Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects how the ovaries work. The hormonal imbalance leads to a range of symptoms, including hair loss, excess hair growth, insulin resistance, an irregular menstrual cycle, and weight gain.
Acne is one of the most dreaded symptoms for people with PCOS and affects a large percentage of women with this syndrome. High male hormone levels can increase sebum and skin cell production, leading to more dead skin cells and of course… cystic acne.
Not only is acne physically painful, but it’s also emotionally painful because it can cause insecurities and impact your self-esteem.
To treat and reverse acne in women with PCOS, we need to understand the root issue that sparks a flare-up.
Acne is an outward manifestation of inflammation in the body combined with elevated levels of androgens, such as high testosterone levels. When you combine inflammation with excess androgen levels, it’s a recipe for unwanted symptoms manifesting as acne, facial hair, and hair loss.
For women with PCOS, the bacteria in your skin and the sebum oil that protects your skin are unique. Having a cystic acne outbreak when you have PCOS can be a blessing in disguise. It’s not about understanding your ‘skin type’, washing your face more, or buying expensive creams to reverse your symptoms. It’s your body’s way of signaling that you simply need a diet & lifestyle change.
Oral contraceptives and birth control pills can help to reduce acne, but they’re not a silver bullet. If the inflammation can be reduced with diet and lifestyle factors, you’ll be well on your way to healing.
How to Get Rid of Hormonal PCOS Acne
Please note 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 start a new diet/lifestyle/supplement plan, 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.
SUPPLEMENTS TO TREAT PCOS ACNE:
Remember that junk foods have processed oils that are high in omega-6. When someone with PCOS consumes these types of foods, it creates an imbalance between the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6. The ratio should be 1:1 but often goes up to 16:1 for those eating a standard Western diet.
This leads to more inflammation, making the sebum oil more sticky and viscous, causing more breakouts. To combat this you want to ensure the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 is balanced by taking an omega-3 supplement and eliminating as many processed foods as possible.
If you’re not getting enough omega-3, your body will have trouble converting the omega-6 into EPA and DHA (the fatty acids with numerous health benefits, including regulating the skin’s oil production). Taking supplements like fish oil that contain these components can be really helpful.
Metabolism Plus includes an omega-3 fish oil supplement made from 100% wild-caught Alaska Pollock. It is independently tested for purity and certified by both NSF International and the International Fish Oil Standards.
Zinc, which also helps with converting omega 3 to EPA and DHA, is another supplement that can help with acne. Be sure to choose a Multivitamin that includes adequate zinc.
Zinc also helps to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT, which is the more potent form of testosterone. When that’s high, it can trigger oil production and acne.
Vitamin A reduces inflammation as it is a key nutrient in supporting your intestinal barrier. In many cases, acne stems from intestinal and gut issues.
Talk to your physician about the best Vitamin A supplement for you or opt instead for foods rich in Vitamin A.
Many physicians have been known to offer pharmaceuticals such as Spironolactone to treat PCOS-related acne and Accutane (originally developed as a chemotherapeutic agent). However, it comes with many side effects Accutane (e.g. dry, sore skin). And symptoms will return with a vengeance if you come off the medication, as the root issue hasn’t been treated.
Many PCOS-friendly doctors are against antibiotics for treating acne as they only work for a short period and are harmful to your body’s gut microbiome.
The right bacteria reduces inflammation and acne. So taking antibiotics for acne can harm and kill off bad and good bacteria.
GOING GLUTEN & DAIRY-FREE TO TREAT PCOS ACNE:
After cutting out gluten and dairy for 30 days, you may find that these are causing acne flare-ups when you reintroduce them into your diet. Gluten and dairy can be very inflammatory foods and can disrupt your gut and hormone balance. Consider cutting them out for 30 days to see how you feel and if it helps your acne clear up.
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 into my diet. It turns out, that even a little bit of cheese every day was enough to trigger my acne to come back full force. 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.
There are going to be days when you feel like you’ve had a setback. Either you accidentally ingest something you weren’t aware contained gluten or dairy. Or you’re feeling stressed and reach for something that used to be a comforting food to indulge in.
You may wake up one morning and see an acne break-out on your jawline or another troublesome spot. Don’t let this discourage you. Setbacks are simply milestone reminders to show us how far we’ve come. If you’re looking for more encouragement on staying on track read about how to cultivate the right mindset to stick to your long-term health goals.
TOPICAL PCOS ACNE TREATMENTS:
Laser facial treatments have been known to reduce inflammation. For me, visiting Skin Laundry in Newport Beach, CA, and doing the YAG laser has been a game changer in my skincare. The YAG laser reduces inflammation, kills bacteria, takes only 10 minutes, and is pain-free. You can also get laser facials at your dermatologist’s office. The blue light laser is a great way to reduce inflammation and get a healthy glow back to help your skin heal.
Also, when it comes to tackling PCOS acne, two handy dandy ingredients you can rely on are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid gently exfoliates and unclogs those pesky pores, while benzoyl peroxide swoops in like a superhero to zap away acne-causing bacteria.
A combination of diet, lifestyle (stress reduction), and cosmetic treatments can reverse your PCOS acne. Just remember not all steps make sense for all people, so give yourself time to give the holistic treatments a chance to heal yourself from the inside out before trying any expensive treatments.
PCOS ACNE AND ALCOHOL:
Alcohol can cause inflammation in the liver. Your liver’s function is to detox hormones and it won’t be able to do its job as effectively if it’s sluggish because of a poor diet and alcohol.
STRESS AND PCOS ACNE:
Stress causes cortisol levels to spike, which wreaks havoc on your 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.
There’s no diet or process, that is perfect for all PCOS women, so don’t be afraid to experiment and discover what works for you. Keep investigating your body and if your acne simply doesn’t go away, consider seeing a naturopathic doctor who can do lab work and get down to the root cause with you.
There is no magic pill or bullet for the treatment of PCOS acne, but you want to focus on reducing the inflammation, and the androgen levels like testosterone and DHA, while also healing your gut.
Consistency is key and patience and it does take a bit of time to see results so give yourself a minimum of 30 to 90 days before switching things up again and trying anything new.