Your Weight May Make It Tougher to Keep Your Skin Clear

woman picking at zit in mirrorWe all strive to be thin, but there might be one consequence of a low BMI that you did NOT see coming: Skinny women may be more likely to have acne.


Back in the olden days, pimples were presumed to be caused by chocolate and fried food. Now we know that's not true. But experts still can't quite explain exactly what causes breakouts. It's likely due to multiple triggers ranging from family genes to medications.

And now, we've got yet another factor: your weight.

A study done at National Ying-Ming University in Taiwan looked at 104 women who had acne and were between the ages of 25 and 45. It sounds like it was not for the self-conscious. While the women patiently sat, researchers counted every single one of their comedones, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.

Yes, there are that many kinds of zits. And no, it does not sound like a confidence-building exercise for these women. We wonder if they muttered "It's all in the name of science" over and over until they were done.

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But here's what's even more fascinating than why anyone would agree to participate in this study: the fact that the thinnest women had more acne than everyone else. A LOT more.

For instance, 42.2 zits vs. the 22 on average that larger women had.

What's up with that?

Dr. Delphine J. Lee, MD, PhD, FAAD, director of the Dermatological Center for Skin Health at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, weighed in: "A few studies have looked at BMI, and sometimes it's relevant, and sometimes it's not. The jury is still out."

What this latest research DOES show, though, is that "there is some hormonal component of acne."

One theory, says Dr. Lee, is that women with low body fat make less estrogen, which leads to a hormonal balance upset. Higher levels of androgen (the male hormone present in both men and women) create more sebum -- the thick, oily stuff that lubricates the skin. More androgen is also known to trigger skin inflammation and an increase in the bacteria that causes acne.

"If you have acne and it's not responding to over-the-counter or cosmetic treatments, see a board-certified dermatologist," advises Dr. Lee. "Some medicines can regulate and balance the hormonal balances that could be the cause of some acne."

Antibiotics and topical therapies can also reduce inflammation, Dr. Lee notes. Retinoids (like Retin-A) are effective at curbing oil production.

In other words, if you want to clear up your complexion, you've got plenty of options!


Image via © gpointstudio/iStock

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