If you struggle with chronic acne, an underlying syndrome you may have is something called PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
PCOS is a very common hormonal syndrome, allegedly affecting 5 to 10% of women. One of the common symptoms is acne.
So what the heck is PCOS and why does it seem to cause acne? And more importantly what DO YOU DO ABOUT IT so that you can stop struggling with your skin?
Is PCOS What’s Causing Your Acne Breakouts?
So despite the fact that it’s right there in the name — ie ‘poly cystic ovaries’, having cystic ovaries is not actually a defining feature of the syndrome, nor do you have to have cysts on your ovaries to have PCOS.
Yes, this is really dumb. There is currently a push to change the name so it can stop confusing the heck out of everyone as to what this actually is.
So there are only two things that are required for you to have PCOS. Those two things are:
- High androgen levels (aka male hormones). Eg. testosterone, DHEA-S, or adrostenedione. Diagnosed through a blood or saliva test.
- You don’t ovulate because of the high androgens. So you have irregular periods.
The possible side effects of having high androgen levels include oily skin and acne, hirsutism (excess hair on places like the beard area or chest), hair loss, mood swings, and weight gain.
Possible side effects of not ovulating are, well, infertility, low progesterone (causing its own host of symptoms including bad PMS), and cysts on the ovaries.
So, yes… — the cysts on the ovaries thing… Sometimes when you don’t ovulate, the eggs that were going to leave the ovaries start swelling and become cysts. Despite popular belief, the cysts don’t CAUSE the high androgens or lack of ovulation. It’s just another symptom.
Not everyone with PCOS has all of the classic symptoms. Remember, the only defining features are high androgens and lack of ovulation. How that actually translates into symptoms will be different for everyone.
The good news is that despite popular belief, you can definitely reverse your PCOS and the accompanying acne. All it is is a set of symptoms. It’s not a permanent condition.
So What DOES cause the high androgens in PCOS?
What is Causing Your PCOS and Acne?
Well this is very important to understand. Just knowing you have PCOS doesn’t tell you all that much in terms of how to actually treat it because there are many possible causes for it.
If you want to successfully put your PCOS into remission (and your acne), you will want to be barking up the right tree with your unique cause.
The Five Different PCOS Acne Profiles
Thanks to my gal Lara Briden, she has defined five different PCOS profiles.
Note that if you have acne and have shown high androgens on a blood or saliva test, but you do have regular periods and ovulation, read on. The following guide is still super helpful in sleuthing why your body may be over-producing those androgens.
Insulin Resistant PCOS Acne Profile
PCOS primarily caused by insulin resistance is by far the most common type of PCOS, and the only one doctors tend to know about. It accounts for about 80% of those with PCOS.
Insulin resistance is when your body just doesn’t respond to insulin very well anymore. This results in your body pumping out a ton of insulin when you eat, which prompts the ovaries to over-produce androgens, particularly testosterone and androstenedione. This leads to the shutting down of ovulation.
This person will typically have trouble with their weight, and break out easily from simple carbs and sugar (which spike insulin more than other foods). Note that you can also be normal weight and have insulin resistance, especially if you have a history of dieting or disordered eating.
A doctor can confirm you are insulin resistant with a glucose tolerance test. Although his probable solution if you are is to put you on birth control, the drug Metformin, and tell you to lose weight.
The treatment for this type of PCOS is generally a healthy low carb diet (in particular quitting sugar), strength training, supplements like Inositol to support your blood sugar, and yes, losing some excess weight. Sleep, stress reduction, and all the basics will help.
There is also some evidence that chronic inflammation is a major cause of insulin resistance, so inflammation will also need to be addressed if you have this type of acne. See inflammatory PCOS below.
Adrenal PCOS Acne Profile
Androgens aren’t all produced in the ovaries. A significant portion of androgens are made in the adrenal glands (aka the stress glands!)
Stressed out? Stress stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the androgen DHEA-S, so high levels of this hormone is something to look for on a saliva or blood test.
This stress is most often mental/emotional stress (like from a demanding job or a constant barrage of self criticism), but could also be excessive physical stress like over-exercising, under-eating, or lack of sleep.
Signs your adrenals are getting burnt out and may be the cause of your PCOS are feeling tired all the time (except maybe at night), not dealing with stress well, disturbed sleep patterns, and feeling worse after exercising. Not to mention chronic anxiety or feelings of mental burnout.
