Guide On Managing Acne With PCOS

From understanding the hormonal imbalances to developing a skincare routine, this guide will help you effectively address acne breakouts.

By URLife Team
22 Jun 2023

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 3 in 10 women worldwide and in India the pooled prevalence of PCOS in 2022 was close to 10% using Rotterdam's criteria and AES criteria, while it was 5.8% using NIH criteria. Acne is a common and frustrating skin condition, especially for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS-related hormonal imbalances can contribute to persistent and severe acne. Seeking guidance from a dermatologist who specialises in PCOS-related skin issues is crucial for effectively managing acne. Apart from this, there are other ways to keep PCOS-related acne at bay and manage PCOS in an effective manner.


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Related story: The Perfect PCOS Breakfast: Why Your Diet Matters


1. Understand the underlying cause

Acne in PCOS is primarily caused by hormonal imbalances, such as elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. These hormonal imbalances can lead to increased sebum production, clogged pores, and inflammation, resulting in acne breakouts. However, it's important to note that not all women with PCOS will experience acne, and the severity can vary from person to person.


To accurately diagnose PCOS and determine the underlying hormonal factors contributing to acne, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a gynaecologist or endocrinologist. They can evaluate your symptoms, and medical history, and perform necessary tests to confirm the presence of PCOS and identify the specific hormonal imbalances.


One important step in this diagnostic process is getting blood tests done. These tests can measure hormone levels, including androgens (such as testosterone and DHEA-S), estrogen, progesterone, luteinising hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and insulin. Blood tests can provide valuable insights into your hormone profile and help identify any abnormalities or imbalances that may be contributing to acne. Also, understanding the cause will help guide the appropriate treatment approach.


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Related story: 5 Common Myths About PCOS-Debunked


2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet

A healthy lifestyle and diet are essential components of managing PCOS-related acne. Positive changes in these areas can help regulate hormone levels, reduce inflammation, and improve overall skin health. Here are some additional tips to consider:


a. Balanced diet

Opting for a well-balanced diet is crucial for managing PCOS-related acne. Focus on incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your meals. Include whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats in your diet. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support skin health. Additionally, consider foods with a low glycemic index, as they can help stabilise blood sugar levels. Limit or avoid processed foods, sugary snacks, and beverages as they can worsen inflammation and trigger acne breakouts.


b. Regular exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity can have numerous benefits for managing PCOS-related acne. Exercise helps regulate hormone levels, improves insulin sensitivity, promotes blood circulation, and reduces stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Choose activities you enjoy, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Regular exercise not only benefits your skin but also contributes to your overall well-being.


c. Restful sleep

Prioritising quality sleep is vital for hormonal balance and overall health. Lack of sleep can disrupt hormone production and increase inflammation, which can exacerbate acne symptoms. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and ensure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to restful sleep.


Additionally, it can be beneficial to seek guidance from a nutritionist or dietitian, especially one experienced in PCOS management. UR.Life nutritionists provide personalised advice and create customised diet plans that address your specific needs. They can help you identify trigger foods, develop a balanced meal plan, and offer guidance on portion control.


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Related story: How To Manage PCOS With Diet And Exercise


3. Following a skincare routine

Developing a skincare routine tailored for acne-prone skin is essential in managing PCOS-related acne. By following these steps, you can effectively address breakouts and promote healthier skin:


a. Gentle cleansing

Cleanse your face twice daily using a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser. This helps remove excess oil, dirt, and impurities without stripping the skin. Avoid using harsh cleansers or scrubbing vigorously, as these can irritate the skin and worsen acne. Gently massage the cleanser onto your face using circular motions, then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and pat dry.


b. Non-irritating products

Opt for skincare products that are specifically formulated for acne-prone skin. Look for labels that indicate non-comedogenic, oil-free, and hypoallergenic properties. Non-comedogenic products are less likely to clog pores and contribute to acne breakouts. Avoid using products with harsh chemicals, fragrances, or dyes that can potentially irritate the skin and exacerbate acne symptoms.


c. Moisturise

Even if you have oily or acne-prone skin, moisturising is crucial to maintain hydration and support overall skin health. Choose a lightweight, oil-free moisturiser that is non-comedogenic. This type of moisturiser will help hydrate your skin without clogging pores or adding excess oil. Apply the moisturiser gently onto clean, dry skin, focusing on areas that tend to be drier or more prone to acne. This step helps balance the skin's moisture levels and can prevent excessive oil production.


d. Sun protection

Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is crucial, regardless of the weather or skin condition. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to shield your skin from UV damage. Apply sunscreen generously to all exposed areas, including your face, neck, and any other skin not covered by clothing. Re-apply every two hours or more frequently if you are sweating or in water. Sunscreen not only helps prevent sunburn but also protects against potential skin damage and reduces the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a common concern for acne-prone skin.


While these steps can be beneficial in managing acne, it is important to note that every individual's skin is unique. PCOS-related acne may require additional interventions, such as prescription medications or in-office treatments, to achieve optimal results. Consulting a dermatologist who specialises in acne and PCOS is highly recommended. They can assess your specific condition, provide personalised recommendations, and guide you through a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs.


Related story: How I Coped With Heavy Menstrual Bleeding And PCOS


4. Medications and topical treatments

In some cases, healthcare professionals may recommend specific medications or topical treatments to manage acne associated with PCOS. These may include:


a. Hormonal therapy

Oral contraceptives or anti-androgen medications may be prescribed to regulate hormone levels and reduce acne.


b. Topical treatments

Prescription-strength topical creams or gels containing retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, or antibiotics can help control acne.


Related story: Managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): "We Need More Than Band-Aid Fix"


PCOS-Friendly Garlic Mushroom Soup 

This soup is rich in flavour, creamy, and packed with the earthy taste of mushrooms. It provides a nutritious option for a PCOS diet as it avoids high-glycemic ingredients and focuses on wholesome, low-carbohydrate ingredients.


The Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 250 gms mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (low-sodium if possible)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste



  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and sauté until they become fragrant and translucent.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened and released their moisture.
  • Pour in the vegetable or chicken broth, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.
  • Using a blender, puree the soup until smooth and creamy. 
  • Return the soup to the pot and stir in the unsweetened almond milk. Heat the soup gently for a few minutes until warmed through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasonings as needed to suit your preferences.


Serve the garlic mushroom soup hot and enjoy!


Managing acne when you have PCOS requires a multifaceted approach. By understanding the underlying hormonal imbalances, adopting a healthy lifestyle, implementing an effective skincare routine, and considering medical interventions if necessary, you can significantly improve the appearance of your skin and regain your confidence. Remember, consistency and patience are key, and with the right strategies, you can effectively manage acne and achieve clearer skin.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have PCOS. Taking regular health checks can help detect PCOS at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.



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