Is PCOS Causing Your Acne? Find Out Here

Written by Monomita Chakraborty

PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is one of the most common problems affecting 7% of adult women across the globe. It is a complicated hormonal and reproductive condition that causes ovarian cysts, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, and excessive hair growth (1).

Acne is one of the classic symptoms of PCOS. Luckily, you can easily manage PCOS acne. This article explores everything you need to know about PCOS acne and ways to manage it. Keep reading!

Why Do People With PCOS Have Acne?

PCOS acne is caused by hormonal imbalance. This endocrine disorder affects the body’s hormonal equilibrium and leads to high levels of androgens (male sex hormones).

The thecal cells (endocrine cells associated with ovarian follicles) produce high amounts of testosterone that stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce excess oil (1). Excess sebum combined with dead skin cells, dirt, and debris can clog the pores, increasing the risk of acne breakouts.

PCOS acne can show up in body parts with the highest concentration of sebaceous glands. They include:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Upper Back

Since various internal and external factors trigger PCOS acne, the doctor may recommend combination therapy, including oral and topical treatments and lifestyle changes. Scroll down to learn ways to manage PCOS acne.

How To Treat PCOS Acne

1. Retinoids

Topical retinoids are beneficial in acne management. They have anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce comedones and microcomedones (2). The doctor may prescribe topical or oral retinoids (isotretinoin). However, the strength of the retinoids may depend on the severity of your condition. So, avoid self-medication. Also, it may make your skin susceptible to UV damage. So, always use sunscreen when on retinoids.

2. OTC Medicines

The doctor may recommend OTC topical medicines containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Both ingredients are first-line treatments for acne and work by exfoliating the skin, killing acne-causing bacteria, and reducing excess sebum production (3 ),(4). They also reduce skin irritation and inflammation and speed up the healing process.

3. Birth Control Pills

Estrogen and progestin birth control pills are usually recommended to manage hormonal skin changes and PCOS acne. However, it is a temporary solution and should be balanced with other medications and lifestyle changes (5).

4. Laser Therapy

Laser-based therapies target acne and may also help reduce acne scarring (6). Lasers remove dead skin cells and reduce excess oil production to control acne.

5. Lifestyle Management

Lifestyle management is a critical aspect of PCOS acne management. Since PCOS may also affect metabolic factors, which may contribute to acne, you must maintain a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you may need, exercise regularly, consume a balanced diet, and maintain a healthy weight.

While the medications work internally to maintain hormonal imbalance, you can accelerate the healing process through your diet. Read on to find out what food you should avoid if you have PCOS acne.

Foods To Avoid  If You Have PCOS Acne

Several food items may aggravate acne, especially if you have PCOS. They include (7), (8) :

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, and dairy-based chocolates)
  • High-calorie foods like sugary beverages, baked goodies (cakes and cookies), processed and junk food (pizza, burger, and fried foods)


Managing PCOS acne is all about managing hormonal imbalances and taking care of your skin. Acne is one of the many symptoms of PCOS, and you have to work with your doctor to prevent flare-ups. The doctor may prescribe oral and topical treatments along with lifestyle and diet modifications. Follow them religiously, and you will definitely see positive results.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How long does PCOS acne last?

It depends on the severity of the condition. You have to work with your doctor and follow the prescribed treatment for proper and fast healing.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  2. Topical retinoids in acne–an evidence-based overview
  3. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients
  4. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments
  5. Use of oral contraceptives for management of acne vulgaris and hirsutism in women of reproductive and late reproductive age
  6. Laser and light-based treatments of acne and acne scarring
  7. Diet and acne: a review of the evidence
  8. The epidemiology of adolescent acne in North East China

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