Skin is the body's largest organ, accounting for 15% of our total body weight. It’s a dynamic organ, often acting as a window to what’s happening within our body.
For those with PCOS, the imbalance of hormones can show up on our skin as hormonal acne or blemishes. We explore why this is, and some ways you might consider treating it.
WHAT IS PCOS?
PCOS, standing for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a metabolic disorder in women of childbearing age, caused by hormonal imbalances. It is very common, with up to 10% of women having it. It's notoriously under-diagnosed, but common symptoms can include;
- missing or irregular periods
- acne or blemish-prone skin
- weight gain, or difficulty maintaining weight
- male-pattern hair loss
-excess body hair
ACNE + PCOS
Acne is a blanket term for skin blemishes which can range from comedonal congestion such as blackheads, to inflammatory papules and cystic acne. Whilst acne is often associated with teenagers, adult acne is very common, with 54% of women over the age of 25 having it. Around a quarter of acne sufferers only starting after the age of 25, and 50% of acne sufferers experiencing it into their 40s & beyond.
SO WHAT'S THE LINK BETWEEN ACNE AND PCOS?
PCOS is associated with high levels of androgens, such as testosterone, a condition known as hyperandrogenism. These androgens play a big role in instigating acne, with the skin’s glands driven to produce excess sebum which can build up inside hair follicles, causing acne.
As well as excess androgens, around 70% of people with PCOS have high insulin levels, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows the body to process sugar. When insulin spikes, this stimulates excess oil production, ready to bind to dead skin cells within our pores - which is ripe for becoming acneic through infection by P.Acnes and inflammation within the body.
MANAGING PCOS BREAKOUTS
Balance your hormones
Balanced skin starts within. It’s no quick fix, but the most effective way of balancing blemish-prone skin longer-term, is to work to balance your hormones. Consider supplements such as inositol, zinc, omega 3, as well as probiotics to support the gut which helps in the synthesis & regulation of hormones.*
If you suspect high insulin levels could be a contributor, explore how to balance blood sugar levels via a balanced diet rich in protein, fibre, and gut-supporting vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts & spinach, are particularly great for supporting skin health.
Consider a low GI diet, and reduce sugar intake, eating less refined/ processed foods.
Prioritise a simple, hydrating routine
Healthy skin needs a strong, healthy skin barrier. The best way to do this is have a fairly simple but hydrating routine.
- Prioritise hydrating cleansers, or balm/ oil-based cleansers (steer clear of anything stripping or drying).
- Add additional hydration with a hyaluronic acid serum
- Add a mist into your routine. Misting before applying serums or moisturisers will make your products work more effectively, as damp skin is more absorbent than dry skin.
- For moisturisers, look for ingredients such as ceramides which help to strengthen the skin barrier.
Specific ingredients to look out for:
- Niacinamide - many skin benefits, but helps balance oil production
- Salicylic acid - helps keep pores clear & decongested
- Zinc - reduces inflammation & balances oil production
- Hyaluronic acid - hydrating ingredient
- Ceramides - Lovely barrier-strengthening ingredient
Acneic skins are said to renew their skin cell turnover less efficiently, with “sticky” sebum making these cells more likely to become spots. Regular gentle exfoliation is key to keeping skin balanced, and pores decongested.
Consider acid/ chemical exfoliants, which work to gently dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells, rather than manual scrubs (scrubs only work on surface level, and can also damage the skin causing irritation known as micro-tears).
- AHA’s, such as glycolic acid & lactic acid, will work to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells, helping to slough away dull skin, revealing fresh, more vibrant skin underneath.
- BHA’s, such as salicylic acid, work within the pore itself to decongest and loosen any dirt & debris within the pore.
Less is more - start slowly, being mindful not to over-exfoliate (too much exfoliation can damage your skin barrier). Consider a weekly mask such as the Luneia Radiance Ritual AHA/ BHA Mask , or a daily serum such as the Luneia Clarity Concentrate Serum
Be kind to yourself
Hormonal fluctuations will happen, despite our efforts. Embrace it and be kind to yourself. You are more than your skin. Skin is a destination not a journey.
*Always consult a physician before introducing any supplements to your regime.
- Tags: Active ingredients Exfoliation Glycolic Acid hormonal changes PCOS Radiance Ritual Resurfacing Treatment Mask Salicylic Acid