One of the biggest problems associated with PCOS is hormone levels. Polycystic ovary sufferers often find themselves faced with higher than usual levels of androgens - the hormones that encourage the skin to produce sebum. Having excess androgens can lead to oily skin and acne, a painful and troubling condition that causes spots to occur on the face, neck, back or chest.
Acne is incredibly distressing, and can leave sufferers feeling self-conscious, anxious and can even lead to depression. There are several ways to help beat it though, from making dietary changes to asking your GP for help. Here’s our five top tips for anyone trying to cope with acne:
Eat a Good Diet
What you put into your body shows through on the outside. Start by limiting anything high in sugar, such as snacks and fizzy drinks, and also try to cut out refined carbohydrates. These foods also cause a spike in insulin levels, so anyone suffering from polycystic ovaries should already be trying to avoid them.
Switching to a diet that’s packed full of fruit, vegetables and minerals is the best way to tackle acne from the inside. Swap white rice, bread and pasta for wholegrain versions, and include plenty of beans and legumes. Fatty fish is great, and keep hunger at bay by snacking on nuts and seeds.
When you’re suffering from problem skin, it can be tempting to attack the problem as hard as possible. But actually, over-cleansing can strip the skin of its natural oils and leave it dry and irritated.
Cleanse your face twice a day using a gentle product designed for problem skin, and room temperature water. Don’t be tempted to use a harsh washcloth in your skincare routine - the tips of your fingers or a gentle cotton wool pad are ideal. Finally, make sure you clean your face thoroughly before bed. This will help any treatment products you’re using to sink into the skin more effectively.
Find a Great Exfoliator
Like cleansing, over exfoliating is only going to irritate the skin and make the problem worse. A harsh exfoliator is one of the worst things you can apply to your face - it can lead to increased sensitivity, inflammation and even tears in the skin.
Exfoliating is important though. It helps to brighten the skin, and can even reduce breakouts. Choose a gentle product that’s aimed at acne prone or problem skin, and avoid anything containing microbeads.
You can’t expect to have glowing, beautiful skin if you’re not treating your body correctly. If you’ve already addressed your diet and skincare routine, take a look at your lifestyle choices.
Make sure you’re getting enough exercise every week. Gentle, low-impact exercise is perfect for PCOS sufferers, so try yoga or brisk walks to get your heart pumping. Avoid smoking and limit your alcohol intake, add in some supplements, and make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated has so many benefits for acne sufferers; it adds moisture to the skin, flushes out toxins and reduces inflammation.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’ve tried everything else, it’s also worth making an appointment with your GP to discuss your skincare problem. There are various medications that they can prescribe to help improve your skin.
Commonly, the oral contraceptive pill is given to anyone with polycystic ovary syndrome who also has acne. The levels of estrogen and progesterone contained in them can reduce the amount of testosterone in the body, which is often a contributing factor to acne.