7 Important Things To Know About Acne When You've Been Diagnosed With PCOS

by Julia Guerra

Can someone please explain to me why every unfortunate physical ailment that can happen to a woman always seems to involve acne? Granted, it's not heinously difficult to ward off a spontaneous outbreak with the right products and home remedies, but if you think pimples are an inconvenience through puberty and PMS, they are even more of an issue for those who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Unfortunately for women diagnosed with the disease, PCOS acne treatment is necessary on a regular basis.

According to a study performed in July of 2010, 27 percent of women with chronic acne are diagnosed with PCOS. This is because the hormonal disorder causes a woman's testosterone levels to spike, leading to an excess of oily sebum production which is the root cause of breakouts. But unlike those little pimples that pop up on your forehead or back, PCOS acne develops in awkward spots, like at the angles of your neck and jawline, and is oftentimes very painful.

Acne can be not only a symptom of PCOS, but it can also be a tell-tale sign of the disease. Differences between “normal” breakouts and PCOS acne lie in how they look, feel, and remedial treatments. Here's what you need to know to discern between the two.

1. PCOS Acne Develops As A Result Of A Hormonal Imbalance

Most bouts of acne are either due to oily skin or bacteria build-up from makeup and environmental stressors.

PCOS acne, however, is largely due to high levels of testosterone causing excess oil production in the skin, mixing with dead cells and bacteria.

2. This Type Of Acne Can Be Very, Very Painful

Normally, acne is more of an inconvenience rather than a painful experience, depending on where it pops up. But for PCOS patients, breakouts can often be extremely uncomfortable.

Bethanee Schlosser, MD, director of the women's skin health program at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told WebMD,

Patients with PCOS tend to get acne that involves more tender knots under the skin, rather than fine surface bumps, and will sometimes report that lesions in that area tend to flare before their menstrual period. They take time to go away.


3. Cutting Out Dairy Could Help

While there are a few key differences between PCOS acne and the average breakout, there are similarities when it comes to treatments, one of them being diet.

Ethnic skincare expert Dr. William Kwan tells Elite Daily that a well-balanced regimen including complex carbs and minimal dairy intake can make a world of difference:

Many women with PCOS experience weight gain. This can cause insulin resistance, which is considered one of the causes of PCOS. Therefore, a healthy diet featuring complex carbs, as well as weight loss, could potentially help. While the evidence is sketchy regarding how dietary changes impact acne, we do typically recommend diets lower in dairy, as well low glycemic diets to acne sufferers.

4. Limiting Your Sugar Intake Might Help, Too

Most people know sugar can affect your blood levels, but did you know it can also toy with the testosterone in your body?

Processed sweets and high glycemic carbohydrates (think cereals, potatoes, rice, things like that) encourage male hormone production which, as we've learned, stimulates an excess of oily sebum in a woman's skin, causing breakouts.

I know it's hard when cravings call, but to eliminate acne spotting, you'll want to cut these out of your diet entirely, or at the very least scale back as much as you can.

5. Talk To Your OBGYN About Oral Contraception

Birth control pills regulate your cycle and dial down cramping, but oral contraception can also balance a woman's hormones, which is a huge help in the acne department.

In fact, birth control pills are commonly used to treat women with PCOS, so it's definitely worth talking to your doctor and/or dermatologist about whether or not it's a viable option for you.

6. Vitamins And Other Supplements Can Reduce Acne

Yet another reason to take your vitamins, apparently there are a few key supplements that can reduce acne with regular consumption.

For example, zinc can help put a hold on overactive oil production by targeting the testosterone in your body, while vitamin A can reduce sebum production, and vitamin B6 can help normalize the metabolism of steroid hormones. Essential fatty acids can also help to reduce inflammation in the body that contributes to acne.

7. A Regular Exercise Routine May Help To Ease Symptoms

Dr. Kwan tells Elite Daily that "exercise, especially strength training, has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity."

High insulin levels are one of the main causes of acne in women with PCOS, so it's important to not only eat a well-balanced diet, but to exercise regularly in order to keep insulin low.