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PCOS & Acne

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

PCOS presents itself in many different ways, some more bothersome than others. One of those unfortunate symptoms is skin problems like acne. Many women do not realize the root cause of their skin problems stems from PCOS. Unfortunately, many doctors do not realize this too and treat it like typical acne which may further exacerbate the condition.

How does PCOS affect our skin?

Your pituitary gland is responsible for producing the right amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. PCOS disrupts this process, causing your estrogen and progesterone levels to drop while increasing your testosterone (androgen) levels. This excess of androgens ultimately leads to acne because they stimulate excess oil production, resulting in a buildup of sebum and dead skin cells inside hair follicles, trapping germs beneath the surface.

How do I tell if my breakouts are PCOS-related?

PCOS related breakouts are typically located around the bottom half of the face - along the jaw, the chin, and on the cheeks. However, they can sometimes appear on the chest and back as well.

Topical treatment options

Although topical acne products available over-the-counter contain ingredients that can help with breakouts, they are usually insufficient in treating hormonal acne. However, if used correctly, they can play a major role in bringing PCOS acne under control.

These are the ingredients typically used in effective products:

· Acids such as BHAs, AHAs, and PHAs.

· Retinoids

· Enzymes

· Sulfur

· Zinc

· Benzoyl Peroxide

· Clays

Medication options

The best way to clear PCOS-related acne is by treating the underlying hormonal imbalance. These are proven options that help:

1. Spironolactone – A prescription medication used for more than 30 years for the treatment of acne. It works by blocking the effects of hormones on oil glands and acne.

2. Bioidentical or “Natural” Hormone Therapy – As PCOS-related acne is predominantly a hormone imbalance condition with either too little progesterone or too much testosterone, balancing these hormones almost always results in the visible improvement of the skin. It is important to choose only natural hormones as they are identical to the molecular structure of the hormone produced by our own bodies.

Other options

The debate is still ongoing regarding how diet affects PCOS-related acne. However, it is important to note that certain foods can trigger inflammation in the body which leads to breakouts. Unfortunately, PCOS patients are particularly susceptible to inflammation and hence should avoid inflammatory foods such as red meat, refined bread, potatoes, and sugar.

Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements that you should consider adding to your diet include:

· Berries

· Salmon

· Turmeric

· Nuts

· Kale

· Spinach

· Vitamins A, C and D

· Zinc

· Garlic

As bleak as it may seem, remember that PCOS-related acne CAN be brought under control! Reach out to a doctor or skincare professional as they can provide a solution personalized to you.


· Mehta-Ambalal, S. MD “Clinical, Biochemical, and Hormonal Associations in Female Patients with Acne: A Study and Literature Review”, J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Oct; 10(10): 18-24.

· Rouzier, N. How to Achieve Healthy Aging. 2nd Ed. Worldlink Medical Publishing, Salt Lake City US: 2007.

Tobechi L. Ebede, MD, Emily L. Arch, MD, and Diane Berson, MD. “Hormonal Treatment of Acne in Women”, J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009 Dec; 2(12): 16–22.

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