Changes in serum free testosterone, sleep patterns, and 5-alpha-reductase type I activity influence changes in sebum excretion in female subjects

Skin Res Technol. 2015 Feb;21(1):47-53. doi: 10.1111/srt.12155. Epub 2014 Aug 28.


Background/purpose: Sebum is thought to play an important role in acne vulgaris and sebum excretion rate (SER) is often used as a marker of efficacy in acne studies. This study explored factors that could induce intra-subject variability in SER.

Methods: SER was measured twice, 7 days apart, on the forehead of 40 healthy subjects. At each visit, the following parameters were also evaluated: serum androgen levels, 5-alpha-reductase type I gene expression, forehead temperature, sleep habits, diet, facial washing routine, and UV exposure.

Results: There was a positive correlation between the time subjects fell asleep on Day 0 and the change in SER for the left (P = 0.010; R = 0.402) and right sides (P = 0.002; R = 0.467) of the forehead. There was a significant inverse correlation between SER and 5-alpha-reductase type 1 expression and between free testosterone levels and 5-alpha-reductase type 1 expression. In sub-analyses performed on men and women, these correlations were only significant for women.

Conclusion: Variations in sleep patterns, free testosterone, and 5-alpha-reductase type 1 activity are associated with changes in sebum excretion in women. This could explain some of the inter-subject variability in SER measured between visits in clinical studies.

Keywords: 5-alpha-reductase 1 gene expression; androgen levels; sebum excretion; sleep patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase / blood*
  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Female
  • Forehead / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sebaceous Glands / physiology*
  • Sebum / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Skin Temperature / physiology
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Testosterone
  • 3-Oxo-5-alpha-Steroid 4-Dehydrogenase
  • steroid-5alpha-reductase type 1