Hormones and Skin Health: How PCOS Influences Acne and What You Can Do About It?

What Exactly is PCOS?

PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and it’s a bit like having your body’s hormone controls stuck on shuffle. This means your hormones can go a bit wild, especially the ones called androgens, which are often thought of as male hormones.

Even though everyone has them, having too much can lead to things like extra hair in places you might not want it (think face or chest) and, yes, acne.

Hormones and Your Skin

So, why does PCOS make acne worse? It’s mostly because of those androgens. They make your skin’s oil glands go into overdrive, producing more oil than your skin needs. This extra oil can clog pores, leading to pimples.

Diagnose PCOS

Diagnosing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) involves several steps because no single test can definitively confirm the condition.

Healthcare providers typically use a combination of medical history, physical examinations, blood tests, and imaging studies to make a diagnosis. Here’s a general outline of the process:

Medical History

The first step often involves discussing symptoms that suggest PCOS, such as irregular menstrual cycles, acne, hair growth in unusual places, and challenges with weight. Doctors will also ask about any family history of PCOS or related health issues, which can provide clues about potential risks.

Physical Exam

During a physical exam, a doctor will look for physical signs of PCOS, such as excess facial and body hair, acne, and scalp hair thinning. They might also check for signs of insulin resistance, such as darkened skin patches on the neck, groin, or underarms.

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Blood Tests

Blood tests play a crucial role in diagnosing PCOS. These tests measure levels of various hormones, including androgens (male hormones that are typically elevated in PCOS), insulin, and glucose. Blood tests can also help rule out other causes of irregular periods or excess hair growth, such as thyroid problems.


An ultrasound may be performed to check the appearance of the ovaries and the thickness of the uterine lining. In women with PCOS, the ovaries may appear larger than normal and contain numerous small cysts. However, it’s important to note that not all women with PCOS have cysts, and having cysts alone doesn’t confirm the diagnosis.

Diagnostic Criteria

For a diagnosis of PCOS, doctors often refer to the Rotterdam criteria, which require two of the following three to be present:

  1. Irregular or absent menstrual cycles, which indicate ovulatory problems.
  2. Signs of high androgen levels, either through blood tests or visible symptoms like acne or excessive hair growth.
  3. Polycystic ovaries visible on an ultrasound.

Exclusion of Other Conditions

It’s also important for doctors to exclude other conditions that can mimic PCOS, such as adrenal hyperplasia, thyroid disease, and hyperprolactinemia. This ensures that the treatment plan is appropriate for the specific needs of the patient.

Treatment Options for PCOS and Acne

Medical Treatments: Pills and Potions

Doctors often start with hormonal birth control to help regulate your menstrual cycle and reduce androgen levels. This can help clear up acne.

There are also medications like Metformin, which helps manage insulin levels (yup, insulin is a big player in PCOS too) and might also help your skin.

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Natural Treatments: From Your Kitchen to Your Bathroom

For those who prefer to go the natural route, there’s a lot to try. Changing your diet to reduce sugars and processed foods can help manage insulin levels, which might reduce androgen production and help clear up acne.

Also, skin creams with natural anti-inflammatory ingredients (like aloe vera or tea tree oil) can soothe acne-prone skin.

Lifestyle Modifications to Manage Symptoms

Diet Do’s and Don’ts

Foods high in refined sugars and carbs can spike your insulin levels, making your PCOS symptoms worse. Switching to a diet rich in whole foods like vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can make a noticeable difference in how you feel and how your skin looks.

Get Moving

Exercise isn’t just great for your mood and your muscles—it can also help regulate your hormones. Regular physical activity helps lower insulin levels, which might help balance out other hormones and reduce acne. Plus, sweating it out can help clear pores—as long as you wash your face afterward!

Stress Less

Finally, let’s talk stress. It’s not just bad for your mental health; it’s tough on your skin too. Finding ways to chill—like yoga, meditation, or just binge-watching your favorite show—can help keep your hormones and your breakouts in check.


What are the most effective skincare products for PCOS-related acne?

Skincare products that contain non-comedogenic ingredients (which won’t clog pores) are essential. Products with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or a retinoid can be particularly effective.

Can lifestyle changes really improve PCOS and acne?

Absolutely! Lifestyle changes can significantly impact the severity of both PCOS and acne.

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A diet low in processed foods and high in whole foods can help regulate insulin levels, reducing androgen production and acne severity.

Regular exercise also helps by improving insulin sensitivity.

Managing stress through techniques like yoga or mindfulness can further balance hormone levels.

How long does it take to see improvements in PCOS-related acne after starting treatment?

The time it takes to see improvements can vary widely among individuals.

Typically, it might take several months of consistent treatment or lifestyle adjustments to notice a significant change. It’s important to have patience and maintain a treatment plan agreed upon with your healthcare provider.