Expert lead advice for women going through skin changes due to PCOS
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects one in 10 women in the UK . It is associated with higher levels of androgens (male hormones that females also have) and insulin resistance.
Typically, the ovaries produce eggs, one of which should be released each month as part of the menstrual cycle. However, in women with PCOS, the ovaries don’t always release an egg. The ovaries may become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) that surround the eggs.
PCOS can bring about a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, weight gain, excessive hair growth on the face and body, thinning of hair on the head and skin issues. Among these skin issues, oily skin and persistent breakouts are typical and are understandably stressful for those trying to manage not only their symptoms but adapt to the other changes and effects PCOS can have on their life.
Dr Justine, Consultant Dermatologist and Renudes Dermatology Advisor, has experience treating women with PCOS at her Harley Street clinic, and knows exactly what to look out for; “PCOS is common and can be screened for by blood testing and pelvic ultrasound in females who have acne that persists despite appropriate medical treatment, and other clues such as irregular menstrual cycles, female pattern hair loss on the scalp and heavier hair growth on the chin and neck. Discuss the value of testing with your doctor if these factors are relevant to you.”
Managing the effects of PCOS on the skin can be challenging, but with the right approach and a consistent routine, you can achieve healthy skin.
PCOS is characterised by imbalances in hormones, particularly elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. This can lead to various skin-related issues:
Acne: High levels of androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands, resulting in excess oil production that can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts, often along the jawline, chin, neck and upper torso.
Hirsutism: PCOS can cause unwanted hair growth on the chin, jawline, neck, chest, back, abdomen and thighs. This can lead to ingrown hairs and irritation for hair removal practices.
Oily Skin: The excess oil production not only contributes to acne but also leaves the skin looking greasy and shiny.
Dark Spots: Inflammation from acne breakouts can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, leaving behind dark spots on the skin.
Now that we understand the impact of PCOS on the skin, let's delve into some skincare recommendations to manage these concerns effectively.
Gentle Cleansing: Start your skincare routine with a gentle cleanser. Cleansing with a product like this twice a day helps remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup without stripping the skin of its natural moisture.
Exfoliation: Incorporate exfoliation into your routine, but be mindful not to overdo it. Use a chemical exfoliator (e.g. glycolic acid or salicylic acid) 2-3 times a week instead of a scrub or polish to prevent clogged pores and improve skin texture.
Moisturise: Even if you have oily skin, moisturising is essential. Opt for a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated without making it greasy.
Sun Protection: Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily. Sunscreen protects your skin from harmful UV rays and helps prevent sun damage and pigmentation. Pick a non-comedogenic option here too.
Acne Treatment: If persistent hormonal acne is a concern, consult your GP or dermatologist for prescription-strength treatments like topical retinoids, antibiotics, the combined pill, spironolactone or isotretinoin if severe. These can be effective for managing acne associated with PCOS.
Hair Removal: For hirsutism, consider professional hair removal methods like laser hair removal or electrolysis. These provide long-term results compared to temporary methods like shaving or waxing.
Balanced Diet: Maintain a balanced diet to help regulate hormones. Focus on whole foods, avoid excessive sugar and processed carbohydrates, and consider foods high in fibre, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Stress Management: PCOS symptoms can worsen with stress. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.
Patience and Consistency: Remember that skincare results take time. Be patient and consistent with your routine, and don't be discouraged by occasional setbacks.
Managing skincare with PCOS can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can achieve healthy and radiant skin. When dealing with skincare issues, we can fall into overuse of too many products which can actually lead to greater damage to the skin. Often less is more - gentle cleansing, sun protection, and a well-balanced skincare routine.
If however, you're dealing with severe skin issues, don't hesitate to seek professional guidance from a dermatologist or aesthetician. At Renude we can support you in finding a personalised skincare routine that’s just right for your skin and budget. By taking steps and using the right products, you can take steps to clearer, healthier skin despite PCOS challenges. Take our skin quiz to get started!
Complete our quick quiz, then book a free video call or upload photos.
Your aesthetician will hand-select a personalised skincare routine for the evolving journey of your skin.
Get ongoing advice as your skin changes for just £20 every 3 months (which is deducted from your purchases).