Acne and PCOS

If you have PCOS, then you likely know that pimples aren’t just for teens. But you’re not a teenager anymore, so why are you more likely to have excessive acne just because you have polycystic ovarian syndrome?

Unfortunately, the reason for your acne is also likely the reason why conventional acne treatments aren’t as effective for you.

What is Acne?

Acne occurs when oil, bacteria, and skin cells get trapped in our skin’s pores. In women with PCOS, androgen levels are often elevated. As a result, your production of dihydrotestosterone, a metobalite of testosterone, rises.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) promotes oil production, which can lead to your pores getting clogged. Once clogged, bacteria can flourish, but also get trapped along with excess oil and dead skin cells, resulting in inflammation, or a "pimple".

Although acne usually occurs on the face, it is not uncommon for it to also appear on the neck, chest and back. For women with PCOS, acne often appears along the jaw-line as well as the chest and back.

While acne is used to refer to a number of skin inflammations, there are actually different types of pimples. These include:

  • Blackheads: This type of acne results when oil and bacteria rise to the top of pores that are partially blocked. Once the oil mixes with both your skin melanin and air, the pimple takes on a darker appearance, making it look "black," hence the name blackhead.
  • Whiteheads: A whitehead is the result of oil and skin cells completely blocking your pores. This debris gathers beneath the surface of your skin, resulting in a pimple that appears to have a white head.
  • Cysts: This type of acne can be quite unpleasant and even painful and may cause cystic acne pimples that are five millimetres or more in diameter. They occur when oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria are pushed far down into your pores leading to hard bumps that you can feel underneath your skin and that may swell and remain for months.
  • Pustules: Similar to whiteheads in formation, pustules differ by being much more painful and inflamed. Typically, a pustule will look as though it has a white or yellow head surrounded by a red circle.

Severe acne can lead to permanent acne scars as well as discoloration of the skin.

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