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Skin Conditions
May 10, 2022

PCOS and Acne: How Are They Related, Treatment Options and Taking Control of PCOS Acne

It’s officially September, or otherwise known as PCOS Awareness Month. If this is the first time you’re hearing of it, you’re probably wondering “what’s PCOS?”. PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a condition where the ovaries become enlarged with small cysts as they overproduce androgens, a male sex hormone, that’s typically only found in small amounts in a woman’s body.

One of the primary side effects of PCOS is acne on the face (as well as irregular periods, weight gain, and hair loss). PCOS acne and regular acne may appear similar on the surface, whereas PCOS-related acne tends to be deeper, larger, and more stubborn to remove - but not impossible with the right treatment and maintenance.  

Can You Have PCOS Without Acne?

PCOS and acne often go hand in hand. The hormone imbalance PCOS creates in women usually triggers acne as androgens cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.

Sebum is an oil-like substance made of fats that can actually benefit the skin (believe it or not) as it helps to protect the skin and keep it moisturised, but too much sebum leads to oily skin and clogged pores - the main cause of acne. Because women with PCOS have such a high number of androgens in the body, and therefore, overworking sebaceous glands, it’s very unlikely that you can have PCOS without acne on your face. There’s no hard and fast rule of where PCOS acne will form, but most women notice it follows the hormonal pattern of the lower face.

How to Treat PCOS Acne Scars

At Young LDN, we have three PCOS acne scar removal treatments available for sensitive skin to non-sensitive skin, and everything in between.

1. Young LDN Acne Improvement Programme

Our Acne Improvement Programme uses LEDs, otherwise known as Light Emitting Diodes, directed at the skin to stimulate the skin cells needed to remove PCOS acne scars. LED light therapy is an effective PCOS acne scar treatment for super sensitive skin as it doesn’t break the surface of the skin or involve coming into contact with potent formulas. It’s similar to a regular facial (but without the goop), so you can sit back and relax as we’re performing LED light therapy.

How does it work?

There are several different coloured LEDs available (yellow, blue, red, and infrared) that each target a different skin concern. The Young LDN Acne Improvement Programme offers a unique combination of yellow and blue LEDs to remove PCOS acne scars and prevent future acne. For PCOS acne scars, we use yellow LEDs as they kickstart the rejuvenation process to heal scarring, while blue LEDs slow down the production of oil in the sebaceous glands to hold off acne from reoccurring.

When will I begin to see results?

This PCOS acne scar treatment is spread out over 8 weeks, and typically, scars will begin to lighten between 2-4 sessions. If you have active acne, the redness will calm down immediately after your first session. It’s important to remember that LED light therapy only temporarily neutralises the sebaceous glands. To continue managing active PCOS acne, it’s recommended to have LED light therapy every 4-6 weeks.

2. Young LDN Microneedling

Microneedling at Young LDN is a great alternative PCOS acne scar treatment for those with non-sensitive skin and deeper scarring. Collagen and elastin are needed for wound healing, but as we age, their levels in our body begin to reduce, meaning the amount that we can send to the affected area is dramatically less. Microneedling increases collagen and elastin where it’s needed the most - PCOS acne scars on the face. It can be performed on the entire complexion or aimed precisely at the scarring, making it one of the most powerful PCOS acne scar treatments.

Plus, it can even enhance product absorption, so you can get more of your essential vitamins from your skincare routine for PCOS acne.

How does it work?

To remove PCOS acne scars, microneedling creates microscopic wounds on the surface of the skin, which the body then responds to by sending more collagen and elastin to heal the affected area. Higher levels of collagen and elastin where the PCOS acne scars are will encourage the skin to heal them quicker. As the tiny needles enter the skin, they also work to break up and disperse scar tissue underneath the skin. Over time they’ll begin to fade, and the skin will appear smoother, brighter and even in tone and texture.

Plus, the punctures in the skin created by the microneedling device can increase product absorption by creating more channels into the deeper layers of skin, so you can fully indulge and benefit from your skincare routine rich in vitamins for PCOS acne.

When will I begin to see results?

The majority of those with PCOS acne scars begin to see a noticeable reduction in scars after a few treatments as new skin cells have begun to form over the scarring. Microneedling is recommended every 4-6 weeks until you reach your desired results to give the skin enough time to heal itself in between sessions.

3. Young LDN Signature Chemical Peels

This PCOS acne scar treatment is suitable for women with sensitive and non-sensitive skin as chemical peels vary in different strengths depending on the intensity of PCOS acne scars you wish to treat. Our Signature Chemical Peels remove PCOS acne scars by melting away damaged skin cells to bring new, healthy skin cells to the surface, reducing the appearance of scarring. As PCOS acne scars won’t be the only damaged skin on your face (thanks to UV rays and pollution), chemical peels are an efficient way to remove all compromised skin cells for a beautiful, revitalised complexion.

