PCOS Skin Care Routine + Best Products to Use
Many women have struggled with consistent, painful cystic acne for years without ever treating the root cause of it: PCOS. On top of medication, it’s important to maintain a consistent skincare and body care routine.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Also known as polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS is a hormonal disorder marked by polycystic ovaries or the development of many fluid-filled sacs around the organ. This disorder creates an excess amount of androgen (male hormones) and a deficiency of estradiol. It typically affects the regularity of your menstrual cycle, but can also cause systemic inflammation apparent on the skin.
PCOS is one of the most widespread reproductive health disorders. In fact, 10% of women who are of childbearing age are likely to be affected by it, according to the US Department of Health.
What does PCOS do to your skin?
Apart from the typical PCOS symptoms, women with PCOS may develop a number of body and skin issues, including:
- Painful acne
- Excessive hair growth in unwanted places on the body, like the upper lip or abdomen
- Dark patches of skin caused by insulin resistance
- Bald patches on scalp
- Oily skin
PCOS-related acne is often cystic, and it can take longer than usual to heal or fade. They are also pretty painful. This type of acne is caused by hormonal imbalances and is typically exacerbated by one’s period.
Women with PCOS may find that a regular, over-the-counter acne treatment such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid may not work on their skin issues. This is because the problem is much deeper and requires a different treatment plan than a topical skincare routine.
If you suspect that your acne can be caused by a reproductive health problem, it’s best to consult with a gynecologist or endocrinologist to discuss effective treatment options to keep your skin healthy.
How do I know if my hormonal acne is from PCOS?
Normal hormonal acne and PCOS acne can look and feel the same. Both are painful, deep, filled with fluid, and can take months to heal and fade.
However, acne from polycystic ovary syndrome is a lot more consistent. It’s also much harder to treat this type of acne as it can be a bit resistant to most over-the-counter acne treatments. In both cases, it’s important to maintain a good skincare routine on top of any PCOS treatments.
How can I control my PCOS acne? Is it possible to treat acne with over-the-counter treatments?
Without the proper knowledge, it can be incredibly difficult to treat PCOS-related acne. Women with PCOS can mistake their symptoms for excess oil production, acne-causing bacteria, or clogged pores. Others can chalk it up to having an acne-prone skin type.
While all of this could be true and worsen existing symptoms, having proper treatment should be the first priority.
Mild PCOS-induced acne can certainly be treated with an optimized skincare routine as well as diet and lifestyle modifications. The latter includes a healthy diet and even weight loss, as some studies suggest that overweight women may be more at risk for developing the disease. A healthy diet and lifestyle can also curb potential weight gain caused by fluctuating hormones and insulin resistance.
But if other acne treatments don’t work, doctors will prescribe oral contraceptive pills to treat the acne and curb unwanted hair growth. Birth control pills may also improve the regularity of one’s menstrual cycle.
What skin care is good for PCOS?
All that being said, taking care of your skin is still super important. On top of a designated treatment plan, here are the best skin care products for anyone who has PCOS:
A light cleanser that can soothe skin is perhaps one of the best products to incorporate into your daily routine. If you’ve already got one that works for your skin, stick with it! Just make sure it’s not something that strips your skin of its natural oils.
Remember, even if you have oily skin, a mild formulation is still the way to go. This is because over-cleansing may cause your face to produce too much oil as a way to compensate, and we don’t want that.
Our favorite light cleanser is The Ordinary’s Squalene Cleanser: oil-balancing, anti-inflammatory, and mildly formulated.
Oily skin is another way that this imbalance manifests. For this, we suggest using a product with retinol at night to speed up skin cell turnover and effectively remove dead skin cells clogging your pores. Not only does this help with mild acne, but it can make amazing changes to the skin, like removing surface wrinkles, fine lines, and signs of sun damage.
Do note that retinol can be irritating to some with sensitive skin, so make sure to build skin tolerance first. Instead of applying it daily, start with once a week. If your skin likes it (or doesn’t react), slowly increase frequency to twice a week. Once your skin is used to it, then you can start applying it thrice a week or even daily.
Although severe acne may not be treated with simple OTC products, salicylic acid can still help reduce mild breakouts and keep your skin healthy. Just don’t use it in the same routine as retinol. Learn all about which ingredients not to mix in your routine here.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good moisturizer! If you’re applying a ton of acne-treating products to your skin, you’re going to need to load up on hydration. A hyaluronic acid moisturizer is always a great idea.
In the same vein, using a soothing night cream can do wonders if your skin is constantly inflamed. A night cream with collagen can help produce healthy skin cells to keep your skin barrier intact.
Polycystic ovary syndrome can affect a woman’s lifestyle in a number of ways; skin issues are just one of them. No matter what your body or hormones go through, it’s important that you treat yourself with care even on your worst days!
One of the best ways you can practice kindness towards your body is by consulting the guidance of a professional. This helps ensure you’re on the right track when it comes to treatment.
Got any insights to share about this topic? Sound off in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is excessive hair growth a symptom of PCOS? How do I treat it?
One of the symptoms of this reproductive health issue is the overgrowth of hair in unwanted places on the body. Examples are hair on the upper lip, abdomen, back, chin, or chest. If this is a concern, you can opt for laser hair removal treatments. We lay down all you need to know about these procedures here.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.