Girls dealing with PCOS, it’s finally time to address your concern!
PCOS, a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels can cause them to skip menstrual periods and make it difficult for them to conceive.
Apart from this, PCOS also affects your skin and hair too; it can cause frequent breakouts and severe hair fall. To help you understand skin and hair concerns related to PCOS better, we got expert dermatologist Dr Bindu Sthalekar to answer all your queries.
BB: What’s the connection between PCOS and acne?
BS: Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can cause irregular periods, hirsutism, thinning of scalp hair and persistent acne. Nodulocystic painful acne is usually present in the lower half of the face along the jawline, chin and can tend to flare up before the menstrual cycle. In PCOS patients, high testosterone levels cause the sebaceous glands to produce excessive sebum resulting in acne. Many women with PCOS have associated insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can aggravate acne by increasing sebum production and comedones.
BB: What are the best treatments for acne caused due to PCOS?
BS: A holistic approach is required to treat acne associated with PCOS. Lifestyle and dietary modifications being key to getting rid of acne. There are various ways to treat acne: topical creams, oral and topical retinoids, oral antibiotics, and other supplements containing zinc, myoinositol and vitamin D3. After examining and doing the necessary blood tests, your dermatologist may start medications to manage persistent acne-like cyclical hormonal therapy, medication to reduce testosterone or insulin resistance. Dermatologically supervised treatments like peels, intense pulsed light also help treat acne and blemishes faster.
BB: Does diet play a role in controlling acne caused due to PCOS?
BS: Diets that help people with PCOS manage their symptoms are a low glycemic index (GI) diet, antioxidant-rich diet and high fibre diet. Foods with a low GI diet include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, low-fat dairy and other unprocessed foods. Anti-inflammatory foods include berries, salmon, broccoli and leafy greens, dark red and yellow fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like avocado and extra virgin olive oil, spices such as turmeric and cinnamon. Avoid refined carbohydrates, fried foods and sugar. Weight loss, in addition, helps in improving insulin metabolism and a better quality of life.
BB: What are the lifestyle changes one needs to make to get rid of acne caused due to PCOS?
BS: Lifestyle changes should include a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. Exercise must comprise of a mix of cardiovascular activities like running, swimming and dancing along with muscle strengthening exercises. Regular activity not only reduces acne but also helps in weight loss, reduction in other PCOS symptoms and lowers the chance of developing diabetes and cholesterol issues. Practice yoga and meditation for stress management.
BB: Can you bust some of the most common myths related to PCOS and skin health?
Myth #01: PCOS can be cured
Reality: It cannot be cured but is a condition that can be easily kept in control by lifestyle modifications.
Myth #02: Dark thick patches on the neck is an accumulation of dirt
Reality: It is a condition known as acanthosis nigricans which is caused due to insulin resistance. It improves as the underlying cause is treated.
Myth #03: My menstrual cycle is regular, my acne is not due to PCOS
Reality: No. Infrequent or absent menstrual periods are one of the symptoms of PCOS. It’s not necessary to have all the symptoms to be diagnosed with PCOS.
BB: A skincare routine you recommend for treating acne caused due to PCOS.
BS: The increased androgen levels in PCOS results in overactivity of oil glands and consequently acne. The skincare routine for acne caused by PCOS should include thorough cleansing of the face twice a day with a face wash, preferably one containing salicylic acid as that helps regulate oil secretion. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen in a gel formulation at least 20 mins before going out in the sun and reapply every three hours. In case of dryness due to anti-acne medication, use a non-comedogenic moisturizer on your face in the morning. Use creams containing niacinamide or vitamin C to deal with post-inflammatory pigmentation associated with acne.
BB: Why does PCOS cause hair loss?
BS: PCOS is an endocrine disorder that in addition to the irregular menstrual cycle is also associated with increased production of androgens or male hormones in the body. The hair follicles on the scalp are sensitive to these androgens. The excessive circulating androgens act on the sensitive hair follicles on the scalp resulting in hair fall as well as thinning.
BB: What are some of the natural treatments that work in combating hair loss caused by PCOS?
BS: Natural treatments for combating hair loss caused by PCOS include consuming foods like flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, carrots, almonds, pecans as they contain ingredients which naturally inhibit or decrease the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Apart from these, foods rich in zinc such as spinach, kale, mushroom and biotin-rich foods like berries, legumes, bananas are also helpful. Apart from the diet modifications, taking zinc supplements, supplements containing inositol, chromium picolinate, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and adequate sleep are important measures to combat hair loss caused by PCOS.
BB: Lifestyle habits that prevent hair loss.
BS: Healthy diet habits, regular exercise and stress management are important factors that can help control PCOS and thereby prevent the consequent hair loss. A balanced meal which provides all the essential vitamins and minerals is ideal. Consume protein-rich foods, green leafy vegetables and foods containing antioxidants in the meal. Avoid processed foods like sugar, packaged foods and foods with a high glycemic index. Exercise (a combination of cardiovascular and muscle strengthening exercises) helps regulate the deranged hormones and thereby control hair fall. Stress causes the release of cortisol which can lead to hair loss. Yoga and meditation can help with stress management.
BB: Can you share 5 effective tips for healthier skin and hair for those dealing with PCOS?
Tip 01: Maintain a healthy diet with a good balance of proteins (0.8 gm/kg body weight) and carbohydrates.
Tip 02: Avoid pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, foods with high glycemic index and packaged foods.
Tip 03: Exercise regularly as exercise can help regulate the deranged hormones.
Tip 04: Practice meditation or any destressing activity of choice as stress increases cortisol levels in the body.
Tip 05: Sleep adequately as chronic insomnia worsens the hormonal imbalance.
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