Treatment? Work on that stress. Learn to be kinder to yourself, reassess your life’s stressors, get some sleep, knock down the training if you are a chronic over-exerciser, and make sure you are eating enough calories.
Supplements to support your adrenals and HPA axis include adaptogens like rhodiola and nutrients like magnesium.
Inflammatory PCOS Acne Profile
A chronically activated immune system creates inflammation in the body. If you have PCOS but without the insulin resistance, then you may be an inflammatory type.
Mental and physical stress can increase inflammation, as can poor gut health. You may also be affected by environmental toxins or food intolerances.
Clues you have chronic inflammation include getting sick all the time or experiencing chronic infections. Also look for things like chronic digestive problems like bloat, diarrhea or constipation, autoimmune disorders, eczema, sore joints, or asthma.
You may also show inflammatory markers on a blood test such as Vitamin D deficiency, abnormal blood count, elevated C-RP, thyroid or autoimmune or gluten antibodies. High DHEA and/or androstenedione may have showed up on your tests.
Treatment — work on fixing your gut. Use probiotics and treat any possible infections like parasites, bacteria, or fungus. Reduce exposure to chemicals and plastics. Avoid inflammatory foods like A1 dairy, gluten, and sugar. Work on reducing mental stress as well.
Post-Pill PCOS Acne Profile
Lara Briden says this is actually the second most common type of PCOS. It occurs because the pill, by definition, disrupts the hormonal signaling from the brain to the ovaries, telling it to shut down ovulations so you don’t go making babies when you don’t want to.
Normally when you stop the pill, this returns to normal. In some cases, that doesn’t happen because the ratio of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) remain out of whack. These are the hormones responsible for telling your body it’s time to ovulate. So you don’t.
This is probably you if you had normal periods before the pill and now after going off of it, you no longer do. You also have high LH on a blood test, or normal LH and high prolactin.
Lara recommends the herbal treatment Poeny & Licorice. However, if your prolactin is high but LH is normal, then use Vitex instead. Wait three to four months after stopping the pill to take these and don’t use them for more than 10 months in a row. After three to four months of use, it should kick start your period and should stay regular.
Hidden Cause PCOS Acne Profile
If you don’t really fit into any of the above categories, there may be one simple thing that is stopping you from ovulating.
Lara includes on this list:
- Too much soy, because it’s an anti-estrogen and can block ovulation for some people. A small amount is ok.
- Thyroid disease, because your ovaries need T3 hormone
- Vegetarian diet, because it causes zinc deficiency and your ovaries need zinc
- Iodine deficiency because your ovaries need iodine
- Artificial sweeteners, because they impair insulin and leptin singling
- Too little starch in your diet, because your hormonal system needs gentle carbs (in other words, we shouldn’t go too low carb)
The Overlap of PCOS Types
Unfortunately our bodies don’t tend to fit into neat little boxes. There’s often quite a lot of overlap between the types.
For example, mental/emotional stress may be one of the biggest causes of adrenal type PCOS, but mental/emotional stress is also a major contributor to both insulin resistance AND inflammation.
It’s for this reason that often focusing on the basic principles of health will sort out many health issues you may experience, including PCOS and acne. It addresses all of these factors simultaneously.
The basics include:
- Eating a healthy whole foods diet low in sugar, processed, and inflammatory foods
- Reducing mental and physical stress where possible, and learning to respond to un-changeable stressors in a healthier way
- Getting solid sleep
- Getting regular exercise, but not overdoing it
- Eating enough calories, but not overdoing it
- Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins where possible (for example – in pesticides, in hygiene products, plastics, and household cleaners)
Once these are in place, some fine tuning may be in order, but most of the time covering these basics will do all the heavy lifting.
Have you been diagnosed with PCOS or suspect it? Do you see yourself in one of these categories?
Thank you so much Tracy for this article. I had been so distraught lately about what to do about PCOS. I have every single symptom but the one about being overweight. I am actually quite underweight and petite. Maybe one of these days you could make a article about this as well. You are a awesome example for keeping up your weight and still eating a healthy diet. I’m so tired of being stick thin and it really shows because I am 5’4. But anyways getting off topic haha I am definitely going to visit a natural practitioner. It’s really hard because I am on a strict budget, but my health is more important than anything. Again thank you so much please don’t atop doing what your doing. I check this blog almost everyday! Have a great day!
P.S – I love the dreadlocks ! keep them :))
Good luck Kristen 🙂 I hope you find the answers – it’s really hard when you’re on a budget, but I too feel like health is more important than anything else!
