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The Best Solution for Steroid Acne

Steroid use is connected to various side effects, including the development or exacerbation of acne. But what, if anything, can be done to bring the skin back to life?

Steroid acne can resemble traditional acne vulgaris or take the form of Malassezia folliculitis, a type of fungal acne. Because it is caused by shifts in hormone production and a change in immune response, steroid acne must be combated from its root causes. A routine meant to regulate sebum build-up, manage inflammation, and kill excess acne-causing bacteria is a key part of successful treatment.

Unfortunately, there is no immediate fix for steroid acne. Thus, your routine should focus primarily on your skin health, and by improving the cleanliness and overall health of your skin, you will see significant improvements in your acne.

Follow this advice to make steroid acne a thing of the past.

Man with back acne holding a sunflower.
Steroid-induced acne comes from changes within the body, but successful treatment is possible.

What is Steroid Acne?

When we talk about steroid acne, we're talking about breakouts that are caused specifically by the long-term use of steroids.

It's important to note that steroid-induced acne can look and feel just like "regular" acne, but because it's caused by the changes that steroids induce, it can be stubborn and tricky to manage.

Corticosteroids, testosterone, and anabolic steroids all have a causal relationship to acne.

In fact, some estimates suggest that around 50% of anabolic steroid users experience acne as a result.

If your steroid acne is painful, heavily inflamed, and rapidly worsening, then you might want to get it looked at by a medical professional, but remember to look at their suggestions always with a wise, skeptical eye. Check out this guide to know when it's time to talk to a dermatologist and when your acne can be treated with natural and scientific remedies.

What Kind of Acne Do Steroids Cause?

Steroid acne can take the form of acne vulgaris, your traditional, run-of-the-mill acne, or Malassezia folliculitis, a condition caused by an excess of Malassezia yeasts.

A distinguishing factor that sets steroid acne apart is its rapid onset time; typically, breakouts begin to show up within just one to two weeks of steroid exposure.

What Does Steroid Acne Look Like?

The blemishes steroid-induced acne causes can present in multiple ways, including:

  • pustules (pus-filled inflamed bump)

  • papules (inflamed red/pink bumps)

  • closed comedones (whiteheads)

  • open comedones (blackheads)

  • cysts and nodules (large, deep, inflamed lesions)

Steroid acne can appear anywhere but most commonly appears on the back, face, buttocks, and extremities.

Woman with back acne.
A noteworthy detail about steroid acne is the location it tends to manifest; though it can appear on the face, it also commonly shows up on the back and chest.

Why Do Steroids Cause Acne?

Steroids can cause skin concerns by impacting one of the three main causes of acne in some way.

All acne, regardless of its catalyst, is caused by the same three factors:

  1. A build-up of P. acnes bacteria

  2. Excess of sebum (oil) and dead skin cells

  3. Inflammation

Exposed acne infographic
Excess oil and dead skin cells clog pores, creating the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive and trigger the immune system.

It seems that steroids cause acne primarily through altering hormone production, which connects to the build-up of excess sebum in the pores.

But research also shows that steroids can affect the way your body produces TLR2 receptors, which are part of the immune system.

When combined with an imbalance (too much) of P. acnes bacteria, this heightened level of TLR2 receptors may cause an inflammatory response and lead to breakouts.

So, overall, steroids cause acne by impacting oil production (via hormones) and inflammation (via TLR2 receptors). This double-whammy makes them a real force to be reckoned with if you're trying to care for your skin.

How to Get Rid of Steroid Acne

To clear up your steroid acne once and for all, you'll need a skincare regimen that attacks from every angle. That means regulating oil and dead skin cell build-up, preventing excess sebum production, and keeping bacteria under control.

The best way to achieve these goals is by using products with ingredients proven to work against the causes of acne.

Close-up photo of oily skin
Approaching problems like excess oil on the skin head-on is crucial when it comes to eradicating steroid acne.

Balance Acne-Causing Bacteria

Even if it may not be as directly influenced by steroid use as the other causes of acne, excess P. acnes bacteria is still a factor to pay attention to when treating your skin.

Benzoyl peroxide is an antiseptic known to reduce the amount of P. acnes bacteria found on the skin, which makes it a great tool for promoting a healthy microbiome without irritating the skin.

However, especially with steroid acne, you should ensure that benzoyl peroxide is balanced out by other calming ingredients that work to keep your skin calm and hydrated. Only using benzoyl peroxide alone could potentially leave your skin dry or irritated. With the threat of an increased immunological response as mentioned above, balancing your benzoyl peroxide use with ingredients like green tea is a must.

To limit the risk of steroid acne developing or worsening, we recommend using a product like the Exposed Acne Treatment Serum, which fights acne-causing bacteria with the help of benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil. Adding green tea extract soothes and heals the skin to prevent new blemishes from forming.

Tame Inflammation

Within the past decade, researchers have discovered that inflammation plays a key role in the development of some types of blemishes and at all stages of acne development.

So, to kick steroid acne to the curb, you'll need to tackle inflammation as much as possible, even if you don't have any visible blemishes on your skin.

To treat acne right from the start, opt for products containing soothing, hydrating ingredients that won't cause irritation and can help promote healing.

An amazing option is the Exposed Clearing Tonic, which is specially designed to protect and calm your skin after cleansing. Azelaic acid, green tea extract, and passion flower all work together to combat redness and lower irritation.

Unclog Pores & Keep Sebum in Check

Steroids can impact the production and balance of hormones in the body that are responsible for sebum production. Testosterone, in particular, seems to most dramatically affect the rate at which our pores produce oil.

A shift in the way our bodies make hormones can lead to higher levels of sebum and, as a result, clogged pores.

To fight the hormonal changes that can cause oily skin and congested pores, choose products that work to break down grime and regulate sebum production throughout the day. Low doses of salicylic acid are known to help penetrate the pores and clear out the dirt and oil inside of them that can lead to clogging, revealing softer, smoother skin.

The Exposed Facial Cleanser combines the deep cleansing properties of salicylic acid with a calming blend of sage extract and pro-vitamin B5 to regulate oil production and make steroid acne a thing of the past.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is important for any skincare routine, especially if you're dealing with steroid acne.

Blemishes don't appear overnight, even if they seem to; regular treatment that covers all of your bases is necessary to treat existing breakouts and prevent future ones from forming.

Skipping out on products you need or your routine means that your pores are susceptible to the gunk, inflammation, and bacteria that lead to steroid acne. And all it takes is a few clogged pores to develop more severe acne lesions.

We understand that creating and maintaining a routine fit for the steroid acne challenge isn't as easy as we'd like. So, we've created tools like the Exposed Basic Kit that offer all you need to jumpstart an acne-fighting routine that works to clean, treat, and restore your skin-- and with a subscription, that package of acne-fighting ingredients arrives at your door every month.

Need help finding the best products and solutions for your skin? Check out our "Find My Kit" Quiz to be matched with the products that are best suited to your concerns, including treating acne caused by steroids.

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