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Managing PCOS Related Acne: A Skincare Guide

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a multifaceted hormonal condition affecting countless women around the world. One symptom that adds another layer of complexity to PCOS-related acne, and it’s closely tied to hormonal imbalances and can significantly impact self-esteem.

This PCOS guide will walk you through why this syndrome triggers acne and provide practical advice for managing it from the inside out. Let’s get started! 

The Connection Between PCOS and Acne 

PCOS is an endocrine disorder that affects millions worldwide. While many people associate Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as a reproductive health or infertility issue, its impact on PCOS skincare can be just as significant.  

PCOS often leads to elevated levels of insulin and androgens—male hormones that can cause sebaceous glands in the skin to produce more oil, increasing the odds of acne outbreaks. Once you know what is causing these breakouts, targeted lifestyle changes and medications can become powerful tools for improving PCOS acne care. 

Why Insulin Matters in PCOS Acne Care 

When we talk about insulin, most people immediately think of diabetes. However, insulin plays a multi-faceted role in all of our bodies. For people with PCOS, high levels of insulin can cause the ovaries to produce more testosterone, further worsening acne breakouts. But the silver lining is that insulin levels can be managed through changes in diet, offering a way to not only keep insulin levels normal, but also to mitigate PCOS skincare issues, keeping acne at bay. 

The PCOS Hormonal Dance: GnRH, LH, and Testosterone

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) may sound complicated, but they’re part of an intricate hormonal web that significantly impacts your skin and overall health. GnRH signals the release of LH, which in turn stimulates the ovarian theca cells to produce testosterone. Understanding this cascade means that treatment can target various points in this hormonal loop, offering multiple avenues for PCOS acne treatment. 

Understanding Genetic Factors to Empower Your PCOS Acne Treatment 

You may have inherited more than just your family’s eye color or sense of humor. Genetic variables like the P450c17 gene can impact your susceptibility to PCOS and acne. Additionally, the presence of lower levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) can lead to elevated levels of free testosterone in the blood, again contributing to acne. Knowledge about your genetic predisposition can help you and your healthcare provider fine-tune your PCOS acne treatment approach. 

Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms of High Testosterone 

Apart from noticeable symptoms like acne, elevated testosterone levels can also lead to weight gain around the abdomen, irregular menstrual cycles, and hair thinning or unwanted hair growth.  

The culprit behind high testosterone levels? Insulin. That’s why the most important thing you can do to manage your acne, PCOS symptoms, and overall health is by regularly monitoring your insulin levels and implementing lifestyle changes that improve insulin sensitivity and maintain normal levels of insulin.  

To help you do so, we’ll be offering Lilli kits through our website this month! These at-home insulin testing kits allow you to easily and conveniently keep track of your insulin levels from the comfort of your own home, empowering your PCOS journey and giving you and your healthcare provider the insights needed to develop a targeted treatment strategy.  

Role of Diet in Managing PCOS and Acne 

The foods you eat play a vital role in controlling both insulin and testosterone levels. Starches, processed sugars, and  and milk are some of the highest insulin spiking foods you can eat. When you continuously eat foods that cause significant spikes in insulin, you’re exacerbating hormonal imbalances which lead to the pesky signs and symptoms of PCOS, such as persistent acne.  

On the flip side, a diet rich in lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and non-starchy vegetables, enables your body to be more sensitive to the insulin it secretes, thereby normalizing insulin levels and improving insulin sensitivity. Therefore, taking a thoughtful, well-informed approach to your diet is truly the best skincare for PCOS. 

PCOS Acne Skin Care Routine: Do’s and Don’ts 

It can be tempting to think that the more you scrub your face, the cleaner it will be—but over-cleansing can actually worsen acne. Be cautious of using harsh ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid in high concentrations.  

Gentle, consistent skincare is key. Remember, the most effective way to manage hormonal acne is by addressing the underlying hormonal imbalances often associated with PCOS, not just the surface-level symptoms. Drink plenty of water, exercise to help reduce stress and improve sleep, and avoid foods that spike your insulin. You’ll be well on your way to achieving your glow up! 

PCOS Acne vs Puberty Acne 

Acne isn’t exclusive to teenage years; it can persist into adulthood, especially when hormonal imbalances are at play. The location of acne on your face can even offer clues about its underlying cause.  