I find this article quite inaccurate especially the part about “bad genes not presenting themselves in healthy bodies” or something to that affect. I find his highly insulting as a 47kg healthy woman who has pcos. I do “all the right things”, always have done, always will. I’ve never smoked, done drugs n now don’t drink as I’m trying to conceive without luck. I take a million natural supplements n eat all the recommended pcos foods and exercise daily. You should really get your facts straight before making out they pcos is simply because women aren’t looking after themselves. Infertility sucks!
um WOW. thanks you SOOOOOOO much for writing this and responding to my request. you’re even more awesome than before <3
If you’re progesterone deficient, would this put you in the excess androgen category? And is bad PMS symptoms like extreme cramping, dizziness and weakness considered irregular/weird periods?
Progesterone deficiency is usually due to oestrogen dominance rather than excess androgens. Although as with everything else, stress, diet and environmental factors can all contribute to progesterone deficiency. Bad PMS is a big sign of progesterone deficiency alright, probably not considered irregular in today’s world sadly. I’ve not really heard of dizziness as a symptom of PMS before, but feeling very fatigued or having a lack of energy is most certainly typical of it and probably the closest thing to dizziness I can attribute. All the other symptoms you describe are pretty typical of PMS.
Kalyn – apparently irregular/weird periods could mean a lot of things. Most of the time, it means having very few periods in a year… but apparently it could also include periods that are extremely heavy with severe cramps, or even a continuous period.
Anyway ^^ yes, the majority of women with adult hormonal acne will have an estrogen dominance problem, not PCOS…. it sorta sounds to me like you’ve got that, but obviously I don’t know for sure
Hi Tracy, i LOVE your videos and website. I don’t have much acne, except a few breakouts now and then, but i’m overweight and i find holistic healing really interesting. I’d like to know if you think i can follow the same advice you give for acne in order to lose weight? For me, that would me sense! Also, do you know anyone that have a website and who could help me lose weight… someone who thinks a little bit like you about nutrition and health in general. I can’t seem to find any. Thank you, and keep inspiring people 🙂
Hey Chloe, I’m not Tracy but I just wanted to say that you can def. lose weight on the “acne diet”. Eating dairy-/sugar-/grain-free made me drop like 10lbs. in a few weeks. I’m a vegetarian anyway so no meat plus all the green smoothies, fruits and veggies made me really full and I couldn’t “overeat”, you know. HOWEVER, weightloss was not my goal because I’m already slim enough, so I def. have to watch not to UNDEReat and to get all nutrients (because of the lack of meat in my diet). Hope that helps!
Lol – don’t worry, I encourage people to respond to each other and help out – I learn things that way 🙂
But anyway… I agree with you Stella – yes you can lose weight if you need to! The beauty of treating your acne with diet and lifestyle is that it’s so not just targeted at acne… this stuff heals your whole body and helps you get rid of everything that might bug you health wise. So if you need to lose a few pounds, you will!
Hi Tracy, I am wondering, how long did you take vitex berry for? How does one know when to stop taking it
Hi J, check out this post by Lara Briden for the ins and outs of using vitex: https://www.larabriden.com/vitex-for-period-problems/
Great post Tracy – I always wondered how PCOS actually occurred in the body, and you laid it out very nicely and sensibly here.
I wondered if I had PCOS but the only symptoms I presented in the past were acne and irregular periods. I have a bit of excess hair on my lower back but my mother assures me I was born with it!(still I would like to get rid of it, maybe I can afford laser hair removal someday lol). I didn’t realise that you needn’t present all the symptoms in order to still have it.
I think this will be worth my looking into in the future as the only thing that cleared my acne in the past was going on birth control – and I’m currently off it now.
Great advice as always, I really love this blog 🙂
Hi Laura – it does sound like a possibility that you could have it – I do hear often of women who have it who don’t fit the typical PCOS profile
Hi Tracy, thanks for the article, you break it down really well. PCOS has been the bane of my life, especially the acne that came with it. I was diagnosed with PCOS 10 years ago & I must say my experience with treating it naturally has been trial & error. I’m slender, fertile, exercise, follow a paleo diet & still have acne. I take chinese supplements (jia wei xia yao san) which has the Peony & Licorice formula & truly helps keeping me on a regular cycle & happy. Recently I added Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan, which is popular for PCOS treatment, as it helps with diminishing the cysts on ovaries. So my hope is by having the regular cycle & getting rid of these nasty cysts on my ovaries, then I figure my acne would have to get better…I’m also doing your candida cleanse, so I leave no stone unturned!
