Phentermine weight loss pills come with a long list of potential side effects, but acne is not listed as one of them. Still, people taking this medication often comment that they are breaking out like teenagers. So, can phentermine cause acne? The evidence indicates that this medication can increase breakouts in some people, but phentermine acne may be a result of hormonal changes, weight loss and lifestyle changes more than the pills themselves.
Most medical professionals maintain that phentermine does not cause acne, but phentermine users continue to report break outs. In fact, data from a recent online poll of over 2000 past and present phentermine users indicates that around 4% of patients of patients suffer from phentermine acne .
This statistic is corroborated by dozens of support group users who report new or worse acne while taking this medication. In their discussions, the most commonly described presentation is large, red pimples on the jawline and chin. Some users also report phentermine acne on other parts of their face or body. Most people report that a disciplined skincare routine helps, but does not typically resolve the sudden breakouts.
Despite the relatively common occurrence of this reaction, there exists very little scientific information about phentermine acne or why this medication causes breakouts. Even with acne in general, the medical community has a lot of theories about what causes it, but no one is exactly sure. Keeping that in mind, here are some possible reasons for phentermine acne breakouts.
It could be that your phentermine acne is just an unwanted presentation of adult acne. An estimated 51% of women in their 20s and 35% of women in their thirties suffer from adult acne . Even though acne is often typecast as a teenage problem, pimples and breakouts are surprisingly common in adults of all ages. Some of these sufferers had acne as teenagers and deal with it as a chronic condition, while others had beautifully clear skin in adolescence and suddenly start breaking-out as an adult.
Unlike teens who usually battle with lots of small little bumps and pimples in the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin), adults are more likely to experience larger red bumps and pustules along the jawline and chin . So, unfortunately, an apparent presentation of phentermine acne may just be adult acne that decided to make its unwelcome appearance around the same time that you started taking phentermine.
Phentermine acts as a central nervous system stimulant to promote weight. It achieves the desired effects of appetite suppression and energy boost through activating your sympathetic nervous system, similar to the “fight or flight” response. This tricks your body into thinking you are in a constant state of stress.
Just like stress from everyday life can wreak havoc on your skin, so too can stress simulated by phentermine. In fact, research shows that higher levels of stress are correlated with more severe acne in female medical school students . Emotional stress increases oil production by the pores and, in individuals prone to acne, this oily substance can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Stress also slows healing, so existing pimples take longer to clear up during when stressed . For both of these reasons, phentermine acne breakouts can seem more severe and enduring if your body thinks it is stressed because of the medication, or because weight loss is producing constant stress in your life.
Hormonal changes could also be the culprit behind phentermine acne. Like adult acne in general, hormonal acne is more common in women . As a result, hormonal fluctuations throughout menstrual cycle or increased levels of cortisol can underwrite phentermine acne breakouts in some women.
Major weight loss and phentermine’s stimulation both result in further hormonal changes, beyond normal monthly cycles. Estrogen, for example, is stored in body fat. When women lose a lot of weight quickly, estrogen levels decrease. More, cortisol levels increase as part of the intentional CNS stimulation brought about by phentermine. Increased circulation of this “stress hormone” may also contribute to phentermine acne breakouts.
Changes in these and other hormone levels are correlated with general acne flare-ups (including breakouts that happen around your time of the month), so hormonal changes may also be part of the reason that phentermine causes acne.
Lifestyle changes may also play a role in phentermine acne. While daily habits are not the underlying cause of breakouts, lack of sleep, poor diet, or poor post-gym hygiene habits can contribute to acne flare-ups.
With phentermine, sleep can be hard to come by, especially if you are struggling with phentermine insomnia. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can also cause hormonal shifts . So, if you are struggling with phentermine acne breakouts, try prioritizing rest and relaxation a little bit more.
Have you heard that that chocolate, sugar or milk cause acne? Some research indicates that consumption of a high-glycemic diet or a lot of dairy, especially liquid milk, may worsen acne, but evidence remains inconclusive [7,8,9]. There is little evidence to support any direct correlation between eating chocolate or greasy food and acne severity. As a result, the link between diet and acne remains highly-debated in the dermatological community. Most professionals still recommend a healthy, balanced diet and proper hydration for skin and overall health.
Many people also start exercising a lot more when they begin phentermine. It is healthy and fun to work up a sweat, but letting sweat and grime dry on your skin can make phentermine acne worse, so make sure to shower as soon as you finish . Also avoid touching your face while using shared equipment like weights or elliptical trainers at the gym. These items are often filled with germs and dirt, so both your skin and immune system will thank you for keeping your dirty hands away from your face!
Regardless of what is causing the pimples, most people with sudden and bothersome breakouts want to know how to prevent acne while taking phentermine. Here are a few easy ways to reduce your risk of phentermine acne:
Many of us slack on our skincare routines after the teenage breakouts clear up. Still, your first line of defense against acne is a consistent, daily skincare routine. Dermatologists recommend washing your face with a gentle cleanser twice per day, plus any time you sweat. Look for hypoallergenic options to minimize irritation, and steer clear of scrubs since they can actually bother your skin more. To further avoid irritation, apply the cleanser with clean hands instead of a washcloth or sponge, and then massage and rinse gently instead of scrubbing. If your skin is dry, consider a daily non-comedogenic moisturizer, or one designed not to clog pores .
Consider the role of your environment in clogging pores as well. Be vigilant about minimizing contact with substances and surfaces that could worsen phentermine acne breakouts throughout the day. Start off by making an effort to:
If phentermine acne has already made its unwelcome appearance, you have a couple options to treat breakouts. You should continue to practice a consistent, daily skincare routine, but you can also experiment with natural or OTC acne treatments. If these solutions are not clearing your acne sufficiently, or your breakouts are severe, talk to a dermatologist for professional help.
While more severe phentermine acne usually requires medical treatment, mild to moderate acne may be manageable with natural, at-home treatments.
Tea tree oil, for example, proves an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne . This essential oil can either be used as a spot treatment, or diluted in a gel or other oils (e.g. coconut or olive oil) for a more widespread treatment.
Green tea extract, and specifically its main antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has also been shown to reduce inflammation and sebum production in acne sufferers [12,13]. Apply green tea extract directly to phentermine acne breakouts or steep a strong cup of natural green tea and, when cool, apply it to your skin with a fresh cotton ball or spritz bottle.
OTC creams, face washes and treatments can also prove effective in the management of mild phentermine acne. Look for a product that contains benzoyl peroxide to help clear your breakout faster .
He or she will likely refer you to a dermatologist, and they have a wide array of prescription treatment options for acne. A doctor can best determine the probable underlying cause of your breakouts. They can then decide whether to prescribe topical treatments, medication, or a combination of the two to manage your condition. Though you will not see resolution overnight, phentermine acne outbreaks are manageable and treatable.
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