How Skin Reacts to PCOS

In this post we’re going to uncover how skin reacts to PCOS, otherwise known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s an important topic to tackle since it affects women and their entire bodies. PCOS has a strong genetic component and is fueled by diet and environmental factors. This means, a woman can inherit the PCOS trait from her mother and father, however, her diet, lifestyle, and environment will determine whether or not she actually develops the disease.  More specifically, women who have obesity, diabetes, or insulin resistance and have a first-degree relative with PCOS are very likely to develop this condition. 

At the molecular level, ovarian cysts are the source of excess androgen (male sex hormone) production. Dihydrotestosterone and androsterone are examples of common androgens. In women, excess androgens cause hair growth on the face and arms, acne, and male-pattern baldness. This is why estrogen and androgen blockers are the most common treatment options. 

Certain ethnic groups, such as Mexican-American women are more susceptible to developing PCOS, especially when facing insulin resistance. It is well known that the typical Western Diet, which is high in fat and carbohydrates, increases your risk of developing diabetes. Up to 27% of pre-menopausal women with type 2 diabetes also have PCOS. Therefore, avoiding this type of diet may help to prevent PCOS if you are a member of a high risk ethnic group. 

Environmental hormone disruptors are compounds with androgen-like or estrogen-like activity. Definitive evidence has shown that exposure to hormone disruptors during development (from pregnancy through childhood) can induce PCOS in adulthood. One of the most common, yet dangerous hormone disruptors is Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is commonly found in water bottles, plastics, and canned goods. According to the FDA, low doses of BPA should not be harmful for adults. However, their stance on BPA is somewhat contradictory since the agency does not allow this chemical to be used in baby products. The agency decided not to re-new BPA’s approval because infant product manufacturers had abandoned the chemical. 

How BPA Affects PCOS

A systematic review found that women with PCOS were likely to have elevated BPA levels in their body. It has been theorized that BPA may stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens. 

While writing this post I was quite shocked at how many things contain BPA. I’ve been aware for some time that we shouldn’t pour hot liquids into plastic, such as take-out soups, but I was willing to use them for the sake of convenience. Now, I’m not so sure. I think it’s essential that we look at items that we use regularly and investigate what has BPA and move towards eliminating it from our lives. The liners inside of canned goods that are made of epoxy resins (BPA) were a big surprise to me. 

Controlling non-BPA products in our homes are easy fixes. Small changes can be implemented, such as instead of purchasing cases of water bottles, Brita makes a BPA-free water pitcher. However, I’m not sure how to convince all of the canned-food suppliers or restaurant take-out manufacturers to switch to eco and health-friendly packaging without some assistance from the government. 

Can You Get Rid of PCOS

Cysts form in the ovaries and can be removed laparoscopically, but this is typically not the first solution. Having them removed would inhibit fertility and since PCOS happens during childbearing years, it forces serious decisions to be made. It is possible that by blocking testosterone and using estrogen you may be able to improve PCOS symptoms and regain fertility; although, this approach is not a full cure.

How Skin Reacts to PCOS

Having an excess of testosterone and a deficiency of estrogen and progesterone can cause the skin to react in a variety of unpredictable ways. How skin reacts to PCOS is by developing acne, hyperpigmented patches or hair growth on the face. One of the most frustrating challenges to deal with is the hyperpigmentation associated with acne. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, melanin is the pigment that gives our skin its color. Any sort of skin wound causes these tiny cells to activate which means that the area around the site becomes flooded with more pigment than usual. Generally speaking, if you’re dark-haired and dark-eyed and you tan well, you will most likely end up with dark spots that stay on your skin long after the acne lesion is gone.

What to Do About PCOS Acne

Caring for your skin while dealing with everything else related to PCOS is the last thing you want to think about, but it’s necessary. The most basic treatment you can do is to use an ice roller or pack the minute you feel a pimple coming on. After that you can use a product like the GlyMed Living Cell Clarifier which contains mulberry, licorice and bearberry extract. These are natural melanin suppressants (otherwise known as tyrosinase inhibitors). You will want to use a product like this every night to reduce the discoloration. Keep in mind that sun protection is essential when using ingredients like these because anything that inhibits your skin’s natural response to the sun can be dangerous. SPF 30+ and hat-wearing is recommended. 

Hopefully, this explains how skin reacts to PCOS. Thank you for reading The Freckle blog! Please subscribe to stay informed of all things relating to skin care. Also, check out my website and YouTube channel for product news and recommendations.

Skin Care with a Conscience

Featured Photo by Dennis Alvear Perez on Unsplash

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