I’m intrigued about this Symplex F. I’ve never heard of it, so I’ve read a bit about it & it makes sense why they use it for PCOS. I’d love to hear from anyone who has used it & what was the outcome. Thanks Tracy!
I’m sorry you’ve struggled with this for so long and it’s proving very difficult to get rid of…
Something that just came to mind from you comment is that perhaps it is possible to get rid of PCOS but still not fully get rid of your acne…. since many adults still have acne without having PCOS, there are obviously other causes – like candida and leaky gut. So I think you’re probably on the right track there! If the candida diet alone isn’t enough, look into the GAPS diet
Did you ever find a way to get rid of your acne?
Thanks for the info! Do you know if progesterone deficiency contributes to acne and if so, can it be controlled with a healthy diet and lifestyle? The reason why I wonder is because I eat pretty primal and am fairly active, but still have acne after 6 years. Last year, I was told by a natural pharmacist that I am progesterone deficient and I’m wondering if this is the reason why I haven’t been able to cure my acne.
Personally I think your acne is digestion related because of your history of hearburn/PPIs and the like (which can trickle down into weird hormones and things like estrogen dominance/low progesterone), but you probably could use supplements to help you regulate your hormones in the meantime like Vitex or Estroblock for example
I will check out those supplements! I also think it has mostly to do with digestion but never really educated myself on the “progesterone deficiency” thing. I’m stoked to go back home to Florida this summer. I’ve already got an appointment lined up with a ND. Since you know of most of the things I’ve been through relating to acne, would you recommend me requesting any specific tests when I go?
Thanks again for all of your help!
Probably food sensitivities would be the best idea – cutting out known known food sensitivities makes candida cleansing more effective for sure. Or, you could try the GAPS intro diet if you wanted, because it’s an elimination diet and you could see for yourself what you’re reacting to (while healing the gut at the same time)
I just took a look at the GAPS intro diet. To me, it seems like I would be starving all of the time, having to live off of broth then soup then eventually other soft foods. It just seems like a long, slow process and I’m nervous I may just get too hungry and give in to other, more solid foods. What are your thoughts on the GAPS diet? It seems intense but may be a good option at this point.
ugh =/ I have PCOS and have been following a grain/sugar free diet for 4 months and according to the pictures I’ve been taking of my skin, my acne has only gotten WORSE. I just decided to go on spiro because I don’t think the natural way is quite strong enough for me. My naturopath put me on different vitamins and reccomended I use a castor oil pack so I’ll continue all of that…but I just can’t keep waiting for the homeopathic thing to just kick in.
I suggest talking to your ND, and doing detox. Yes acne will get worse as mine did, but now after using Pekana liquid 3 kit detox, helped get things under control. Your skin is showing the signs of natural detox of the body, but with pcos we need a little help because are bodies are so stressed out with everything going on. Also, have your ND do a food sensativity test so that maybe gluten or dairy isn’t the culpret in assisting the breakouts. Both are worth the little bit of coin, and the detox is a 30 day easy to fit in your schedule kit. The food sensa. test is a little pricey where you might live, but it’ll save you thousands in the future, get rid of that emotional roller coaster, and reduce your acne to manageable levels to where it’s just a small pimple here and there. Good luck!
Hi Tracy, just signed up for the next Candida cleanse an hope this is just what I need at the moment! 🙂
Yay! I’m glad to have you on board 😀
Thanks for this article….I too have PCOS, and had cysts removed from both ovaries. I started developing acne primarily around my chin area when I was in my early 20s. With this being said, I had surgury 2 years ago to have my cysts removed, and started seeing a naturopathic, for more lyme disease than pcos, but with correcting my diet, exercising more, and going paleo (no dairy, but goat cheese only sparingly), and am now out of the vicious cycle of this glucose/insulin battle. Hormones have returned to good levels. I have been taking herbals and supplements for pcos. I have been taking Standard Process’s Mediherb chaste tree & femco(peony flower is in there) and also adrenal complex. Wonder what is different from Symplex F & Femco…Are any of your pcos/acne followers on this treatment as well, and how long have they been on treatment? I don’t want to be dependent on these herbals. Any research you can find with duration of use till they are off it???? Blood sugar excellent now, acne only flares up during menses, and I lost that cranky testosterone drive that was really dampening my relationship with husband. 🙂 Thanks!
