Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that causes small cysts and enlarges the ovaries. In addition to affecting fertility, PCOS can cause several hormone-related side effects, including acne and other skin problems.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) typically begin after puberty. The most common symptoms are weight gain, mood swings, excessive facial or body hair, irregular periods, acne, and reduced fertility. Yep — acne is included in the list.
All females have small levels of testosterone (the male hormone). However, in women with PCOS, the ovaries or adrenal glands produce excess androgens (Testosterone), leading to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The easiest way to determine if you have PCOS is by combining a physical exam with your OB-GYN and blood testing.
The most common treatment for PCOS is birth control pills. These medications can help regulate the monthly period and reduce testosterone levels. Once the hormones are balanced, polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms (Like excess hair growth and acne) often improve. In addition, a weight reduction of even 10% can increase insulin sensitivity and help balance hormones. The DIM + cruciferous supplements are an excellent natural addition to women's hormonal and PCOS-related acne treatment. They contain cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, alfalfa, and spinach) specially formulated to help balance hormones.
What are the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?
Not all women with PCOS experience all the symptoms, and they can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Excessive facial hair and body hair (hirsutism)- usually on the face, back, buttocks, and chest
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- Cystic acne
How does PCOS cause acne?
Higher androgen levels in women with PCOS cause the skin oil glands (sebaceous glands) to increase in size and produce more sebum. Dry sebum and dead skin cells can clog these sebaceous glands' openings and cause blackheads, whiteheads, and active acne pimples. In some people, PCOS causes cystic acne that is much more severe and painful than "normal" acne. It is often found along the body's jawline, neck, chest, and upper back region. Regular hormonal acne usually appears as your hormonal cycle fluctuates, often aligned with menstrual periods, whereas PCOS-related acne is more consistent.
How can you treat acne caused by PCOS?
Let's look into some treatment options for those facing acne caused by PCOS.
Take a combined oral contraceptive pill.
The birth control pill is one of the most common treatments for cystic acne. The pill can help regulate the monthly cycle and reduce testosterone levels; once hormones are balanced, PCOS symptoms - such as excess hair growth and acne - often improve. However, not all oral contraceptives can treat acne. Two types of progesterone (cyproterone acetate and drospirenone) can effectively block the effects of androgens. Studies have shown a 30 - 60% reduction in inflammatory acne within 3 - 6 months of beginning the pill.
Take a DIM supplement.
Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a natural substance the body produces as it breaks down indole-3-carbinol, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables. DIM is excellent at metabolizing excess hormones in the body, stabilizing levels, and creating balance. Assisting the body in regulating hormones can help alleviate any flare-ups and discomfort caused by PCOS - including pimples and inflammation. MDacne's DIM Skin Clearing Supplements have been specifically formulated for women dealing with hormonal acne and help clear breakouts from the inside out.
Focus on lowering inflammation.
By lowering inflammation within the body, you are also helping balance insulin levels, which can affect hormonal imbalances and acne formation. One of the most effective ways to lower inflammation is to alter your diet. Some foods, such as red meat, white bread, white potatoes, and refined sugars, are naturally inflammatory and enjoyed in moderation. Instead, incorporate healthier options such as leafy greens, salmon, healthy oils, turmeric, and fish.
Talk to your doctor about oral medications.
In more severe cases, cystic acne may not respond adequately to topical treatments to recommend oral treatments. In addition, dermatologists may recommend one of the following medications.
A derivative of vitamin A, isotretinoin (Accutane), is the most potent drug for acne's modern treatment. It's highly effective in all forms of acne, including cystic acne.
Spironolactone, also known as Aldactone, was created to treat hypertension. It's an androgen blocker and disrupts the production of male hormones. This decreases sebum production and can result in fewer breakouts.
How can you prevent acne caused by PCOS?
As with any acne form, the key to combating unwanted blemishes is to create healthy skincare habits and heal from within.
Establish a skincare routine.
An effective routine should include a medicated cleanser, a medical-grade treatment cream, and an oil-free acne-prone skin moisturizer. Choose products with active ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide when looking for products. The best moisturizers for people with acne-prone will also contain niacinamide.
Treat your acne with salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid can deeply penetrate the skin to break down build-up that can clog pores and cause acne. It also works as a chemical exfoliator to gently slough away dead skin cells and grime. This helps keep oil production at bay and prevents future breakouts. Another benefit of salicylic acid? It's an anti-inflammatory, so it calms red, irritated skin.
Treat your acne with Benzoyl peroxide.
Benzoyl peroxide is antimicrobial, reducing acne-causing bacteria on the skin to prevent pimple formation and help remove blockages. Benzoyl peroxide can be found in FDA-approved over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription anti-acne medication and is regarded by the American Academy of Dermatology as the most effective single topical anti-acne medication.
Take a zinc supplement.
Women with PCOS tend to have low zinc levels, an essential mineral for optimizing hormone production, blood sugar regulation, and immune function. Studies suggest that this zinc deficiency may be partly to blame for insulin resistance and abnormal cholesterol levels often seen in PCOS patients. In addition to helping clear up the skin by balancing out hormone levels, Zinc may also help reduce unwanted symptoms such as hair loss and unwanted body hair growth. A good source of Zinc for teens and adult women with acne and PCOS is MDacne's vitamins + minerals supplements containing Zinc, vitamins A, B5, and selenium, specially formulated for people with acne and acne scars.
Prioritize relaxation and sleep.
Stress can impact all areas of health, including the skin. It can cause inflammation, leading to several issues manifesting on the skin, including psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and acne. Managing stress can help reduce the body's inflammatory response and keep your skin clear. In addition, without adequate rest, your immune system is at risk of being compromised, making you more susceptible to acne-causing bacteria. Sleep deprivation can also cause spikes in hormones such as cortisol, which leads to increased sebum production and, you guessed it, more breakouts. Therefore, sleeping 7 - 8 hours each night is essential for overall skin health.
Acne is very common in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Using the right oral contraceptives or natural DIM supplements can help with hormonal imbalance. Combining it with the proper skincare anti-acne medications, diet, and lifestyle changes can further reduce PCOs' symptoms, including acne.
Update on Management of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for Dermatologists
Antibacterial properties of benzoyl peroxide in aerobic and anaerobic conditions
The effect of nutrient supplementation in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome-associated metabolic dysfunctions: A critical review.
Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Endocrine Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial
To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.