This blog post looks at the best ways to lower DHT and 5 alpha reductase activity to reduce oily skin and acne.
DHT is the strongest androgen in the body and too much of this androgen can cause hair thinning, excess body/facial hair, oily skin and acne. Excess levels occur when an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone or DHEA into DHT. You don’t necessarily have to have high levels of testosterone or DHEA to have high levels of DHT – many women have normal testosterone levels but HIGH 5a reductase activity which means they are converting hormones into acne-causing DHT at a much faster rate than normal.
how to reduce DHT and 5-alpha reductase activity to clear acne
Below are some of the most effective ways to reduce DHT and 5-alpha reductase activity.
eat less sugar
A diet high in sugars and not enough protein and fat causes imbalanced blood sugars levels and increased insulin and IGF-1.
IGF-1 stimulates your skins sebaceous glands to pump out more oil and your sebum oxidises, your pores get clogged, acne bacteria takes hold and then it’s just a matter of time before a spike of inflammation causes a big red pimple. Reducing sugar and refined carbohydrates and eating plenty of healthy fats will ensure that your blood sugar levels stay balanced and IGF-1 stays at a healthy level.
It’s not just testosterone that can convert into DHT via the 5-alpha reductase pathway, DHEA can also be converted into acne-causing DHT. DHEA is an androgen hormone produced in the adrenal glands and is linked to chronic and acute stress. High levels of stress will cause increased levels of DHEA and like other androgens, can be converted into DHT. DHEA will also cause stimulation of the sebaceous glands – causing excess oil production, sebum oxidisation, blocked pores and eventually acne!
eat more antioxidants
If you have super oily skin, this can spell trouble and the more oil you have from excess DHT, the more likely your sebum will oxidise into squalene peroxide which is the most pore-clogging substance on earth! But even if, despite all your efforts in reducing DHT, you still struggle with oily skin that is constantly breaking out, don’t fear! You CAN prevent your sebum from oxidising by eating plenty of antioxidants!
If you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, animal liver and dark chocolate then you will be able to protect your sebum from oxidising and prevent blocked pores and acne. No sebum oxidisation = No acne! Yes, you may still need to work on reducing 5a reductase activity and DHT to reduce oil production, but DHT is not the biggest issue if you are eating enough antioxidants in your diet!
drink green tea
Green tea has a specific antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate that weakens the potency of 5-alpha reductase which means it can reduce androgens from converting into the dreaded DHT. This antioxidant also reduces oil production and inflammation in the skin too!
Green tea is also effective topically and can reduce sebum production by up to 60% in 8 weeks. Less sebum production means less sebum oxidisation and less testosterone conversion into DHT.
Ultimately, the first three points are going to be your main defence against high DHT and 5a reductase activity. If you’re eating junk food everyday and stressed out, then drinking Green tea isn’t going to make a huge difference to your skin. You HAVE to lay the foundations with the first three and then this, and the following two strategies will be supportive of that – you cannot expect a skin care product or supplement to work without laying some ground work first!
apply sea buckthorn berry oil
As well as treating 5a reductase activity internally, you can also approach the situation topically too. Sea Buckthorn berry oil contains two anti-androgen compounds, beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol, which help reduce oil production in the skin. Studies have shown it can reduce sebum production by up to 45%!
REMEMBER, you must use the Sea Buckthorn berry oil – NOT Sea Buckthorn seed oil. They are VERY different and using the seed oil won’t give the desired results. The berry oil is a very deep red colour and would need to be diluted with your favourite facial oil or moisturiser (see image below). There are a lot of substandard formulas out there but I love Seabuck Wonders from iHerb!
take DHT blocking supplements
If you are female, have taken a DUTCH test (so have proof that you are struggling with high 5a reductase activity) AND all of the above strategies haven’t totally cleared your skin, you could try some DHT blocking supplements which may help to reduce the conversion of testosterone to DHT. The most popular DHT blocking supplement is Saw Palmetto, but other options include Reishi, Zinc, DIM and L-lysine.
I don’t recommend DHT blocking supplements for men as androgens are key for optimal male health, a better strategy for clearing male acne is to increase antioxidants, lower stress and use topical treatments.
For more information about managing androgens, read my blog post “how to reduce androgens naturally.”
What are your top tips for reducing 5a reductase activity? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin,