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11 Tips For Acne Management With PCOS

11 Tips For Acne Management With PCOS

We all remember going through phases of having the worse acne during adolescence. Most of us would have also tried multiple creams, home remedies and even medication to try and fix the same.

PCOS acne

The skin breakout usually happens due to the hormonal changes that occur in the body during that stage and naturally settles down as an individual grows up.

But in some cases, hormonal fluctuations and bad eating habits can lead to acne prone skin even later in life. PCOS is one such hormonal condition that affects a lot of women around the world. I have already composed a detailed article explaining lifestyle changes for PCOS reversal that I insist you read before diving into this article:

Along with severe health problems, PCOS also causes acne on the skin. Let's understand the root cause of acne in PCOS and understand discuss to help you manage the same.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome ( PCOS) is a condition characterised by either one or all of the below points:

  1. Absence of or irregular menstrual cycles.
  2. Cyst like formation on the ovaries
  3. Excess sex hormone production int he body.

A women struggling with this condition could also have difficulty with fertility, see male pattern baldness, experience painful periods and even even see a drop in libido.

Here is another video I made about our nutritional choices that might be contributing to our PCOS symptoms:

What Are The Different Types of Acne.

There are several types of acne. Some of which include

  • Fungal acne - Yeast build-up in hair follicles causing inflammation and itchiness.
  • Cystic acne - Pus-filled nodules and pimples that leave scars.
  • Hormonal acne - Overproduction of sebum and clogging of pores due to hormonal imbalances.
  • Nodular acne - nodular lumps on the surface of the skin.

Can Your Nutritional Choices Affect Your Skin Health?

Your nutritional choices affect much more than your skin. Metabolic diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc to lifestyle diseases like PCOS are strongly linked to your food choices. It is also remarkable how quickly the body heals when you start making healthier choices. Here is a client success story that is personally close to me:

The food that you eat could be a cause for bad gut bacteria, which in turn keep you feeling sick and inflamed. On the contrary, anti- inflammatory foods can improve gut health and thus keep your body healthy.

A study which was published in JAMA Dermatology compared the results of a 24-hour dietary survey that understudied 24,000 adults who either have acne, had acne in the past, or never had adult onset acne.

The study was done to find out the link between current active acne and the consumption of high-fat foods which included meat and dairy and sugary foods/beverages. The results concluded that 54% of people with active acne were more likely to consume a diet with high fat and sugar diet than those who never had acne.

What Causes Acne in PCOS.

Acne can occur due to various reasons.

  • One reason could be when the body starts making excess oil, sebum, which then clumps together with dead cells inside the pores. This clogging then takes shape in the form of lesions or zits. This condition is often associated with something called insulin resistance. Women suffering with PCOS do also tend to develop insulin resistance. The same can make it very difficult to lose weight.

  • Another reason could be excess production of sex hormones in the body, specifically estrogen, the female sex hormone. The relationship between estrogen and acne is a complex one. Estrogen can affect the balance of bacteria on the skin. This in and itself can lead to acne, but excess estrogen can also lead to excess inflammation in the body, causing acne. As it is a common knowledge, women with PCOS may also produce excess estrogen.
hormonal acne

Acne can flare up in different parts of the body ( lower part of the face, cheeks, jawline, chest, back, etc), usually, those areas which are highly sensitive to imbalances in the hormone levels.

5 Lifestyle Factors Causing Acne:

Now that we know what causes acne, taking steps in the direction of reducing excess sex hormones and managing insulin resistance can also help us reduce or even stop acne. Before we dive into 11 tips for acne management, lets look at some lifestyle factors causing acne.

1) Dairy consumption.

85% of adolescents in western countries are suffering from acne and this skin epidemic is absent in non-western countries.

One informational statistic data published in 2011 suggests that the reason why non-western countries are not severely hit by acne is that they do not consume excessive milk or dairy products.

dairy and acne

Dairy is a major cause of sex and growth hormones in the body. Read this article to understand more:

Not only is dairy milk naturally high in estrogen, but dairy cows are also pumped with excess growth hormones to increase the milk production, making it more profitable tot he dairy farmer. All of these extra hormones make it way into your glass of milk.

Research from the British Medical Journal also suggests that consumption of dairy, particularly skimmed milk can increase the severity of acne.

This study by Harvard also tracked teenage girls and for a few years and clearly showed an association between milk consumption and acne.

It is natural for offspring to consume the milk of their species, but this law is broken when humans consume milk and other dairy products.

Besides the sex hormones coming directly from milk, dairy by- products like cheese and butter are also high in saturated fats. These lead to insulin resistance, causing more acne.

2) Trans and Saturated Fat Consumption.