Thanks for this article. This is something that really bugs me at the moment because I have excessive hair growth but I show no other symptoms of PCOS. My doctor seems to think I don’t have it, more hormone tests (blood tests) all come back normal (I’ve had 3 all at slightly different times in my cycle) and essentially told me there’s little they can do.
I’ve been given Vaniqua (a cream) but the side effects seem a bit scary! Sore and red skin and acne to name but a few! So naturally I’m really worried about using it!! My skin isn’t perfect but it’s a lot happier in general since I stopped using face washes and kept on with honey :).
Whatever the blood tests say I do want to get a saliva test because my acne is ALWAYS a lot worse around my hormonal time of the month! So I’m pretty sure there’s an imbalance there somewhere.
Is it possible to have PCOS with no other symptoms like me? What else could it be? Does anyone have any experience with Vaniqua?
Yes, I think it’s pretty common to have women with PCOS who don’t fit all the criteria… but if you have hirsutism and acne, that’s a couple of them? You might not have it, but doctors are pretty dismissive – but their blood tests aren’t that accurate. I always hear about women with acne and other symptoms of hormonal imbalances (not necessarily PCOS) whose blood tests at the doctor turn out totally normal, when if they have acne and other hormonal symptoms, their hormones are obviously NOT normal.
Anyway… I’d look into a saliva test, because you’re right, even if you don’t have PCOS, it would tell you something that could help your situation.
I don’t know anything about Vaniqua, sorry
Thanks for your reply – its just so hard when you have symptoms that really get you down and the Doctors tell you there’s nothing wrong with you!! And you’re like ‘are you blind’!?!
Thanks so much Tracy for writing about it! I have been sufering from PCOS for the last 3 years and it’s really sad =( Resistent acne is basically the only symptom i have, but it’s pretty severe. It also became worse since I have gone into a very stressful routine for the last year. I’ll try to follow your tips, specially the low-carb diet, although i think it will be really difficult, im used to eat a lot of carb.
Also, congrats for your wonderful website, you really make the difference and helps a lot of people!
Hello Tracy! I would like to ask for your advice on some issues relating to my pcos. I must begin by illustrating an idea of where I am coming from. Reading this article actually changed my life! Really! I came across it one night and realized pcos was one consideration for the root cause of my severe acne I had missed. Before I came across this article, I have not had a period in about a year. During that time, I failed to see any doctor or professional about it. I did a self diagnosis. I told myself it was because I was under constant stress in college taking more than the recommended number of credit hours. I have strayed away from carbs as much as I could and absolutely never, never refined sugar. I do however, have a weak point. I allow myself to over eat vegetables and fruit justifying that it is low in cards. I could easlily put away two heads of lettuce with a dozen plus kinds of different vegetable and still have room to eat an entire watermelon for dessert. I have come to realize this a major flaw in a healthy lifestyle. I am now committed to eating smaller portions. But I have completely cut away all dairy and red meat. The only other meat I would eat is shrimp or salmon. Here is where my issue comes up. Since my diet for years has always been strictly veggies, I had never stopped to think that I could develope insulin resistance by eating too much. I read the three stores you posted on the bottom of the pcos article about women who had beat their pcos. One of then however mentioned that she had to,cut out all “foods that grow”. Since I am struggling to balance my hormones without over eating I am thinking that this may be my answer. I have still not yet had a period. Do you believe that I will have to eat only meat? I am so used to eating vegetables and believing that plants do wonders for your skin and health. Won’t my body be depleted of the nutritional benifits that eating plant provide?
Thank you so much Tracy, I admire your wisdom!
