Drugs and Chemicals that Cause Acne

Certain drugs go beyond aggravating acne but actually cause acne in skins which otherwise would not be vulnerable.

Recreational Drugs

  • Marijuana - aggravates acne because it lowers testosterone levels then raises these levels producing an imbalance in hormones.
  • Cocaine and Speed  - aggravate acne
  • Bromides – in cold and flu medications can aggravate acne
  • Steroids -Topical or oral cortiscosteroids (like Prednisone) are often used to treat asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Like cortisol, a natural steroid produced by the body during times of intense stress, corticosteroids can stimulate sebum production and lead to blemishes. Dexamethasone, prednisolone, betamethasone, cortisone, hydrocortisone, and triamcinolone], and anabolic steroids [danocrine (Danazol) and stanozolol (Stomba)] corticosteroids [prednisone, methylprednisone can cause acne.

Prescription Drugs

  • Anticonvulsants  -(like Dilantin) are prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy and other kinds of seizures. Most medications in this family list acne as a common side effect.
  • Lithium Carbonate – used to treat Bipolar Disorder
  • Thyroid preparations – Some thyroid medications (such as Thiourea and Thioracil) are known to trigger acne. These preparations are used to stimulate the thyroid gland in patients with low thyroid function. 
  • Quinine – prevents and/or treats malaria.
  • INH (Isoniazid) – used to treat tuberculosis (TB).
  • Immuran – used to suppress the immune system in patients awaiting an organ transplant.
  • Danazol – (Danocrine) Hormone management
  • Hormonal medications - progesteroneandrostendione, testosterone or contraceptive agents like Provera or Depo-Provera) and older oral contraceptives—(newer birth control pills such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Estrostep can actually improve acne)
  • Gonadotrophin  - may be prescribed in certain pituitary disorders can indirectly induce acne by stimulating testosterone production.
  • Cyclosporin – this is for post-transplant patients who must take it to prevent organ rejection.
  • Medications containing iodine or bromine - These medications are much less common today than in earlier years, but some are still in use. In the United States today, it is probably more likely to see acne-like outbreaks resulting from heavy consumption of iodine-containing health foods such as kelp. The iodine-caused lesions can occur at any age, they occur rapidly after the consumptions of large amounts of iodine, they are likely to be widespread on the face and body, and inflammatory pustules are common.
  • Disulfuram (or Antabuse) – prescribed to help chronic alcoholic patients who want to remain sober.
  • Phentermine – drug used for weight loss and appetite suppression
  • ADD or ADHD drugs have been found to make acne worse.

Common Drugs involved in acneiform eruptions:
Steroids (topical-systemic)
Testosterone (Bodybuilding acne)
Vitamins B1, B6, B12, D
Antidepressants (lithium-amineptine) 2-4
Antiepileptics (mood stabilizer) valproic acid 5
Tetracyclines
Isonicotinic acid
Puva
Phenol Barbiturates
Thyroid preparation
Disulfiram
Chloroquine
Azathioprine 6
Halogens (bromides-iodides)
Inhibitors of EFGR (tarceva) 7
Iodides.
Kelp acne (diet “exotic” products, tablets)
Lugol’s solution
Drugs for asthma and colds
Hypnotics
Sedatives

CHEMICALS THAT CAN CAUSE AND/OR AGGRAVATE ACNE

Various chemicals are potent and, when they come into contact with the skin, aggravate acne.

  • Coal tars - which a roofer comes into contact with
  • Grease - an auto mechanic comes into contact with or from frying food that a cook would deal with
  • Chlorinated industrial chemicals - may induce the occupational skin disorder known as chloracne.
  • Dioxin - a chemical found in herbicides, and may cause cancer and other harmful side effects.