March 25, 2024

When It’s More Than Just Acne—What is PCOS Acne, How PCOS Affects Your Skin, What to Do About It

If you’ve been experiencing acne at a later stage after puberty, along with irregular menstrual cycles and weight gain, has it ever occurred to you that it may be more than just acne? Sometimes, acne may be a manifestation of an underlying hormone condition, and one possible disorder related to it is PCOS. 

Arguably, having PCOS acne may be one of the most frustrating skin issues that women may experience, and women are called by their skin to look beyond and find out what’s happening inside their bodies. 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting women holistically–from the physical to social dimensions of their lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that around 10-15% of women in Singapore experience this condition, and about 116 million women are affected by this condition globally as well. 

While PCOS may be a common disorder, there is still much to learn about the condition–what it is, how it affects the skin, and what you can do to get rid of PCOS acne. Together, let’s find out. 

What is PCOS? 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal condition impacting millions of women in the world and is one of the leading contributors to infertility. Experts have not yet fully understood the exact root causes of PCOS, but it is believed that it may occur because of environmental and genetic factors. 

More so, hormonal imbalance plays a big part in this condition, and this is how it  works:

Our bodies produce reproductive hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, androgens, and testosterone. 

For biological males, androgen levels are usually higher than estrogen and progesterone. It’s contrary to biological females, who have higher progesterone and estrogen levels than androgen. 

Women with PCOS abnormally produce higher levels of androgens. Additionally, if you have PCOS, the ovaries may not regularly release eggs, causing irregular or absent periods. 

In producing the right amounts of hormones, the body relies on the signals sent by the pituitary gland, and the problem with women diagnosed with this condition is that PCOS disrupts these signals. 

The inability to catch the right signals from the gland leads to a drop in progesterone and estrogen levels and an increase in testosterone. With this, women may experience the following symptoms:

  • Hirsutism or hair growth on your back, chest, and face
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Acne

How does PCOS affect the skin?

Does PCOS cause acne? One of the most significant PCOS indications is acne. But how does PCOS contribute to forming acne in the skin? Still, the process is related to hormones. 

It is no secret that acne breakouts occur when the skin overproduces oil or sebum, and the pores get clogged with bacteria, dead skin cells, and oils. Since the hormones regulate or control the production of sebum, a hormonal imbalance from PCOS might trigger acne. In addition, increased levels of testosterone in the body, created by PCOS and other hormone-related conditions, can increase sebum production, resulting in acne. 

PCOS acne usually appears in the lower part of the face and generally worsens around women’s “time of the month”. They may also notice that lesions may be slower to resolve. 

How is PCOS acne different from normal acne?

The big question may be, how do you know if your acne breakout is PCOS-related or not? What does PCOS acne look like? What are some PCOS acne symptoms to watch out for?

Let’s delve into PCOS acne vs. regular acne according to location, pattern, appearance, and timing. 

Acne appears in areas with the most oil or sebaceous glands, such as the face, chest, upper back, shoulders, etc. A significant location marker for PCOS acne is that it is concentrated within areas at the lower part of the face, such as the cheeks, jawline, upper neck, and chin. These locations are typically considered “hormonally sensitive.”

PCOS acne is deep, painful, and unlike simple acne with fine surface bumps, it is characterised as tender knots beneath the skin. This type of acne often takes time to go away, and when lesions finally heal, there may be acne scars left behind. 

The timing of PCOS acne flare-up is usually around the menstrual period, where it also usually worsens.

How do you get rid of PCOS acne?

Perhaps the primary concern of people with PCOS acne is finding methods to get rid of it. Usually, the first line of treatment involves addressing hormonal imbalance with lifestyle changes, diet, and other routines recommended by physicians. However, there are also additional ways to supplement and boost the skin’s healing. 

PCOS acne treatment may go a long way, especially since PCOS acne tends to be deeper and slower to heal. But fret not; there are many ways to manage it and gradually target healing the scars it left. Here are some PCOS acne care tips:

  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Choose non-comedogenic skin care products–those that are gentle and do not clog the pores. 
  • Wash your face using a gentle cleanser. Ensure you use the best facial wash for oily skin needs. 
  • Use a moisturiser regularly.
  • Do not try to pop your acne, as it may result in scarring. 
  • Explore leveraging pH balanced toners. Toners help balance your skin’s oiliness. A pH balancing toner can bring the skin to a more neutral level and remove excess oil. 
  • Research and consider choosing medical-grade skincare products (e.g. ZO Skin Acne Control, PCA Skin products). 

Indeed, taming PCOS acne sounds rewarding, but PCOS acne treatment doesn’t end there. It extends to healing the scars your skin has obtained.

A serum for acne scars, like the PCA Skin Acne Gel, may help. 

pcos acne

PCA Skin’s Acne Gel clears existing and future acne blemishes through 2% salicylic acid and its proprietary Omisome Delivery System, designed to bring deeper ingredients into the skin. Other ingredients from this gel also help decrease excess oil production and the appearance of discolouration. 

PCOS Acne is not just a superficial blemish

PCOS and acne are intertwined threads. Having PCOS acne is a multifaceted challenge rooted in underlying hormonal conditions that need to be addressed. As it affects women and manifests in their skin, tailored daily care is beneficial for them to overcome the effects it can pose to them physically. 

Although deep and hard to heal, Zoe Nissi and its partner brands dedicate themselves to offering science-based skincare solutions for PCOS acne. We are a skincare distributor in Singapore and understand how distressing PCOS acne can be. That’s why we quickly bring some of the best skincare brands, like PCA Skin, ZO Skin Health, Kenkay, Colorescience, and Dermascar, for you to check out.