Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, Hormone Receptors, and Acne Vulgaris: A Connecting Hypothesis

Cells. 2021 Jun 9;10(6):1439. doi: 10.3390/cells10061439.


The relationship between endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris has yet to be explored in the literature. Acne vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory skin disease of the pilosebaceous unit. The pathogenesis of acne involves several hormonal pathways, including androgens, insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1), estrogens, and corticosteroids. EDCs influence these pathways primarily through two mechanisms: altering endogenous hormone levels and interfering with hormone receptor function. This review article describes the mechanistic links between EDCs and the development of acne lesions. Highlighted is the contributory role of androgen receptor ligands, such as bisphenol A (BPA) and mono-2-ethylhexyl Phthalate (MEHP), via upregulation of lipogenic genes and resultant exacerbation of cholesterol synthesis. Additionally discussed is the protective role of phytoestrogen EDCs in counteracting androgen-induced sebocyte maturation through attenuation of PPARy transcriptional activity (i.e., resveratrol) and restoration of estrogen-regulated TGF-B expression in skin cells (i.e., genistein). Examination of the relationship between EDCs and acne vulgaris may inform adjunctive avenues of treatment such as limiting environmental exposures, and increasing low-glycemic, plant-rich foods in the diet. With a better understanding of the cumulative role that EDCs play in acne, clinicians can be better equipped to treat and ultimately improve the lives of their patients.

Keywords: acne vulgaris; androgens; endocrine disrupting chemicals; estrogens; hormones; nuclear hormone receptors; phytoestrogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris* / chemically induced
  • Acne Vulgaris* / drug therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Phytoestrogens