PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, affects 6-10% of fertile age women. It can affect the skin, cause hair loss and acne. There is no known cause for this disorder and it appears to result in overproduction of male hormone from the ovary. Very often PCOS is also linked to insulin resistance. Below is a summary of the PCOS effect on the skin.
Acanthosis nigricans is a skin disorder that causes darkening and thickening of the skin in the armpit, groin and back of the neck folds. Low glycemic diets and workouts can help reduce body weight and decrease insulin resistance. Retinoids, glycolic acid, and TCA peels can also help lighten the skin and reduce dark patches.
Hirsutism is a condition in women that results in excessive growth of dark or coarse hair on the chin, sidelocks, chest, tighs and nipple area. It is caused by excess male hormone secretion. Treatment involves weight reduction to control the serum sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Additionally, laser hair removal can help with unwanted hair.
PCOS Acne is difficult to treat as it is resistant to general acne treatments. It affects the lower part of the face, and tend to flare before the menstrual period. Treatment can take longer than 3 months. The main focus should be on reduce androgens and control inflammation with supplements such as Vitamin D, magnesium and zinc.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis can affect oily parts of the skin such as the skin around the nose, between eyebrows and behind ears. It can also cause oily scalp and dandruff. An increase in oil production results in excess Malassezia yeast which can cause inflammation. Daily treatment with salicylic acid or ketoconazole shampoo can help reduce the fungus and inflammation.
Skin Tags are a less common PCOS symptom. They are small skin growths that can become large enough to catch on your clothing or jewellery. Skin tags are harmless and are easily treated. Diathermy is a safe and very effective procedure that uses an ultrarapid radiofrequency to remove skin tags.
Melasma and PCOS are often connected as they both result from hormonal imbalances. But just because you have melasma, it doesn’t mean you have PCOS. It is important to treat any hormonal imbalances first as melasma can be very difficult to treat and it has a high recurrence rate. Skin consultation with a skin specialist is a must to achieve optimal results.
Although PCOS can’t be cured, overweight and obese women can help balance their hormones by losing weight. Otherwise, treatment is aimed at managing the symptoms. Diet also plays an important role – avoid high GI foods, sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, alcohol. Additionally, Vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 are particularly important in optimizing hormonal balance in PCOS.
Every person’s case, concerns and treatment options are different. Your GP should be the first point of contact to address any hormonal imbalances. A consultation with a skin specialist can help solve any skin concerns you may have.