A chemical connection between depression and acne

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the connections between acne and depression. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to focus on some of the information that I’ve found and my thoughts about what current research reveals. I’m not going to delve too heavily into the science behind the research, mostly because I’m not a dermatologist and I’m not really sure that my input would mean much. I have spent a lot of time studying the philosophy of science, though, so I will point out potential mistakes and alternative conclusions based on research. So, on to today’s topic:

Is there a chemical  connection between acne and depression?

People with acne tend to have higher levels of depression that those without acne. The connection could simply be that people with acne have low self-esteem because of the acne. They don’t feel confident in their appearance, so they get depressed.

Another way to interpret this connection, though, involves looking for chemical factors that could simultaneously cause acne and depression.

For instance, low serotonin levels have been linked to depression. That’s why SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) medications work well for depressed people. Could it be that low serotonin also has a direct link to acne? We know that glandular activity has a lot to do with acne breakouts. If low serotonin encourages sebaceous glands to produce larger amounts of skin oil, then it could be that treating depression with an SSRI automatically treats acen as well.

This approach, however, doesn’t seem to work. So, SSRIs are out as acne treatments. But that doesn’t mean that some other chemical in the body isn’t responsible for both depression and acne. As far as I can tell, researchers aren’t really sure why SSRIs work. It’s possible that low serotonin isn’t even the initial cause of depression. In that case, we may need to look deeper to find where depression and acne actually start.


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