Hi Lauren – the people who only eat meat are a bit extreme. I doubt you’d have to do that. I’d recommend just eating more of a balanced diet, and include lots of good fats that will fill you up and help you feel satisfied so that you don’t want to overeat. And if you don’t eat red meat now, try to incorporate some of it 🙂
Its Peter:) I just bought the 7 day candida cleanse. I must say I dont know where to start from im 17 and I do need some guidence. If you would please help me I would really appreciate it. Cant wait to start it:)
Hi Peter – there’s lots of step by step instructions given in the 7 Day Candida Cleanse PDF that you should have received when you signed up… go through it and then if you have questions, send them to my email (go to the contact page to get my email address). There will also be the private forums when the cleanse begins so you can ask me anything you want in there 🙂
Hi. I got diagnosed with Pcos a few months ago. I didnt have high levels of testerone or facial hair just really bad acne and hair loss. It gets me really upset every day i was wondering as time goes on will i get all the symptoms? also on my scan i didnt have large ovaries they were normal and had a few cysts but ive read that ovaries have cysts so how can they diagnoses me with pcos? i do have irregular periods. I use to drink thought 4 litres of coke every day from 15 to 23. i gave it up 4 weeks ago but was thinking that i might have caused my pcos by caffeine because doesnt caffeine mess with your insulin levels? so if i dont drink it anymore can i cure myself? also i dont know what foods and drinks to have? i have a lot of cereal and brown bread and chicken and fruit thanks x
I’m sorry to hear of your struggles with PCOS. I’m guessing all that soda may have had something to do with it… probably not the caffeine but the processed sugar content! I’m glad you’ve given it up!
If you want diet recommendations, I’d recommend reading up on the Weston A Price foundation and their diet guidelines and check out the cookbook Nourishing Traditions
thank you for getting back to me. so it is cureable i will read the book but just want to get rid of this disease. did you have pcos? i still have the really bad acne so want to clear that up too.
No I didn’t have PCOS (at least I don’t think I do), but there are many women who have gotten rid of PCOS or managed it through eating a healthier diet, exercise etc. And acne is just a side effect of PCOS, so by getting healthier to treat PCOS, you will be on the road to healing your acne too. Good luck Michelle 🙂
I recently just found out that I have pcos. The only symtoms I have are no periods and the ultra sound indicated that I have cysts on my ovaries. I am very much into supplements, so I wanted to get onto a protocol especially with Standard Process Supplemets. Any suggesstions? Symplex F, Chaste Tree, Ovex P, Adrenal?
i had a blood test and found out that i have high levels of testerones. Please advice on what i should do to reduce my testerone levels. Is Symplex f going to help me???//
Who the hell are you to say women with PCOS are “emotionally unstable as well.” ???
I’m sorry if that offended you Christina. It’s fairly well known that hormones can disrupt the emotions… I mean, women suffer with mood swings all the time at the hand of hormones (like with PMS). I was describing a “typical profile” meaning symptoms that are common in those with PCOS, not to say everyone with PCOS is emotionally unstable. Maybe that’s not the right word for it, perhaps mood swings was more appropriate.
I literally laughed out loud when I read this. Was this comment serious? It seems like she must have been kidding to prove the point? ARE YOU SAYING I HAVE MOOD SWINGS!? ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGH! 🙂
hahah I don’t know, I couldn’t tell … so I responded gently, but maybe she was just pulling my leg! lol
I’m beginning to wonder if I have PCOS. I have always been fit even if I don’t exercise at all and I eat as much as I like without gaining weight easily. I’m not too thin, I am not extremely curvy but my figure is kind of feminine. I also have regular periods. However, although I am slim and looked from the front my WHR looks perfect it is not because I have too much fat on my tummy (most people don’t notice it) which is not really a typical feminine thing and is more typical for men. The thing that has always always worried me is my body hair. I have hair on my breasts, chest, stomach, butt, I have a mustache (not at black as the body hair though). Recently the hair on my neck has been increasing. The worst is my skin is very white and the body hair is black. People always ask me why I’m embarrassed to be naked around other people (or wearing bikini) when I have a nice figure – well, that’s why. My skin is also very sensitive and and epilation and plucking leaves it irritated. Not to mention acne. I remember staring at the mirror as a teenager crying and wishing all the pimples and hairs could go away.
I have been to the obgyn a couple of times and they never said anything about PCOS. They also didn’t check my hormones, maybe they didn’t notice the excessive hair (I get rid of it religiously) or didn’t think it’s a serious issue. The last time the doctor said that one of the ovaries maybe has something more (I think it was cysts but I’m not sure) but she said it’s completely normal and I’m healthy.
Diet has influenced my acne but not my body hair. I still get cystic acne on my cheeks and around my mouth and although my forehead is clear (after cutting gluten and dairy, soy has never been a part of my diet and I’m too scared to introduce it) I still have some white and blackheads there.
I’m now trying the spearmint tea. There was a Turkish study where it helped women with hirsutism and many people on the net swear by it. I started it one week ago and today I had my ovulation and it was painful. I usually know my ovulation and it is not that painful. Not that it was extremely bad, just something I haven’t experienced before. I also take flaxseed. I wonder if all this means I have PCOS. I’m confused. I wonder if I’m doing the right thing with this spearmint tea but it looks like the only hope for hirsutism (and I’m not sure which is worse – acne or body hair).