Acne along the jawline or lower part of the face typically indicates hormonal triggers. Understanding that persistent PCOS acne might have underlying causes can help guide effective PCOS treatment. 

Finding the Right Treatment for PCOS Related Acne 

There are various treatment options available, such as Accutane and oral contraceptives, which might offer quick fixes but sometimes come with their own set of risks and side effects. A more balanced approach includes lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.  

It’s important to remember that everyone’s journey with PCOS is unique. Working closely with medical providers and adopting a low insulin lifestyle will enable you to tailor a PCOS acne treatment plan that addresses the underlying causes at the source.  

How Stress Affects PCOS and Acne 

Stress has a knack for aggravating your body’s hormonal balance. High levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” can lead to increased insulin production. Managing stress through techniques like mindfulness, yoga, or even a daily walk can have a spillover effect on your PCOS skin care, helping you manage both stress and acne simultaneously. 

Impact of Exercise on Hormonal Levels 

Exercise isn’t just for weight loss; it’s also beneficial for hormonal balance. Physical activities like strength training, walking, and aerobic exercises can improve insulin sensitivity, thereby helping to regulate testosterone levels. Incorporating exercise into your routine doesn’t just make you feel good; it’s a positive step towards better skin. 

For a deep dive on which workout routines are most effective for managing insulin levels, check out our recent blog, PCOS and Exercise: Tips and Strategies That Work! 

PCOS Related Acne: Myths and Misconceptions 

Contrary to popular belief, acne related to PCOS isn’t just a puberty phase or cosmetic issue. It affects our confidence, morale, and quality of life. Regardless of your wellness goals, acne caused by PCOS is a health concern that often signals underlying hormonal imbalances. Dispelling these myths can empower you to seek the right treatment instead of resorting to ineffective or even harmful remedies. 

Myth 1: It’s just a teenage problem 

Fact: While acne is commonly associated with the hormonal fluctuations of adolescence, PCOS-related acne often persists into adulthood. It’s not a phase; it’s a manifestation of ongoing hormonal imbalances that require proper treatment. 

Myth 2: Acne is just a cosmetic concern 

Fact: Acne linked to PCOS is a medical condition, and often an early symptom that is easily overlooked, not just a cosmetic issue. It can be indicative of deeper hormonal imbalances that could also affect fertility and metabolic health. 

Myth 3: Prescription or over-the-counter acne products will clear it up 

Fact: Prescription medications, birth control pills, cream, and supplements may temporarily alleviate symptoms but don’t address the underlying hormonal factors. Treating PCOS acne often requires a multi-faceted approach, including lifestyle changes and, possibly, prescription medication. 

Myth 4: Diet has no role in pcos acne 

Fact: The foods you eat can have a significant impact on insulin levels, which, in turn, can influence the hormonal triggers for PCOS acne. A balanced, insulin lowering diet can be instrumental in managing symptoms. Furthermore, if you are taking acne medications, a low insulin lifestyle will help supplement your approach and enhance its effectiveness! 

Myth 5: Stress doesn’t affect hormonal acne 

Fact: Stress hormones like cortisol can exacerbate hormonal imbalances, making acne worse. Mindfulness, yoga, or regular exercise can be beneficial for both stress reduction and acne management. 

Taking Charge of Your PCOS Acne Treatment  

Managing PCOS acne can be a challenging journey, shaped by everything from genetics to your daily habits. However, you’re far from alone. At Lilli Health, we’re here to guide you with actionable insights that focus not just on symptom management but on tackling the root hormonal and insulin-related causes of your acne. 

Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step in creating an effective action plan. Following the advice throughout this guide puts you on the path toward a low insulin lifestyle—our cornerstone approach to managing PCOS acne.  

Low Insulin Lifestye: Your PCOS Guide to Healthier Living 

Our book, Low Insulin Lifestyle by Dr. Ali Chappell, is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource to help you understand the science behind your PCOS symptoms and how to improve them through informed, empowered choices. As always, it’s vital to consult with your healthcare provider for a personalized treatment regimen. Whether you’re considering diet modifications, medications, or stress management techniques, a multifaceted approach will pave the way for lasting health. 

We’re passionate about shifting the healthcare conversation to focus on underlying causes and long-term wellness. If you’re looking to stay abreast of the latest, science-backed strategies for managing PCOS, subscribe to our newsletter! Together, we can navigate the complexities of PCOS and make meaningful strides toward a healthier, happier you.