The big question is whether there are ways to prevent this from happening in the first place.

How Can You Prevent It While Taking Testosterone?

A person popping pimples on his face

There’s no known way to completely prevent acne while taking testosterone boosters and other steroids. The two options you have is to treat the symptoms or stop the steroid intake.

If you’re taking steroids without a legal prescription or any medical reason, then this is another convincing argument that you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

For treating acne, you’ll need to get into a daily skincare habit for cleansing.

What you will need is a gentle face scrub that doesn’t scratch the skin. You’ll also need to find suitable non-oily moisturizers to avoid clogging up pores [7].

And you may also need to consider topical medicated treatments like antibiotic creams [8].

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FAQs

Does Bodybuilding Make Acne Worse?

Yes, bodybuilding can make acne worse. Even if you don’t take steroids, it’s possible that regular and excessive sweating during training could worsen the effects of this skin condition.

Does Acne From Testosterone Go Away?

Yes, acne from testosterone treatment goes away. It’s typically the hormone imbalance that causes the problem in the first place, and once you stop the treatment, the skin condition should improve.

Avoid Steroid Acne in the First Place

There are certain steroids that can be medically used to treat acne, but anabolic steroids won’t help.

If anything, they can make things considerably worse, and it’s a problem that many bodybuilders end up dealing with.

If you still want to get a boost in performance and muscle growth from higher testosterone levels, then I would recommend taking the best legal steroids on the market.

These don’t cause sudden hormone fluctuations that may lead to skin conditions like acne, but they can still have a positive effect on your body and training performance.


References:

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-481X.2010.00676.x
  2. https://www.firstderm.com/acne-from-steroids-should-you-be-worried
  3. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/448506
  4. https://www.byrdie.com/hydrocortisone-for-acne-4843494
  5. https://www.cidjournal.com/article/S0738-081X(16)30268-1/pdf
  6. https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/health/symptoms-and-diseases/hormonal-acne
  7. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/anti-aging/a37856790/acne-skincare-routine/
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20368048

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