Dealing with acne can be frustrating, especially when it seems to persist despite your best efforts in trying to avoid its occurrence. For many individuals, particularly women, hormonal acne can be a recurring issue. In this blog post we will explore the relationship between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hormonal acne and provide some practical tips on how to effectively manage hormonal acne.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects many women of reproductive age. It is characterized by elevated levels of androgens which are male hormones like testosterone, or a higher than average sensitivity to progesterone, that can lead to the development of multiple cysts on the ovaries which can interfere with the production of estrogen and progesterone. The hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can lead to a range of symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, weight gain, and acne. 
What is hormonal acne?
Hormonal acne is a specific type of acne that is influenced by hormonal imbalances in the body. It typically appears on the face, neck, and upper back and is characterized by pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Hormonal acne is most common in women, particularly during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. 
What is the connection between PCOS and hormonal acne?
Here is how PCOS and hormonal acne are related:
- Increased androgen production. Women with PCOS experience higher levels of androgens which can lead to an overstimulation of the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands in the skin. This excessive stimulation, in turn, prompts the glands to produce more sebum, an oily wax-like substance that helps lubricate the skin and seal-in moisture. Sebum (oil) is the natural moisturizer produced by your body that helps the skin barrier lock in moisture, keeping your skin feeling and looking soft, supple, i.e., hydrated. Excess sebum production can result in clogged pores, thereby creating the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive and grow uncontrollably.
- Sebum composition. In addition to increased sebum production, the sebum produced by individuals with PCOS may have an altered composition. It tends to be thicker and stickier, making it more likely to clog pores and contribute to acne development.
- Inflammation. Hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can also trigger inflammation in the body. Inflammatory responses can make acne worse by causing redness, swelling, and increased sensitivity.
- Hormonal fluctuations. Women with PCOS commonly experience irregular menstrual cycles. Hormonal fluctuations during menstruation can further contribute to the development of acne. The hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle can lead to disruptions in the skin’s natural balance, leading to breakouts and a compromised skin barrier.
It should be noted that not all individuals with PCOS will necessarily experience hormonal acne, and for those that do, its severity can vary. That being said, the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS can most definitely increase the likelihood of acne formation and make existing acne that much worse. 
Can hormonal acne caused by PCOS be treated?
Hormonal acne caused by PCOS can be effectively managed by using a combination of medical interventions, lifestyle changes, and skincare routines. Below are some common treatment options for those suffering from PCOS-induced hormonal acne:
- Use of birth control pills. Oral contraceptives containing both estrogen and progestin are often prescribed to regulate hormone levels in women with PCOS. By helping to reduce androgen production in the body, these medications can lead to a decrease in acne breakouts. However, for those times when a breakout does occur, the Codex SHAANT® COLLECTION with its highly innovative, patent-granted SHAANTCOMPLEX® can come to the rescue as it was specifically designed, and clinically proven, to address acne-related factors such as excess sebum (oil) production, clogged pores, and inflammation.
- Use of anti-androgen supplements and medications. Supplements, like Codex’s SHAANT® SKIN DE-STRESS DIETARY SUPPLEMENT that contain stress-reducing ingredients like L-Theanine which help manage the release of cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone) to avoid increased androgen production, as well as myo-inositol and folic acid that help promote healthy, balanced levels of testosterone and estrogen which is beneficial for those with PCOS who suffer from elevated estrogen levels, can be used to treat mild hormonal acne.  For those especially prone to hormonal acne, the daily use of a probiotic which specifically targets acne management by supporting both the gut and skin microbiome may be just what the doctor ordered. In those cases where hormonal acne and androgen levels are more severe, anti-androgen medications may need to be prescribed. These medications work by blocking the effects of androgens on the body, thereby reducing oil production and acne development.
