The skin often serves as a visible indicator of internal health.
For women grappling with (PCOS), it becomes a window revealing hormonal imbalances.
PCOS is a disorder characterised by disrupted hormone levels.
It frequently manifests in dermatological symptoms such as persistent acne.
It can also cause dark patches on the skin (acanthosis nigricans).
These visible manifestations emphasise the importance of a comprehensive approach.
One that addresses both the hormonal aspects of PCOS and its impact on skin health.
In this article, we explore the link between PCOS and acne and ways you can manage your symptoms.
Acne is a skin condition that arises when hair follicles become obstructed with oil and dead skin cells, forming pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.
A common cause could be an underlying medical condition, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
This is a hormonal disorder that affects up to 13% of all women of reproductive age. It is characterised by irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgen levels, and the development of small cysts on the ovaries.
While not the most serious symptom of PCOS, acne can still pose several issues and be a source of frustration and stress for many women. Below is a closer look at PCOS-related acne and how to treat it.
PCOS-related acne comes from a hormonal imbalance, as this study demonstrates (1) particularly an excess of androgens such as testosterone.
Unfortunately, the impact of PCOS-related acne on women’s lives can be profound. Acne can be physically painful and uncomfortable. For some, breakouts can be so severe that it results in bleeding and inflammation. Acne can also have a significant psychological effect.
Many women with PCOS-related acne report feelings of self-consciousness, shame, and low self-esteem. In the worst cases, it can also cause anxiety and depression, affecting a woman’s overall quality of life and well-being.
Additionally, the visible symptoms of acne can lead to social and professional stigma, which can further compound the emotional toll it takes on women with PCOS.
This study (2) found that maintaining a healthy diet is essential for treating PCOS-related acne. Refined carbohydrates and sugar can increase insulin levels, which can exacerbate acne. Therefore, women with PCOS need to focus on a low-glycemic diet emphasising whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, consuming foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries and leafy greens, can help reduce inflammation and improve skin health.
Regular exercise is another important lifestyle modification for managing PCOS-related acne. Exercise can help regulate insulin levels, improve circulation, and reduce stress, all of which work towards acne reduction. Women with PCOS should aim to take up moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming several times a week.
Stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, can also be beneficial for women with PCOS-related acne. Chronic stress can lead to an increase in androgen levels, which can contribute to acne breakouts. Incorporating stress-reducing activities into daily routines can result in balanced hormones and improved skin health.
Medications for PCOS-Related Acne
Because PCOS is a complex disease, it involves various medications to target specific symptoms. Many of these medications, by extension, also improve other manifestations since PCOS symptoms tend to influence one another. Case in point, weight loss medication for PCOS also targets acne. Metformin and GLP-1 are medications that reduce the elevated insulin levels common in women with PCOS, with the former also reducing high androgen levels. These help improve hormonal balance and reduce acne in women with PCOS.
In the same way, birth control pills also work by suppressing androgen production. They contain hormones such as estrogen and progestin, as well as help regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS. This stabilises hormone levels and reduces the occurrence of acne breakouts.
That said, for some women whose most prominent PCOS symptoms are acne, doctors may prescribe more dedicated medications. These can involve oral treatments that target pustular and cystic acne, common to PCOS. Over time, these medications can manage stubborn acne.
Skincare for PCOS-Related Acne
When selecting skincare products to address PCOS-related acne, opting for those that work beyond the skin’s surface is crucial. A gentle cleanser, like our Miracle Cleanse, is designed to remove impurities without leaving an oily residue or clogging pores, which can exacerbate acne.
Regularly moisturising the skin is equally vital, as PCOS-related acne can be triggered and worsened by dryness and irritation. A daily oil-free moisturiser, such as our Quench Plumping Peptide Gel, helps maintain skin hydration without adding excess oil.
For targeted treatment, benzoyl peroxide products are beneficial. These products can effectively combat acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation. Additionally, retinoids, like those found in our A+ Retinol Complex, can be added to skincare routines to promote skin cell turnover and prevent clogged pores.
To conclude. The naked truth
PCOS-related acne is a complex manifestation influenced by hormonal imbalances, particularly elevated androgen levels.
While not the most severe symptom of PCOS, acne can significantly impact both physical and psychological well-being. It is essential to approach its treatment comprehensively, considering lifestyle modifications, dietary adjustments, medications, and targeted skincare.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress-reduction techniques can be crucial in managing PCOS-related acne. Adopting a low-glycemic diet rich in antioxidants and engaging in moderate-intensity exercises helps regulate insulin levels and reduce overall stress.
Medications such as Metformin, GLP-1, and birth control pills address hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS, contributing to improved hormonal balance and reduced acne symptoms.
Skincare is another integral aspect of managing PCOS-related acne. Using gentle cleansers to prevent pore blockage, oil-free moisturisers to combat dryness, and targeted treatments like benzoyl peroxide and retinoids can address acne concerns.
In conclusion, a holistic approach that combines lifestyle adjustments, medications, and targeted skincare is critical to managing PCOS-related acne and enhancing individuals’ physical and emotional well-being.
Individuals should consult healthcare professionals to tailor a personalised treatment plan that addresses their needs and concerns.
- Hormonal profile and polycystic ovaries in women with acne vulgaris
A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomised controlled trial.