Trans and Saturated fats trigger an inflammatory responses in the body. In fact, eating as little as one high saturated fat per meal is enough to raise your inflammatory markers.

It is also a proven fact that sebum oxidation, the reason why the pores on the skin get blocked causing acne, is triggered by chronic inflammation in the body.

What are the food sources of these types of fats though? Mostly fats coming from animal sources are saturated. example, dairy products, meat and even eggs. Even as little as one serving of eggs per day takes your saturated fat levels over the recommended daily intake:

Besides acne, saturated fat intake clogs arteries and leads to heart diseases.

3) Bad Circadian Health.

Circadian cycle is your bodies natural rise and fall of hormonal balance based on the sun's cycle. Since the evolution of time (untill recently), man has been designed to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up with the sun rises.

It has been fairly noticed that chronic sleep deprivation can increase cortisol levels in the body which breaks down collagen and increase the severity of acne and inflammation.

We can figure out how circadian rhythm affects our skin by carefully observing the importance of several skincare products that are engineered to be applied at specific times such as night and day creams.

Our biological clocks control the essential functions of the body such as body temperature, hormone and glucose levels, cell regeneration and repair system, etc.

Similarly, a healthy circadian rhythm increases the cell regeneration rate of the skin. Staying up late at night and waking up late in the day disrupts an healthy circadian rhythm and leads to more hormonal imbalance.

One interesting study shows that student tend to develop more acne nearing exam times, when the stress levels are high and sleep is also compromised.

4) Sugars and Artificial Sweetener Consumption.

When you consume sugar, glucose, the end product of sigar attaches to the collagen in your skin through the process of glycation.

Glycation is responsible for increasing the severity of skin conditions like acne. A study published in 2022 in the Archives of Dermatology gives us strong evidence to prove that certain types of foods, particularly those right in sugar can cause breakouts in the skin.

The study noticed that people who belonged to non-wester countries and eat fresh plant-based foods showed no signs of chronic acne.

According to Terri Vinson, the author of Skinformation, "High sugar diets will also increase the severity of inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema and acne. Ever noticed how much ‘puffier’ your face looks at Christmas time, after a few days of pudding and mince pies?"

Artificial sweeteners too can have a negative impact on the healthy microbiome living in your gut. Though they might not directly cause glycation, they too lead to acne due to bad gut health.

Hence, it is advisable to steer clear of sugars and artificial sweeteners to avoid breakouts.

5) Exposure to Endocrine Disrupters in Skin Care Products

Endocrine disruptors have not received sufficient attention in their association with hormonal imbalances, especially in the case of PCOS.

Our endocrine system is a natural regulator for several hormones that are involved in reproduction, growth, immunity, and energy. Several man-made chemicals interfere with the natural hormonal balance of the body. Read this to understand more:

When these chemicals take over the endocrine system, it disrupts the natural hormonal harmony of the body. This can pose harmful effects contributing to acne and other PCOS-related symptoms.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) like parabens, benzophenones, bisphenols, and phthalates are widely found in skin care products, the use of which has increased over the years.

There are studies that show that endocrine disruptors can worsen hormonal acne and other symptoms of PCOS. It is impossible to avoid EDCs completely, but certain measures like avoiding plastic packaging, using paraben/toxin-free beauty products, avoiding synthetic fragrances, etc, can help you limit the exposure.

Top 11 tips for Acne Management with PCOS.

Besides the above points, here are a few more tips that can help you manage hormone related acne.

1) Ditch Dairy.

Different dairy products can affect acne; differently, some studies show that skimmed milk is most likely to trigger acne.

Dairy cows are usually treated with synthetic hormones which then combine with the milk supply. When this hormone-laden milk enters the human body, it can completely throw off our natural hormonal balance.

The hormones naturally present in pregnant cows can transfer in our bodies through the consumption of milk; causing acne and other PCOS-related symptoms.

2) Increase Fiber Intake By Adding Three Servings of Fruits And Five Servings Of Vegetables Per Day.

One of the main reasons for acne breakouts is our diet. Increasing fiber-rich foods in the diet can help you flush out toxins form the body that otherwise can lead to acne.

Fiber- rich foods also feed the good gut microbiome, which inturn can help reduce inflammation and chronically high levels of sebum.

We do not eat nearly as much fiber per day as we should be. Our goal is to eat three servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables per day. Ask yourself, how many did you have per day?

A fistful is an estimate of one serving.

3) Stay Hydrated.

The kidneys and livers are the body’s natural detox system. By consuming enough water and electrolytes, the vitality and functioning of these organs improve they can effectively remove waste and other toxins from the body which are responsible for clogging pores and causing acne.

Further, toxins in the body are also removed through sweat which contains antimicrobial peptides like dermcidin that prevent the clogging of pores. Therefore, to compensate for the release of minerals and fluids, it is essential to stay hydrated.

