When I was diagnosed with PCOS, one of the most troubling symptoms was acne. I’m not talking about a pimple or two here and there, I’m talking about multiple cystic type breakouts all along my jawline, chin, and neck. I had been suffering with these breakouts since I was in my late teens, never knowing that this type of acne (particularly the location of the breakouts) were hormonal in nature and linked directly to PCOS.
Not only were elevated testosterone and androgen levels from the PCOS wreaking havoc on my skin, but the unchecked estrogen (I had practically no progesterone to balance the estrogen) was also causing multiple breakouts.
Before I even knew what PCOS was, I tried the traditional route – I visited dermatologists in hopes that one of them could get my acne under control. The dermatologists I went to prescribed a host of skin medications, all promising to give me smooth, clear skin. No such luck.
The good creams sat on my skin and didn’t do anything to improve my acne, the not so good creams caused painful peeling, leaving me with flakey skin that was still covered with breakouts.
So why would women with PCOS be likely to suffer from acne?
According to Women’s Health UK, the elevated androgen level associated with PCOS causes the production of DHT, and this leads to acne. Additionally, insulin resistance is also typically part of PCOS, and insulin resistance further increases androgen levels. This leads to even higher DHT levels, and induces more acne breakouts.
Also, as PCOS women consume high amounts of refined carbohydrates, more negative changes occur in the body. Refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index and consuming them increases your blood sugar. In response to the increase, your body produces more insulin, further increasing your androgen levels.
In short, it’s a terrible cycle that needs to be broken before clear skin can make an appearance.
What do I do about PCOS acne?
After learning all of this information, I finally decided that I should be treating the acne problem from the inside out, reasoning that my skin is only as good as what is circulating in my body. So, after talking to my OB/GYN and a Naturopath, I started tackling my hormonal problems the natural way. I began taking Vitex (Chastetree) to balance my hormones, and began a fairly strict low carb way of eating to treat the PCOS.
I stuck to plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, ate meat and dairy, and kept my daily intake of carbohydrates below 45 grams (although this number will vary widely by person). I also made sure to drink at least 10 glasses of water every day.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when my skin began clearing up after only 2 weeks. There were fewer pimples, and my skin tone was more even. Motivated and excited, I carried on with my new way of life. Within 6 weeks, my skin was completely clear and smooth – I was cured of my terrible skin. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! After nearly 15 years of trouble skin, I had a found a way to get the skin I had always dreamed of having.
Even more exciting – my PMS was practically gone, and “that time of the month” was no longer accompanied by a nightmarish number of breakouts.
To this day, my skin is still free of acne, and I couldn’t be happier about it. If you have the type of acne I did, and you think you might have PCOS, talk to your doctor, and try some low carb eating and Vitex – you have nothing to lose besides your breakouts!
Women’s Health: Health Information and More. (2010). Acne and PCOS.
http://www.womens-health.co.uk/acne.html. September 23, 2010.