As if having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) wasn’t challenging enough, there’s a direct link between this common hormonal disorder and acne. In fact, for the five to ten percent of women of child-bearing age who have the condition, acne is one of the many tell-tale symptoms.
The tie between PCOS and acne isn’t especially hard to decode. Affecting women of reproductive age, it’s a condition in which levels of androgen, one of the male hormones, are high. In turn, that high androgen level generates an increase in sebum (oil) production in the skin. From there, it’s easy to guess what happens next: acne.
But while it might be comforting to know that you’re one of the many women experiencing this condition, you’re undoubtedly also wondering about PCOS acne treatment. Is there a difference between PCOS acne vs. regular acne? And if so, how should you tackle it?
Read on for the answers to all these questions and more.
PCOS vs. Regular Acne
Blemish and breakout location can be a key indicator of PCOS-related acne. In most women with the condition, acne is concentrated in what are considered hormone hot spots, namely the lower one-third section of the face.
Think cheeks, jawline and chin. And while it might sound surprising, some women with PCOS even experience acne on their upper necks. That’s because it driven by the male hormone androgen and tends to cluster in the same area men naturally grow beards.
In addition to the location of breakouts, there are several other key characteristics of PCOS-generated acne:
- It can start and continue after the age of 25, which is much later than the puberty-related acne most women experience in their teens
- It can be physically more painful and generate larger blemishes
- It can take longer for blemishes to heal
- It can flare right before your period
Key Rx Meds For PCOS Acne Treatment
Now that you know all about PCOS vs regular acne, it’s time to start dealing with it. But be before we dive into the specifics of which prescription medications are best suited for PCOS, it’s important to know that all aspects of this condition can be treated with the help of the many board-certified medical experts and Skincare Specialists at Viva Eve. When you consult with them, not only will you experience some much-needed peace of mind, you’ll also develop a solid game plan for dealing with PCOS and acne.
One of the key PCOS acne treatments you may discuss with your Viva Eve healthcare provider is prescription medication. These will most likely include an oral contraceptive, which regulate the key female hormones estrogen and progesterone and also reduce the male hormone androgen, which is considered the key driver of PCOS acne.
Alongside contraceptives, topical antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin, which control surface bacteria, are another popular option for treating PCOS acne, Prescription retinoids like adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin are yet other commonly prescribed tools in the PCOS toolbox.
Although there are other types of prescription medication that can be helpful for PCOS-generated acne, specifically the androgen-blocking spironolactone, it isn’t recommended for any woman who is pregnant or expecting to conceive in the near future because it can be harmful to a developing fetus. If you opt for spironolactone, know that you’ll also need to take a contraceptive simultaneously.
DIY: A Comprehensive Skincare Regimen & Sound Diet
Happily, you can also take PCOS acne-management matters into your own hands, with consistently great skincare and making sure you’re eating really well.
In terms of skincare, it’s obviously important to thoroughly cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser. During the day, this can be followed by a non-comedogenic moisturizer and broad-spectrum SPF. At night, you can swap-out the SPF for an over-the-counter acne remedy with one of these gentle-but-potent ingredients: azaleic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and tea tree oil.
Although there’s no recommended “PCOS diet” within the medical community, the condition is widely believed to be linked to insulin resistance. That means that maintaining a low glycemic index, and avoiding excessive carbohydrates and foods that spike your blood sugar, is crucial to managing symptoms.
As much as you can, strive to eat unprocessed foods and excess meat, and load up on veggies, nuts and fish. Dark red and purple fruits, like grapes, blueberries and blackberries are also a great bet, especially as stand-in for sugary sweets.
Maintaining a healthy weight and getting lots of exercise can also go a long way in helping to keep PCOS under control, in turn having a positive impact on your skin.
Patience Is Critical With PCOS-Generated Acne
If you’ve chosen to take some type of medication to treat your PCOS acne, know that it can take some time to see any major results. But that’s true of any type of acne, not just the PCOS-generated. That’s because acne medication is much more about prevention of new blemishes rather than treatment of existing breakouts.
So expect to be on medication for at least one full month before any true visible benefits start to kick in and your complexion shows signs of clearing. With more stubborn cases of PCOS-generated acne, the wait can be even longer.
Still, as outlined in the skincare routine and lifestyle tips above, there’s so much you can do on your own to manage your existing breakouts until the medication starts to work its magic. Just stay in touch with your Viva Eve provider, focus on your routine and know that clear, blemish-free skin is in your future.