4) Avoid Smoking And Exposure To Environmental Toxins.

A sad and surprising fact is that maternal smoking has been linked with early onset of acne for kids. Smoking and toxins present in the smoke can deeply affect your hormonal balance and aggravate acne blemishes.

Smoking constricts the blood vessels and causes damage to several parts of the body. Starting from cancer, psoriasis, ageing, etc, smoking is extremely dangerous for the body and skin.

smoking and acne

When it comes to hormones toxins from smoke and the environment can raise the levels of adrenal hormonal which includes androgens and cortisol. Both these hormones severely increase the production of sebum and result in painful acne lesions.

5) Working on Improving Gut Health.

Your skin is a direct indication of your gut health. In other words, if you do not have good gut health there is a high chance that it will reflect on your skin in the form of acne, pimples, blemishes, etc.

To understand your gut health better, ask yourself, how many bowel movements do you have per day and how do they look like?

gut health and acne

You must aim for 1-2, type 3-4 bowel movements per day.

Around 70% of your immune system is found in the gut, therefore, it is very likely that your gut influences the health of major areas of the body, including your skin.

One study shows that 54% of people who have acne also have the presence of bad microbes in their gut. You might have to work with an expert of you struggle with bad gut health. Our team has a Gastroenterologist on board who works alongside our nutrition coaches to help you improve your gut health.

6) Working on maintaining a healthy circadian cycle.

Around 75% of skin ageing is attributed to environmental and lifestyle factors such as sleep. When the circadian rhythm of the body is disrupted, it is more susceptible to damage.

It is noted that chronic sleep deprivation can increase the severity of acne and inflammation and the hormone cortisol ( the stress hormone which activates with the lack of sleep), will persistently break down collagen.

7) Switch to Dates and Fruits Instead of Sugars.

Dates and fruits are fiber rich and natural sources of sugar. When you consume processed sugar, the process of glycation can destroy collagen production int he body.

You can fulfill your sugar craving by switching to fruits and dates that contain natural sugars and pose additional health benefits to the body like fiber, antioxidants, etc. These help repair your skin cells and also keep cravings away.

8) Increase Consumption of Leafy Greens.

Leafy greens are rich sources of essential vitamins and minerals which can help you combat acne. The Vitamin A present in greens like spinach, kale, etc slows down sebum production and flushes out toxins in the body. Vitamin A is also responsible for strengthening the skin’s protective tissues.

smoothie for acne

Leafy greens are loaded with other nutrients like Vitamin E which protects the skin from radical damage, folates which repair DNA, and antioxidants like beta-carotene which renew the skin.

9) Monitor Vitamin B12 Levels and Do Not Over- Supplement.

Excess vitamin B12 can induce acne. As per a study back in the 1950s 1 in 10 people got acne within days or hours of getting a vitamin B12 injection. The acne stopped rapidly once the injections stopped as well.

Vitamin B12 modulates the gene expression of the skin bacteria which in turn attacks the skin and triggers inflammation leading to acne.

However, vitamin B12-related acne only occurs when the dosages are over 5000-10000 mg per week. Such doses are safe to take only when there is a B12 deficiency in the body. Therefore, while B12 poses a lot of health benefits it is vital not to overdose on supplements.

10) Include Herbal Teas:

Green tea is a natural substance that may help in reducing acne breakouts. Research suggests that both the oral and topical use of green tea is effective in the treatment of acne. Only in six weeks of using a 2% green tea lotion the number of pimples reduced by half, as per one study. Here is a detailed guide on herbal tea consumption, including specific tea's for acne management, for your understanding:

Herbal teas are rich sources of polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps combat free radicals in the body, nourishes the skin, and prevents skin damage.

11) Avoid Makeup.

A study conducted by dermatologists in Korea with a total of 539 patients who had acne vulgaris, concluded that in 38.1% of patients, the acne worsened due to the continued use of cosmetic products like makeup.

This study showed the influence of cosmetics on patients with acne and a history of treatment failures. Therefore, it is advisable to have proper knowledge about the products you are using or avoid it if you have acne-prone skin. Even if you do use makeup, make sure to wash your face with a cleanser and moisturise every night before bedtime.


PCOS-related acne is a very common condition and can often create stress in individuals because it can last for a couple of years.

However, early treatment, correct diagnosis, proper supervision, nutritional and lifestyle changes can help you keep PCOS acne under control as well as avoid scarring. Get in touch for a free consultation to understand how we can specifically help YOUR skin type.

Let's Just Talk. No Obligations.

I do free consultations every Tuesday's and Thursday's. Either way you will get some actionable tips to reach your fitness goals faster.

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About Roshni Sanghvi

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.