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That stubborn acne could be a sign of PCOS: Know how they are related

Acne caused by hormonal imbalance usually appears in areas where a male would have a beard i.e. your jawline, cheeks, chin and upper neck.

Acne is common symptom of PCOS affecting up to 34% of women with the condition. Read on to explore the link between PCOS and acne.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : November 9, 2020 11:25 AM IST

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that is common among women of childbearing age. About 10 percent of teens and young women are estimated to be living with this condition. Women with PCOS have higher than normal levels of male hormones called androgens. These excess hormones trigger the formation of cysts in the ovaries, making the ovaries to swell up.

The hormonal imbalance can interfere with the growth and release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation) and thus affect a woman's fertility. In fact, PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. Luckily, it is a treatable condition.

Increase in your testosterone levels can cause a number of side effects, including irregular menstruation, hair growth on your face, chest, or back (hirsutism), and weight gain. Acne is also a common symptom of PCOS, affecting 10 34% of women who are struggling with this condition. Keep reading to learn more about this connection.

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PCOS and acne: What's the link?

High levels of hormones called androgens is the hallmark of PCOS. In medical term it is known as hyperandrogenism. Androgens cause the glands in the skin to produce excess of oily sebum. When sebum and dead skin cells build up inside hair follicles, bacteria get trapped beneath the skin. This leads to inflammation and the development of acne.

Acne caused by hormonal imbalance usually appears in areas where a male would have a beard i.e. your jawline, cheeks, chin and upper neck.

This hormonal acne can be painful, hard and long lasting. Even after the acne is resolved, it may sometimes leave behind residual dark marks or scarring.

However, acne may also result from stress, not washing your face regularly, not drinking enough water, taking certain medications like corticosteroids and using comedogenic skin care products or makeup.

Treatment for acne caused by PCOS

If you suspect your acne is related to PCOS, see a dermatologist. The underlying hormonal imbalance needs to be treated to clear PCOS-related acne. They may prescribe oral contraceptives (birth control pills), anti-androgen drugs, and retinoids to treat PCOS-related acne.

In addition, doctors may recommend diet and lifestyle modifications for people who have PCOS. If you have the condition, you may be asked to avoid foods can cause inflammation in the body such as red meats, white bread, white potatoes and sugary desserts.

Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight will help ease your PCOS symptoms, including acne.

PCOS acne treatment is incomplete without a good skin care routine. Doctors recommend that people with PCOS-induced acne:

  • Wash their face twice a day using a mild soap, a gentle cleanser or an oil-free substitute
  • Rinse the skin thoroughly with lukewarm water
  • Use an oil-free moisturizer after each cleansing
  • Avoid touching, squeezing, or popping pimples
  • Look for "non-comedogenic" or "non-acnegenic" make up

PCOS is also often associated with obesity and insulin resistance. Research has shown that weight loss and increased insulin sensitivity can help control the metabolic and hormonal features of PCOS.

So, losing weight may have benefits for people with PCOS and reduce acne breakout.

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