Hormonal therapy for acne

Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2008 Sep;27(3):188-96. doi: 10.1016/j.sder.2008.06.002.


Acne affects more than 40 million people, of which more than half are women older than 25 years of age. These women frequently fail traditional therapy and have high relapse rates even after isotretinoin. Recent advances in research have helped to delineate the important role hormones play in the pathogenesis of acne. Androgens such as dihydrotestosterone and testosterone, the adrenal precursor dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, estrogens, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factors may all contribute to the development of acne. Hormonal therapy remains an important part of the arsenal of acne treatments available to the clinician. Women dealing with acne, even those without increased serum androgens, may benefit from hormonal treatments. The mainstays of hormonal therapy include oral contraceptives and antiandrogens such as spironolactone, cyproterone acetate, or flutamide. In this article, we discuss the effects of hormones on the pathogenesis of acne, evaluation of women with suspected endocrine abnormalities, and the myriad of treatment options available.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Cyproterone Acetate / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Flutamide / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Spironolactone


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Spironolactone
  • Cyproterone Acetate
  • Flutamide