ACNE: A devastating complication of PCOS

Acne & PCOS: Body Image Issues and Low Confidence

It is well known that PCOS often causes a range of complications. One of the most damaging complications of PCOS is Acne as it almost always leaves scars that are persistent. Most often, these harm the confidence level in women and also leave them with feeling negatively about body image. Women with PCOS related acne also resort to various measures without fully understanding what is causing their acne.

Women with PCOS often have cystic acne (a severe form of acne) along the jawline, cheeks, chin and upper neck. PCOS acne is triggered by the imbalance of hormones that is the hallmark of this health condition. And treating this hormonal imbalance is the first step in dealing with acne that is related to PCOS.

What causes acne in PCOS?

Hyperinsulinemia & Hyperandrogenism

As we have seen earlier, Insulin resistance is a common complication seen in women with PCOS. Hyperinsulinemia is a condition in which there are excess levels of insulin circulating in the blood. Hyperinsulinemia results in the ovaries producing more androgens, like testosterone.  Excess level of Androgen or hyperandrogenism is one of the leading causes for PCOS. In addition, Hyperinsulinemia also increases sebum production which is directly liked to acne outbreaks even in women without PCOS. Hence it is not surprising to see the effects of hormonal balances in women with PCOS.

Role of Bacteria
Excess sebum production leads to excess oil and dead skin cells and dirt that plug the pores of the skin. When these pores get infected with acne causing bacteria, it results in an acne outbreak.

Low-Grade Inflammation, PCOS & Acne

Low grade chronic inflammation is common in women with PCOS. It could be another key reason for cystic acne.  This consistent inflammation sends the immune system into overdrive, so that a simple small pimple turns into an ugly, painful cyst.


It is well known that stress has a direct correlation with Acne. Stress is also found to intensify the symptoms and complications of PCOS. While there is no research to back this claim, stress could make the existing condition of PCOS worse.

How Is PCOS Acne Different From Regular Acne?

Normal Acne PCOS Acne
Caused when Sebaceous glands produce more oil. The oil blocks the pores and causes pimples PCOS acne is a more server form of the general acne
Surface bumps, that may leave a scar if not treated effectively Knotted cystic acne
May occur on the cheeks, chin, near the nose and the forehead – Often the T Section of the face Occurs in the hormonally sensitive areas – Jawline, cheeks, skin, upper neck. Also seen on chest and back
General acne is not always painful and may not leave scar if treated well Cystic acne is painful to touch, has secretions and leaves a ugly scar that is persistent
Is not a result of Hyperandrogenism though it could be the reason for general acne in few women who do not have PCOS. Is caused as a result of hyperinsulinemia and hyperandrogrenism

Now that we have seen how PCOS acne is different from normal acne, please read about managing PCOS acne in this post.

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