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Genetic Study Reveals Source of "Super Acne" in Young Women

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How to get rid of cystic acne

Do you struggle with acne? I’m not just talking about the occasional pimple that surfaces at what seems like the most inopportune moment. Rather, I’m referring to the type of acne that is ever-present, head-to-toe, and often exceedingly painful.


Does this sound like you? Maybe acne is a constant battle for you. You’ve tried every cleanser, skin cream, and face mask on the planet, but nothing has made a difference. You face chronic pain and discomfort due to your acne. And the worst part is, you feel completely hopeless about your situation.


Here’s the truth: the source of your severe acne is something you may have never considered. Recently, the DNA Company conducted a study to uncover the underlying cause of super acne. After surveying more than 4,000 participants, the results are clear...and they might surprise you.

A foundational misunderstanding

Before diving into the results, it’s important to build the proper foundation. There is a prevalent misunderstanding surrounding sex hormones that needs to be corrected before we go any further.


Most people tend to associate testosterone with men and estrogen with women. While it’s true that men tend to have more testosterone than women and women typically have more estrogen than men, the fact is that both of these hormones are present in both men and women.


Testosterone and estrogen have their basis in progesterone. The natural cycle of these hormones has four stages:

  1. The body produces progesterone.
  2. The progesterone is converted into testosterone.
  3. The testosterone is converted into estrogen or cleared from the body.
  4. The estrogen is cleared from the body.

While male bodies execute this process daily, females do it during their monthly cycle. It is crucial for both men and women to have balanced amounts of each of these sex hormones.


Here’s the problem: certain genes can negatively influence the process of converting progesterone into testosterone and estrogen.


If you’re unfamiliar with genetics, it might be confusing to keep track of the various genes and their names. Don’t worry, we’re not going to discuss all 20,000 human genes today. We’re focusing on a small handful.


The CYP17A1 gene is responsible for converting progesterone into testosterone. There are two versions of this gene: a slow one and a fast one. If you have the fast version, you’re likely to have a huge reserve of testosterone because it’s being converted so quickly.


The CYP19A1 gene, on the other hand, converts testosterone into estrogen. The CYP3A4 gene’s job is to clear testosterone from the body. These two genes work simultaneously to reduce testosterone in the body.


Still following?


Now let’s say you have the fast version of CYP17A1 (testosterone producing), the slow version of CYP19A1 (estrogen producing), and the slow version of CYP3A4 (testosterone clearing). This combination results in extremely high testosterone levels and low estrogen levels, a genetic tendency that’s called androgen dominance.


Being androgen dominant is especially difficult for women. It is associated with several complications, including those affecting the skin and hair follicles. Androgen dominant women tend to stay thin with smaller breasts and hips. They have an easier time developing defined muscles and a six-pack.

The gene behind cystic acne

According to the data collected by the DNA Company, women who are androgen dominant are also predisposed towards cystic acne and other skin problems. This genetic combination results in a hormonal imbalance, which negatively impacts skin health.


In fact, your hormones affect your skin in numerous ways. They influence skin oil production and cellulite deposits, as well as the strength and barrier function of your skin. Even a small hormonal imbalance can result in skin problems.


Because it further enhances androgen dominance, there is another gene that can result in super acne. This gene, SRD5A2, converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is 5 times as potent as normal testosterone. You can imagine how having the fast version of this gene could make you even more androgen dominant–and extra prone to super acne.

Case study: Lily

Take 22-year-old Lily*, for example. The pain from her head-to-toe acne was so bad that she couldn’t even sit down. The clinic she was working with could not figure out what was going on. They prescribed medications that ultimately caused more issues for her. Finally, the clinic referred her to the DNA Company.


Lily’s DNA results showed that she was highly androgen dominant. She had too much testosterone and not enough estrogen. We went to work on balancing her hormone levels right away. A few weeks later, she came back to us in tears, saying she had clear skin and beautiful hair for the first time ever.


Lily’s clinic was focused on eliminating the problem from the outside in, not knowing that the issue was deeply rooted in something internal. Once her genetic profile was clear, Lily was able to take steps to completely reverse her condition. 

How to treat super acne

The underlying issue that causes super acne is hormonal imbalance. Most people assume cystic acne is an external skin problem when really it’s an internal hormonal problem. A holistic treatment plan will take this into account.


If you’re a person with super acne, you probably visit your dermatologist on a regular basis. Rather than giving up your skin care regimen and other recommendations from your dermatologist, your treatment plan should expand to incorporate hormonal treatment as well.


Your hormone production can be impacted by a variety of factors, including food, exercise, activity, and environment. That means you can take steps to regulate your testosterone and estrogen production–and ultimately improve your skin health.


Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Drink fenugreek tea every day
  • Add healthy fats (avocados, coconuts, olive oil, etc.) to your diet
  • Reduce consumption of dairy products
  • Stop using household products with heavy chemicals
  • Start using hypoallergenic detergent for sensitive skin

Are you wondering whether you’re genetically predisposed towards super acne? The best way to find out is by decoding your genes through our 360 DNA Report. You’ll discover whether you’re androgen dominant as well as 37 other custom reports surrounding sleep, diet, nutrition, hormones, fitness, cardiovascular health, immunity, and behavior.


Each custom report includes your genetic tendencies as well as practical steps you can take to optimize your health and wellness. You are a unique individual, and you deserve health strategies that reflect your unique genome. Get started today. 


*Client’s name is withheld to protect her privacy.

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