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Unfortunately nearly 30% of women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) struggles with acne and I am one of them! Most of my acne appears along my T-zone and cheeks and is particularly worse just before my period.
The onset of this acne is not only embarrassing but can also be painful as the inflamed cysts or nodules which are formed can be hard and long lasting. And even when the acne is resolved there are sometimes residual dark marks or scarring.
The main reason for acne in people with PCOS is due to high testosterone levels
High testosterone level
In order to produce the correct amunts of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, our body relies on signals from the pituitary gland. Unfortunately, PCOS interrupts these signals which means that your levels of testosterone increase.
As your testosterone levels rise your sebaceous glands will become larger and go into overdrive. This means that too much oily sebum is produced.
This tends to dilute what’s called “linoleic acid” in the hair follicle so that the normal sloughing off of the skin is disrupted. Then the combination of the sticky sebum and the dead skin cells create the perfect environment for acne to grow and flourish.
Controlling high testosterone
The most common way in which high testosterone levels are controlled is through the birth control pill. This is what your doctors will give you as the first course of treatment if you are diagnosed with PCOS.
There is also a diuretic drug called Spironolactone which- when taken in a low dose – can help to minimise the effect of testosterone as it is an androgen blocker (and testosterone is an androgen)
However, you will have to be on birth control pills and Spironolactone for the rest of your life in order for it to work. Once you come off the medicine, you will be back to square one.
There are other ways to manage your testosterone levels and that is by eating well, staying active, sleeping well and maintaining a healthy weight. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy vegetables, salmon, nuts, grains and less red meats, foods high in carbohydrates, desserts and sweet baked goods.
You could also consider supplements such as Inositol to help manage PCOS symptoms. There have been many good reviews about this supplement and I am currently taking it myself and have seen improvements in my skin and my PCOS symptoms.
At the end of the day, there is no easy fix or a miracle cure for acne. There is a lot of trial and error in finding the best combination for you and it is different for everyone. I am still going through it after more than 10 years with PCOS. Don't give up when it gets tough and when you don't feel like a million bucks! Trust me, I have been there many times so you are NOT ALONE! Let me know if I can answer or help with any questions relating to skin or PCOS.