Acne And Pcos: Is There A Connection Between The Two?

Reviewed by Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi

Dermatologist & Trichologist | MD, FCPS, DDV, MBBS

Written by Sanya HamdaniNov 30, 2023
Acne and PCOS: Is there a connection between the two?

Acne is a common skin problem that teenagers, as well as adults, deal with. While some women may get one or two acne around their period, others battle with this skin problem all the time. The most common reasons for acne are stress, poor skincare habits, an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle. However, at times the cause of your acne is not any of these, it could be hormonal and thus, may not be easy to treat. One of the most common hormonal disorders that affects many women these days is polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. While it is a common problem and there are no serious health risks involved, it is important to consult an expert who will help manage it better. It can affect the female body in a number of ways, but the most common side effect is acne. Acne and PCOS is increasingly affecting a lot of women worldwide and it is necessary to get it treated.

If you are an adult who is dealing with acne for a few years now, chances are you may be a victim of PCOS. However, to really understand whether your acne is linked to PCOS, it is important to take an expert’s opinion. Therefore, we spoke to skin expert Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi of Shine Skin, Hair and Laser Clinic to tell us about acne and PCOS in detail. In this article she explains what PCOS is, how it leads to acne and ways to treat PCOS acne.


What is PCOS

FAQs about PCOS acne

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects a woman's fertility. It is due to a hormonal imbalance in the body which causes the ovaries to get enlarged, this is associated with small cysts around the ovaries. It affects women of childbearing age - teenagers and those in their 20s and 30s. As many as 10% of young women are living with PCOS. The hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS causes the estrogen and progesterone levels to drop and the testosterone levels to rise. This hormonal disorder can affect the body in several ways, some of them are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Hirsutism or excess facial hair growth
  • Patches of dark and uneven skin in some areas


How are acne and PCOS connected

FAQs about PCOS acne

The pituitary gland in your body is responsible for sending signals to the body to produce hormones in the required amount for healthy functioning. However, PCOS disrupts these signals and causes the levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to go haywire in the body.

This imbalance affects ovulation, thereby delaying periods. The increase in testosterone levels also gives rise to sebum production. Excess sebum production leads to clogged pores which eventually causes acne. PCOS is more common among women who are physically not very active or lead a poor lifestyle. Therefore, it is advised to eat balanced meals and exercise regularly.


How to treat PCOS acne

FAQs about PCOS acne

In order to treat acne, it is necessary to find out the underlying problem. Once your dermatologist and gynecologist are sure your acne and PCOS are related, they will suggest some treatments to reduce hormonal acne. Here are a few treatment options and lifestyle changes that your doctor might suggest.


1. Birth control pills

FAQs about PCOS acne

Oral contraceptive pills are often recommended to women suffering from hormonal acne. However, do not self-medicate as all contraceptive pills are not the same. Pills that contain either one of progestin norgestimate, drospirenone, norethindrone acetate along with ethinyl estradiol are used to stabilise the hormone levels. This may also regulate your menstrual cycle. The pill is not safe for women over 35 years of age or have high blood pressure or a history of blood clots.


2. Anti-androgen medicine

FAQs about PCOS acne

The next line of treatment for PCOS acne are anti-androgen medicines. These prescription medicines aim at decreasing testosterone levels in the body. Androgens naturally occur in women’s bodies in very low amounts. PCOS and other hormonal conditions can create excess testosterone in the body leading to high levels of sebum production, leading to acne.


3. Retinoids

FAQs about PCOS acne

Retinoids are usually suggested for the treatment of wrinkles and uneven skin tone. However, some formulas can also be used in the treatment of PCOS acne. OTC retinoids are not going to cut it, you need to consult a dermatologist to get the right concentration for topical application and/or medicines to be taken orally. Retinoids have a tendency of making the skin sensitive to UV rays, therefore it is important to apply a generous layer of sunscreen and reapply it throughout the day to prevent hyperpigmentation.


4. OTC treatments

FAQs about PCOS acne

Two of the most effective ingredients used for the treatment of acne are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Creams and gels that contain these ingredients might offer relief from PCOS acne by reducing excess sebum on the skin. It helps control excess oil and prevents pore clogging. However, these ingredients should also be used in lower concentrations after consulting a dermatologist.


5. Lifestyle changes

FAQs about PCOS acne

Making a few changes to your lifestyle can ease PCOS and eventually help with acne. A diet low in carbs and dairy can help ease symptoms. It is recommended to exercise regularly, stay physically active and shed extra weight from the body, as this can regulate your periods. Exercising regularly has a lot of benefits, it not only maintains healthy weight and keeps you in good shape, but also helps keep depression at bay.


Foods to eat and avoid to reduce PCOS acne

FAQs about PCOS acne

You are what you eat, diet does play a major role in the health of your skin. Those who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and consume balanced meals have fewer skin problems than those who eat a lot of carbs, calories and processed food. Some foods are known to cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to breakouts and acne. If you have PCOS acne, it is important to include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet to reduce inflammation.

Foods to eat for PCOS acne

  • Walnuts
  • Berries
  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Turmeric
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Almonds


Some foods are also responsible for causing inflammation in the body, it is best to avoid them. These include the following:

Foods to avoid for PCOS acne

  • Processed and fried food
  • Desserts high in sugar
  • Red meat
  • White bread
  • White potatoes


Facts about PCOS

FAQs about PCOS acne

  • PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder that affects 5-10% of women worldwide
  • Women with PCOS are more likely to develop diabetes by the age of 40
  • One of the earliest signs of PCOS is acne
  • About 80% of women suffer from some or the other type of hormonal imbalance


FAQs about PCOS acne

FAQs about PCOS acne

Q. How do I get rid of PCOS acne?

A. The best way to treat PCOS-related acne is by visiting a dermatologist, he or she will provide the correct concentration of topical and oral medicines that will help reduce and treat the acne. Along with this, you can adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising regularly and eating balanced meals.

Q. Does PCOS acne go away?

A. Those with PCOS tend to get acne that feels like tender knots under the skin, unlike other forms of acne that pop on the surface. PCOS acne may also flare up before periods and don’t usually subside on their own. Medical intervention is almost always required.

Q. What is the best pill for PCOS?

A. Oral contraceptive pills are one of the most common options used to manage PCOS and treat PCOS-related acne. However, no two pills are the same and self-medication is not recommended when dealing with PCOS. Talk to your gynecologist and dermatologist, who will suggest a pill that will ease your PCOS and keep the acne under control.

Sanya Hamdani

Written by

Sanya Hamdani is a skincare enthusiast and lipstick hoarder, she truly believes no two red lipsticks look exactly alike. With a Master's degree in Communication & Journalism and 5+ years of digital writing experience up her sleeve, Sanya has some of the biggest beauty experts in the country on her speed dial. When she's not swatching products or writing about the latest trends in beauty, you will find her watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or cooking up a storm in the kitchen.


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