How does it work?

During a chemical peel, an acidic solution is spread over the face and left to be absorbed by the skin, then removed. Once a few days have passed, you’ll begin to see the damaged skin cells fall off. A chemical peel mimics a natural process carried out by our skin called cell turnover, where damaged skin cells fall off and replace themselves with new skin cells, except it does it a lot faster.

There are three main strengths of chemical peels, each with a different level of penetration: superficial peels, medium peels and deep peels. Superficial peels are used on women with light PCOS acne scarring and sensitive skin as they use mild acids like alpha-hydroxy for gentle exfoliation on the outermost layer of skin. For those with PCOS acne scars that reach the middle layer of skin, medium peels are able to do this with naturally occurring glycolic acids. 

Deep peels are only recommended for deep, intensive scarring as they’re formulated with powerful acids such as phenol to penetrate the deeper layers of skin.

When will I begin to see results?

Chemical peels don’t achieve immediate results as they kickstart the process of cell turnover, which will begin to reduce the appearance of PCOS acne scars within 2-3 weeks. If you’ve undergone a deep chemical peel, results will take up to 6 weeks (but they’re well worth the wait).

How to Control PCOS Acne

It wouldn’t be PCOS awareness month without talking about hormones now, would it? Hormones are very sensitive and easily knocked off balance. The majority of the hormones in the body prefer to work together to release another hormone as a chain reaction, many of which lead to the production of sebum, which women with PCOS don’t need (or want) any more of. Luckily, you can help to control the hormones responsible for PCOS acne and keep your pores in check with a few simple lifestyle changes and skincare tips. 

Improve your sleeping routine

A lack of sleep can weaken the body’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to PCOS acne as it doesn’t have as much strength to defend itself against those pesky pimples, so it’s time to take your beauty sleep seriously.

Plus, if the body becomes sleep deprived, it releases cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone because of its major role in our natural fight-or-flight response when it feels under threat. Cortisol escalates the production of sebum even further, increasing the chances of clogged pores and PCOS acne as a result.

Try following a strict wind-down bedtime routine, buying brand new bed sheets or getting your feng shui on for a good night’s sleep.

Switch to a healthy balanced diet

When we eat, a hormone called insulin is created in our pancreas to turn our food into energy. Foods high in sugar will require more insulin than usual to restore the balance of blood sugar levels, and an excess amount of insulin calls out for androgen, once more overworking the sebaceous glands. Switching to a healthy balanced diet will limit the amount of insulin the body needs to produce.

A whole foods diet is the best diet for PCOS acne as it consists of foods as close to their natural state as possible. They’re completely free from artificial sugars and hormones which will give your body better control over its hormone balance, and therefore, managing PCOS acne.

Wash your face twice a day

Managing PCOS acne doesn’t have to be hard, simply washing your face twice a day with a face wash can work wonders. Face wash and face cleanser may do the same thing, but those with PCOS acne will benefit more from using a face wash as they tend to favour ingredients that combat oil production. 

The foaming action also means they’re able to get deep into the pores for a thorough cleanse which can be drying for those who don’t have oily skin types, but makes a face wash one of the best skincare products for women with PCOS acne.

Exfoliate 2-3 times a week

Not exfoliating 2-3 times a week is where many women with PCOS acne go wrong. While we agree that using a harsh exfoliator on vulnerable skin is all kinds of wrong, it doesn’t mean you should skip out on exfoliation altogether. A build-up of dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria can all contribute to PCOS acne as they can contribute to clogged pores. Instead, invest in a gentle exfoliator, preferably with natural exfoliants, to keep your pores open and free from impurities.

If you’ve undergone a PCOS acne scar treatment, we recommend waiting at least 24 hours before exfoliating.

Don’t skip out on moisturiser 

The best skincare routine for PCOS acne isn’t complete without a moisturiser. Dry skin flakes can gather on the surface of the skin alongside other impurities, potentially clogging pores.

Did you know you can have dry and oily skin at the same time? Not using a moisturiser if you have dry skin causes our bodies to overproduce sebum in an attempt to create a moisturiser of its own. This oily surface acts as a breeding ground for PCOS acne. Opt for an oil-free moisturiser and apply it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening to keep your sebaceous glands under control.

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Everything written in this blog post is my own honest opinion about my experience of treating my acne at Young LDN.

Elouise Kuljanic
Skin Conditions