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Home / Acne / What is the link between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and acne?

What is the link between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and acne?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine hormonal disorder that affects up to 1 in 10 women Trusted source University of Birmingham Educational Institution Multidisciplinary Research and Education Go to source of reproductive age. Women with PCOS have high levels of male hormones, or androgens, in their ovaries — high levels of androgens can lead to ovarian cysts, which may prevent the ovaries from releasing estrogen. This can cause changes to the menstrual cycle, such as irregular periods, no periods, infertility, or difficulties getting pregnant.

Female reproductive system

PCOS is also related to other imbalances of hormone levels in the body, such as an excess of insulin in the blood (a condition known as hyperinsulinemia). It can also increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood, which may cause high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes as the blood vessels become less elastic.

It is not uncommon for PCOS to make individuals feel self-conscious as symptoms can negatively impact their social lives. Women with this condition tend to suffer from depression and anxiety, directly affecting their quality of life.

PCOS alters your metabolism, causing weight gain, which can lead to obesity, and an increased risk of developing insulin resistance. It may also cause hirsutism or excess hair on the chin, upper lip, chest, abdomen, and back. On the other hand, excessive hair loss is a common symptom of PCOS, and it can cause women to feel embarrassed and self-conscious about their appearance.

Does polycystic ovarian syndrome cause acne?

More than 30% of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have acne. The cause of PCOS-related acne is in all likelihood due to the hormone imbalance having a profound effect on your body. Acne can severely affect a woman's complexion and lower her self-esteem.

PCOS is a chronic medical condition that isn’t curable at present, but don’t worry! Many effective treatments are available to help manage acne and some of the other symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome. First, let us point out some crucial decision-making elements you must make about your treatment as well as explain how exactly PCOS can affect your skin condition.

Acne problem on female face

Why does acne occur with PCOS?

Many women try to fight the skin problems that accompany PCOS, which include acne breakouts, oily skin, and scarring. You might be wondering, "What is the relationship between PCOS and acne?" Below we will explain why PCOS affects your skin condition and how PCOS plays a role in severe cases of acne.

PCOS acne can be triggered by high androgen levels (male hormones), such as testosterone. The increase in male hormones can not only encourage an increase in facial hair growth, but it can also cause the body to produce excess sebum (oil). When this happens, skin pores and hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and debris.

This excess oil level creates the ideal conditions for bacteria to thrive and for acne breakouts to occur. Excess sebum can produce deep, inflamed, and painful cysts. Symptoms include painful pimples or lesions under the skin which can be seen as bumps under the surface. Cystic acne typically appears on the chin, upper neck, and jaw area in women who have PCOS, leaving scars if untreated.

Common areas affected by PCOS acne:

  • jawline
  • chin
  • upper neck

Not to mention, excess insulin in the bloodstream due to PCOS imbalances can also overstimulate sebum production and cause breakouts. In fact, a recent study Trusted source Frontiers Peer-reviewed Journals Multidisciplinary Scientific Research Go to source found that insulin also reduces skin cell turnover , which leads to comedo (acne) formation.

Young woman with PCOS acne

What treatments are available for PCOS acne?

While some PCOS patients suffer from cystic acne throughout their life, others may improve their skin condition with proper treatment and care. Fortunately, there are many treatments available to get rid of cystic acne. These include prescription medications, diet plans and lifestyle changes. The most common medications given for this disorder are oral contraceptives (which correct hormone imbalances) and insulin-sensitizing agents (which enable the body to handle sugar more effectively), as well as anti-androgen drugs (which suppress testosterone production).


Oral contraceptives, like Dianette, are often prescribed by doctors to treat PCOS because they can help manage hormone levels. The medication works within the reproductive system, controlling the male hormones that can harm skin health. That’s why dermatologists will recommend contraceptives to combat acne and manage some of the other symptoms of PCOS.

One of the most effective ways to achieve clear and smooth skin is to use Dianette - a hormonal contraceptive pill that has undergone extensive clinical trials and is medically approved and proven to block the androgenic effects of PCOS.

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This combined oral contraceptive pill contains the progestogen cyproterone acetate and the oestrogen ethinylestradiol, which prevent PCOS symptoms by suppressing ovulation. It is taken daily to manage the symptoms caused by the overproduction of androgens.

Considered by medical experts to be the best pill for PCOS symptoms, Dianette works to prevent acne and body hair growth by directly suppressing male hormones.

  • the benefits women with PCOS can expect from Dianette include less excess hair growth, improved periods and clearer skin
  • the medication is not available over the counter, however, a prescription can be obtained via an online clinic, such as euroClinix

Although Dianette also works as an oral contraceptive, it should only be temporarily used in women who need treatment for serious acne and androgen-dependent conditions (PCOS).

It is further recommended Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source that treatment should be stopped after acne has lessened. Dianette should not be used solely as oral contraception. Contraceptive pills such as Dianette can have side effects such as headaches, breast tenderness, and nausea. Hormonal contraceptives also increase the risk Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source of blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis).

Insulin sensitizers

Metformin is a drug that improves insulin sensitivity, hyperandrogenism, and lowers insulin levels in women with PCOS. It also happens to be one of the most popular oral antidiabetic medications on the market today. Metformin's effectiveness Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source is most apparent as an adjunct therapy for moderate to severe acne, when it is administered with other treatments for acne, rather than being used alone.

Woman takes Metformin for PCOS

For women who don't begin to see benefits after 6 months of treatment, it is recommended to discontinue its use. Metformin can sometimes also be prescribed as an adjunct to weight loss programs for PCOS patients.

Topical treatments

Combining topical acne treatments with combined oral contraceptive pills is often recommended by doctors. Topical retinoids and antibiotics are prescribed for mild to moderate acne. The combination of topical retinoids and topical antibacterial products, available as creams and gels (such as Duac), has been proven an effective way of treating acne breakouts.

When applied topically, retinoids clear clogged pores, allowing the antibacterial product to work better. They also prevent outbreaks caused by dead skin cells. By reducing outbreaks, they may also reduce the formation of blemishes associated with acne scars. You might want to speak to a doctor about introducing this to your skincare routine.

Topical treatment for acne

While there are a number of topical treatments that combat PCOS-induced acne, it's important to remember that prescription contraceptives, may be more effective when used alone.

How can I get treatment for PCOS acne?

Contraceptive pills are one of the most popular treatments for PCOS-induced acne. Dianette can help you to control your hormonal levels so that you no longer suffer from symptoms of PCOS. If you are suffering from acne, you may wonder if Dianette is right for you. We understand that you may have questions or concerns about the severity of your acne, which are all valid - especially when it comes to the side effects of taking contraception and whether it suits your lifestyle or not.

In need of treatment?

Find out more here

Our online consultation is quick and easy. euroClinix’s trained health professionals will evaluate your answers and determine if Dianette is right for you. Feel more confident when making the decision about using Dianette and how it will help your PCOS-related symptoms.

If the treatment is right for you, our certified online pharmacy will deliver it to your door in discreet packaging. We are a certified online clinic and pharmacy, which means that your treatment will always be safe and effective.

*Any woman with symptoms of PCOS should consult with their GP or another women's health provider, such as an endocrinologist, gynecologist, or dermatologist for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. A dermatologist should be able to diagnose most skin conditions, including rosacea and acne.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 02-12-2023

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