- Use of topical treatments. Whether over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription, topical treatments can help manage the symptoms associated with hormonal acne. Products containing ingredients like sulfur, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids or topical antibiotics may be used to target acne-causing bacteria, unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and promote skin cell turnover. The SHAANT® OILY, ACNE-PRONE SKIN SET is an excellent all-in-one solution for hormonal acne sufferers wanting to proactively manage this painful and embarrassing skin condition. The set includes a cleanser, toner, oil control cream, and clay mask for getting ahead of hormonal acne before it turns into a major problem. And for those times when an unavoidable breakout does happen to occur, Codex’s OTC product SHAANT® SPOT HERO offers a fast, effective, yet non-irritating pimple treatment solution for all skin types, especially sensitive skin.
- Certain professional skincare procedures. In some cases, dermatologists may recommend professional skincare procedures to treat hormonal acne. These include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy which can help improve skin texture, reduce acne scars, and manage acne breakouts.
- Adopting healthy lifestyle practices. Having a healthy lifestyle can also be beneficial to managing hormonal acne. Regular exercise, stress management techniques (meditation/yoga), balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep are examples of healthy lifestyle practices. In addition, maintaining a healthy weight can help regulate hormone levels in the body and reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms including acne.
- Consultation with a dermatologist. If hormonal acne persists or is severe, it is advisable to consult with a dermatologist. They can assess the condition, determine the most appropriate treatment options, and monitor progress over time.
It’s important to note that not every individual’s experience with PCOS-induced hormonal acne is the same. As a result, treatments may need to be tailored to effectively address the specific needs and severity of the condition.
Can PCOS-induced hormonal acne be avoided?
While it may not be possible to completely avoid this type of acne condition, there are steps you can take to minimize its occurrence and severity. Below are some strategies to consider for preventing hormonal acne:
- Be gentle with your skin. Harsh skincare products and aggressive scrubbing can irritate skin, disrupt the skin barrier, and trigger acne breakouts. Use gentle, non-irritating products and avoid excessive scrubbing or the use of abrasive tools.
- Protect your microbiome. Use topical skincare products that help support, rather than damage, your skin’s microbiome. Because the microbiome communicates directly with the body’s immune system it plays a vital role in managing inflammation. Hence, look for products that are certified “microbiome-friendly".
- Choose non-comedogenic products. Look for skincare and cosmetic products labeled as being “non-comedogenic”. These products are specifically designed not to clog pores, thereby reducing the likelihood of acne formation.
- Cleanse and moisturize daily. Establish a consistent skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing to remove excess oil, dirt, and impurities. Use a mild, non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) cleanser like SHAANT® BALANCING FOAMING CLEANSER to gently remove impurities without stripping moisture, and moisturize with oil-free/non-acnegenic products to keep skin hydrated without adding excess oil like SHAANT® BALANCING OIL CONTROL CREAM which, in addition to being formulated with our patented SHAANTCOMPLEX® also contains Mother Nature’s version of retinol, Bakuchiol.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. As was mentioned above, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help regulate hormone levels and reduce the risk of hormonal acne. This includes regular exercise, spending time outside in Nature, improving sleep quality, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and managing stress levels effectively.
Remember, preventing hormonal acne caused by PCOS may require a multi-faceted approach and individualized care. Consulting with healthcare professionals who specialize in PCOS and dermatology will provide you with the most comprehensive and personalized advice for managing and avoiding hormonal acne.
Understanding the relationship between PCOS and hormonal acne is important when it comes to effectively managing skin health. By adopting a consistent skincare and supplements routine that employs products specifically designed to manage sebum production/inflammation/clogged pores, avoiding triggers, and seeking professional guidance, when necessary, you can successfully overcome the challenges of hormonal acne caused by PCOS. Remember, patience and persistence are key when it comes to navigating the journey to healthier, clearer skin.
To help you monitor the progress your chosen products/solutions are making in your personal battle against acne, you may want to take advantage of Codex’s newest acne-fighting tool, DERMSCORE™, an AI-powered, mobile phone operated skin analyzer that helps keep track of pimples/pustules, blackheads/whiteheads, and skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation). And the best part is it’s FREE to use so you literally have nothing to lose, and only valuable insight and information to gain!