Does PCOS cause acne? Yes, PCOS causes acne, and a link does exist between PCOS and acne. In fact, of all people with PCOS, between 10 and 34% have acne. Note though, that acne doesn’t always mean there is PCOS. However, having PCOS puts you at an increased risk of hormonal acne.
An overview of PCOS.
PCOS is an acronym for the polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is a set of symptoms that presents in women of reproductive age, and is a result of hormonal imbalances. Also, it is one of the leading causes of infertility. As such, it should not be handled with levity if found out.
The exact cause is not known. However, to diagnose PCOS, an examination is conducted to show at least, two of the following:
- Hyperandrogenism: High levels of androgen(‘male’ hormone) in women.
- Hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance: Excessively high levels of the hormone insulin. Insulin is an hormone in the body which converts excess blood sugar for storage.
- Irregular menstruation/Oligomenorrhoea: Menstrual cycles that vary each month or extremely long menstrual cycles that last longer than 35 days.
- Ovarian cysts: Appearance of cysts in the ovary that can be seen by medical imaging. These cysts are immature eggs in the follicles that have stored up over time.
The symptoms of PCOS can be aggravated by genetic predisposition, exposure to chemicals in the environment or in-utero, excess weight, etc.
The symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman, and has differing degrees of severity too. But with that, common symptoms and complications of PCOS can include:
- Infertility due to anovulation, i.e., no eggs produced/released.
- Weight gain;
- Heart complications in the long term;
- Increased risk of endometrial cancer and endometrial hyperplasia;
- And skin conditions such as acne.
An overview of acne.
Acne is a skin condition. It can be of various types and also in varying degrees of severity. A person with acne can be seen with either whiteheads or blackheads on their face. The acne can also show up as inflammations, with red protrusions or pustules. Some of these also are filled with fluid that can ooze out if pierced or burst. Bursting acne is not however recommended, as the bacteria causing it can be spread through the fluid to other parts of the skin. Also, it can lead to severe scarring if not handled with care.
Though acne is a common sign of puberty in adolescents, if it begins to stay longer than it should and nothing seems to work, then it might be an hormonal acne due to PCOS. Also, PCOS acne goes beyond the face. It spreads to the neck, chest, etc.
How does PCOS cause acne?
Now that we’ve had a brief overview of both PCOS and acne, we can go further to explore the connection between them.
PCOS actually does have a number of dermatological manifestations, and these include alopecia(hair loss), hirsutism(excessive hair and facial hair), acanthosis nigricans(AN) and acne. These can all be traced back to hyperandrogenism. The focus of this is however, the link between PCOS and acne.
They both result from hormonal imbalances.
PCOS is an hormonal imbalance, and acne can also result from hormonal imbalances. One major hormone that we can use to link up both of these conditions, that is, PCOS and acne, is androgens. When the androgen levels are high, lots of things can happen.
How hyperandrogenism in PCOS leads to acne.
Patients of PCOS have hyperinsulinemia(too much insulin in the blood). Now, with these excessive levels of insulin, there are other mechanisms that are set in motion that ultimately lead to excessive production of the male hormone, testosterone. Aside the excessive production, the testosterone is also underused, so it is left in the blood stream to run around. It accumulates over time, and leads to hyperandrogenism.
As if that was not enough, cells become more sensitive to this testosterone as it runs around the body. This increased sensitivity also shows up in the sebaceous glands.
The sebaceous glands are glands associated with the hair follicles. They secrete an oily substance called sebum, which lubricates the hair follicles to keep them and the hair healthy. Now, with an increased sensitivity to testosterone and excessive levels of the hormone, these sebaceous glands go into overdrive. Consequently, they begin to overproduce sebum. This leaves the skin with excessive oil, which can block up the skin pores.
The excess of oil is a major precursor for acne.
The excessive oil makes things worse.
Let’s go further on this journey to understand how PCOS causes acne.
Now, the excess oil is already clogging up skin pores. In addition to that, this sebum dilutes linoleic acid.
Linoleic acid, by the way, is a chemical that assists the skin in sloughing(shedding) off dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. With linoleic acid diluted, its function is compromised. The skin is left with excessive dead skin cells.
This combination of oiliness and accumulated dead skin cells further cement the skin pores. The acne bacterium, propionibacterium, takes this chance giving a chance to colonize and multiply. It is this that now causes acne.
There’s also increased inflammation in people with PCOS.
People with PCOS have higher levels of C-reactive protein(CRP). This is involved in immune responses that cause inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s way of saying, “I’m injured and trying to heal, don’t touch me.” With the pain and inflammation, you are forced to leave that body part untouched while it heals.
Since there are higher levels of this CRP, inflammation occurs more readily. This can serve to worsen the hormonal acne due to PCOS.
Ayurveda: exploring the relationship between PCOS and acne.
As per ayurveda, the dosha responsible for acne depends on the type of acne.
- If it is due to vata, it can be dry and raspy.
- Pitta acne has fiery red protrusions that are particularly painful.
- Acne that presents with swollen, pus-filled cysts is a kapha imbalance.
PCOS itself is also a problem mainly with the kapha dosha. However, other doshas also have a role to play. These cascade of imbalances then lead to other complications, including skin conditions like acne.
Cures for PCOS due to acne.
It is now important to explore remedies for PCOS and acne. Here, the basic thing you want to do is to restore the androgen levels back to normal, and restore hormonal balance as a whole.
Treating the acne alone here will not work, because the acne is not the major problem. It is rather an extension of the polycystic ovarian syndrome. However, you can still explore ayurvedic diet and lifestyle tips to cure acne.
But lets face PCOS now. In modern times, the go-to solution most of the time is to use oral contraceptives(birth control pills) to mask the symptoms. But then, that’s all they do, mask the symptoms.
You should rather explore ayurvedic, all-natural remedies to cure PCOS. So, you see, ayurvedic remedies for both PCOS and acne do exist.
Quick tips to manage acne due to PCOS.
Lifestyle regulation is actually the first step in the management of PCOS-induced acne.
- Embrace a PCOS diet.
- Weight loss and exercise is also very important. Losing 10% of weight can go a long way to helping you.
- Do not touch, squeeze, or pop the pimples.
- Spend less time under the sun, as this can encourage acne.
- Clean your face regularly, especially after sweating.
- Take a tridoshic diet.
- Sleep well and reduce stress levels.
Acne can be debilitating, and PCOS is terrible too. And when they unite, it is quite a situation. However, Medhya Herbals is here with Ayurveda to help you conquer both of them.