Whenever we open Instagram or a magazine, we’re bombarded with airbrushed images of perfection. Photographs of dewy, hydrated, clear skin taunt us through the pixels – the elusive dream of a ‘perfect’ complexion.
This unattainable ideal can be particularly disheartening for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS causes a hormonal imbalance that affects the body in a number of ways. High levels of androgens (otherwise known as ‘male’ hormones) lead to a host of symptoms, including insulin resistance and weight gain. Excess androgens also cause increased sebum production, leading to acne and oily skin.
This is what my skin looked like before I took control and managed my PCOS (keep reading!)
It’s hard enough to deal with the internal symptoms of PCOS. But when the symptoms are external and our skin has flared up with painful, cystic breakouts, it can knock our confidence.
When treating PCOS acne, masking the symptoms with traditional acne treatments may not be the answer. Acne is an outward manifestation of inflammation in the body combined with elevated levels of androgens, such as high testosterone levels. To treat and reverse acne caused by PCOS, we need to understand the root issue that sparks a flare-up.
It’s not about understanding your ‘skin type’, washing your face more, or buying expensive creams to reverse your symptoms. It’s about supporting your hormonal imbalances and making healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes. After all, healthy skin starts from within.
Check out my top PCOS-friendly skincare tips to calm your breakouts.
Please note that this blog post is not a substitute for official medical advice and is for informational purposes only. If you are concerned about your PCOS symptoms, suspect you have an underlying health condition, or wish to make dietary/lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor first. Neither the author(s) nor the publishers of this content take responsibility for any potential health consequences or side effects experienced by any person following this educational content.
5 skincare tips for PCOS
Implement a simple skincare routine
You can’t scrub the acne away with a harsh exfoliator and rigorous washing. Although it’s tempting to ‘unclog your pores’ by washing your face several times a day, this does more harm than good. Marketing messaging has duped us into believing that we need to follow an elaborate skincare routine to restore our skin’s radiance. But the more we wash, scrub, and slather on the chemicals, the more we strip away our natural oils and protective barriers.
“But Tallene, my skin is so oily!”
I hear you, Cyster!
You can reduce excess oil. But rather than stripping the skin and irritating it further, ensure that you’re hydrating it properly.
- Consider using a hyaluronic acid serum. This can help increase skin moisture without negatively impacting oil balance.
- Consider using a salicylic acid exfoliator to combat excess oil production and shed dead skin cells. Remember not to over-exfoliate – start using it once or twice a week so your skin gets used to it.
- Use a lightweight moisturizer instead of a thick or scented formula. It doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective.
- Use SPF every day. The skincare holy grail! Protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays that can cause sunburn and skin damage. This should be the last step in your skincare routine. Make sure you choose a formula for acne-prone skin.
To recap: in the morning, use hyaluaronic acid first, followed by a moisturiser, and then SPF. Repeat the same steps in the evening without the SPF. Consider using a salicylic acid exfoliator once or twice a week at first, before moisturising. Consult a dermatologist before you use a new product for the first time.
Master your diet
Your diet is essential to controlling your PCOS symptoms and hormonal acne. Incorporate plenty of anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to lower inflammation and aid hormonal balance, such as fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts, and oily fish.
On a personal note, cutting out gluten and dairy was a game-changer for my cystic acne. After all my acne cleared, I thought that I could tolerate a little bit of cheese every day, so I reintroduced it to my diet. It turns out, that this was enough to trigger my acne to come back with a vengeance!
The moral of the story: find out what works for you. It’s easier to stick to it when you are aware of your body and how it feels with and without these foods. If your dietary requirements allow, try going gluten and dairy-free for 30 days and see how you feel!
For more PCOS-friendly diet tips, check out our programs here.
Get enough sleep
They call it ‘beauty sleep’ for a reason! During good sleep, your body prevents and repairs skin cell damage, improving its appearance and strength. Restful sleep is essential for anyone’s well-being, but it’s particularly vital for PCOS Cysters. Healthy sleep patterns can help support immune health, mental health, hormone levels, and healthy blood sugar levels.
Poor sleep in PCOS Cysters has been linked to increased insulin resistance, higher cortisol (stress levels), and unhealthy eating habits. All these factors have a knock-on effect on our body, including our skin. Make sure you get restorative sleep (around 8 hours a night) to give your body the rest it needs and your acne a chance to heal.
Stress causes cortisol levels to spike, which wreaks havoc on your skin, skin, gut, insulin levels, and sleep quality. All these factors trigger a ‘danger’ response in your body that causes inflammation.
Work on reducing stress by meditating, doing slow, weighted workouts, taking walks, napping, and doing yoga. Say hello to that healthy skin glow!
Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils are oil-based supplements. You might think that oil is the worst thing when you’re already suffering from acne, but Omega-3 contributes to healthy, glowing skin by reducing inflammation and regulating acne-causing hormones.
Our very own Omega-3 OvaFit supplement has been specially formulated for PCOS Cysters. This purified fish oil supplement is rich in EPA and DHA (the most important, usable types of omega-3s) and highly concentrated for maximum nutritional benefits.
Sourced from 100% sustainable, wild-caught Alaskan Pollock from the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, it’s met the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainability.
Find out more and order it here.
PCOS can rob the body of nutrients. PCOS Cysters often have sporadic nutrient gaps due to medications that deplete vitamins and minerals. One of the side effects of metformin, for example, is reduced vitamin B12 levels.
Support your body by taking a daily multivitamin, so you can plug small but critical nutritional gaps in your diet and enhance your skin’s health.
Our very own OvaFit MetaMutli multivitamin has been specifically formulated for women with PCOS.
Check out the lowdown:
- This multivitamin is designed to fill nutrient gaps that exacerbate PCOS problems like cystic acne, fatigue, and weight gain.
- It provides a full range of over 20 key nutrient essentials that promote your body’s ability to efficiently convert carbohydrates into energy and manage your metabolism.
- It’s specifically made for PCOS women to support immune health, skin health, metabolism, bone health, and more.
- The majority of minerals in this formula come in a ‘chelated’ form for better absorption and bioavailability. This is super important as not all multivitamins are chelated, rendering them almost ineffective.
- It’s independently tested and certified by NSF International to guarantee that the quantities of vitamins and minerals contained in each dose are consistent with the label.
Find out more and order it here.
Although you can’t cure PCOS, you can treat PCOS and live an almost symptom-free life. Once you understand the root cause of your hormonal acne, you’ll realise that the most effective skincare goes far beyond expensive creams and lotions!
For more tips on PCOS diet dos and don’ts, check out our podcast, A Cyster and Mister and our handy blog posts over on PCOS and Chill.