How can I improve my skin with PCOS? 5 tips for taking care of your skin when you have PCOS

If you’ve ever felt self-conscious about your skin, you aren’t alone. A study commissioned by E45 back in 2019 revealed that 81% of UK adults have experienced a skin issue, ranging from acne to eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, and of those affected, 10 million people felt that it directly impacted their mental health. 24% said that their skin condition makes them feel depressed.

Skin conditions, particularly acne, are common in people with PCOS. The presence of acne in people with PCOS is thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance, where high levels of androgens stimulate the production of oil in the skin. Excess oil can clog pores, resulting in acne.

It can feel incredibly overwhelming trying to find a suitable solution if you do suffer from PCOS acne. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are 5 tips for taking care of your skin when you have PCOS acne.

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5 tips for taking care of your skin when you have PCOS

Seek advice from a professional

Before investing in lotions and potions which promise to clear acne, first speak to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist. This will help to determine the cause of your acne and the most appropriate treatment methods, and may help to save you time and money, too.

To treat acne, depending on the cause, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Topical retinoids
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Azelaic acid
  • Antibiotic tablets
  • The combined oral contraceptive pill
  • Hormonal therapies

Bear in mind that it can take a few months for the treatment to start working, so it’s not a quick fix (there, unfortunately, are no quick fixes for acne). Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can support your mental wellbeing if acne affects your self esteem.

Create a skincare routine that works for you

Gemma Murari, Founder of Luneia, recommends prioritising a simple yet hydrating skincare routine when you have PCOS. 'Prioritise hydrating cleansers, or balm/oil-based cleansers (steer clear of anything stripping or drying), and add additional hydration with a hyaluronic acid serum,’ she advises. 'Add a mist into your routine – misting before applying serums or moisturisers will make your products work more effectively, as damp skin is more absorbent than dry skin.’ Finally, Murari recommends looking out for moisturisers which boast ingredients such as ceramides, which help to strengthen the skin barrier.

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Be mindful of eating habits

Research suggests that insulin resistance, which is common in people with PCOS, may be associated with acne. This means that eating in a way which supports your insulin levels may also help to manage acne outbreaks.

Studies indicate that individuals with insulin resistance may benefit from a diet rich in complex, low-glycemic-index carbohydrates that are high in fibre. These include oats, lentils, beans, and pasta. Whole grains and non-starchy veggies and fruits are also thought to be beneficial for people with insulin resistance, as is being aware of and possibly reducing simple sugar intake. The Mediterranean diet has also been positively associated with supporting insulin levels.

Look at your lifestyle as a whole

Some research has shown that an increase in stress is strongly correlated with an increase in acne severity. Whilst the study didn’t look specifically at PCOS acne, there is reason to believe that stress can enhance PCOS symptoms, including acne.

That in mind, it’s worthwhile exploring ways in which you may be able to keep negative stress to a minimum. Perhaps regular exercise helps to reduce feelings of overwhelm, or maybe getting stuck into a creative task enables you to calm right down. Whatever it is, be strict about carving out time in your schedule to manage your stress.

Don't copy someone else's skincare routine (without doing the research first)

We know that having PCOS acne is incredibly frustrating, and that seeing others experience positive results by using certain products, for example, can bring about a surge of optimism. It’s important to remember, however, that everybody’s skin is different, and therefore responds differently to treatment methods.

By all means quench your curiosity by investigating the products that others credit with helping them to manage or treat PCOS acne, but do your due diligence too. Get expert opinions and take your own skin’s personality into consideration before adopting someone else’s skincare routine.

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