Sorry for the long post, actually it’s the first time I ever talk about my hirsutism, even my closest friends or doctors don’t know about it. It’s just too embarrassing.
It sounds like you could have PCOS, for sure! You should go back to the doctor and insist they test you for it. It’s often that if you aren’t overweight, they will just overlook the possiblity of PCOS. Anyway… I mean you might not have it, but hirsutism and acne are indicators there is certainly a chance, and it would be really nice for you to just know.
I hope you are awere of that everybody has hair all over The body and face exept palms and under feets. Some have more than others, some have dark hair on The head, as well as the body. thats natural when you have darker skin f.ex. So it is a bit sad that you say that these people has hirsutism, because they have hair (and maybe acne). Humans are animal, born with hair all over The place ?
Well, right now it’s impossible for me to be tested and I cannot afford to buy the book. I read about it and it mentions low sex drive… Well, it definitely doesn’t apply to me! I have a very high sex drive, maybe even too high. Is it still possible? And my periods are very regular if I have sex or masturbate on a regular basis. I don’t know if this has anything to do with PCOS.
The spearmint tea has made my skin better, it’s almost perfect now, it’s too early to say anything about the body hair but this painful ovulation scared me… Is it possible that I am harming my body with this tea (it has proven antiandrogenic effect)? However, my sex drive seems unaffected by it…
I also sometimes have an uncomfortable feeling in my thyroid gland. And a constant cough – flaxseed has improved it drastically.
Thank you for the patience. It’s really disheartening to be the hairy monster with pimples…
Hi – First of all I wanted to send you a HUGE hug. I know how hard it is as a girl to talk about excess hair and how terrible it makes you feel.
I’ve recently been tested for PCOS and it turns out that I don’t have it. Like you I am a normal weight, normal periods etc, and my main symptoms are acne and excess hair. Apparently if your periods are normal you’re a long shot, still possible, but a lot less likely. Have you had any blood tests to test your hormone levels? Mine all came back normal anyway but that was the first stage for me.
I haven’t tried spearmint tea so I don’t know a lot about that tbh. I’ve heard of it but it’s not something I’ve tried.
Thank you so much. I can’t test my hormones now, I live abroad and I don’t have an insurance. So I have to wait till I go home or have enough money to have them tested here.
When I started spearmint tea my face became absolutely clear. But the painful ovulation scared me. I always feel my ovulation (maybe if I ovulate regularly it means I don’t have PCOS) but this time it was not normal. The pain started to disappear, I had another cup of tea and it came back again, this time stronger. Also I could feel my ovary really hard, I had never ever felt that before. I read that spearmint reduces you androgen levels but since they are still there, they just transform into estrogen. And excessive estrogen is a big problem. So when you take spearmint you should also do something for excessive estrogen (not sure what). And maybe you should drink the tea only five days a month like they did in the Turkish study. I don’t know. I consulted my homeopath and I’m taking a homeopathic remedy for the pain (most probably a cyst). I think homeopathy can help with these kind of problems. It certainly helped me with my kidneys and it always helps me when I catch a cold or a flu so maybe that is the answer. Try consulting a homeopath.
I am still not sure if I have PCOS, but I have similar symptoms. I had no acne problems when I was in high school, I actually didn’t worry about skin products or anything, but when I started college around spring, I started getting horrible acne. I have always been very irregular with my period but it didn’t affect me much. At first I thought it was just cystic acne, so I removed milk from my diet, and started taking saw palmetto pills. This helped a lot, and my period started after I was taking the pill for a month or so, but I still have cystic acne and whiteheads on my cheeks,although not as bad as what I had on my forehead. I don’t know what to do to get rid of the ones on my cheeks .I’m pretty sure it is my diet, since I have a sweet tooth..
After perusing your blog religiously for months in search of answers for my own acne issues, my close work with my naturopath has finally diagnosed me with PCOS. While I know it’s going to be an uphill battle to reverse it, I am so SO happy to finally know the reason behind my troubles–despite the great care I take of my health. Thank you so much for helping us all to ask more and more questions–the path to true healing is long and careful, and I wouldn’t have this answer if I had given up months ago and just taken a dermatologist’s antibiotic. You help many of us keep asking the questions necessary to finally hone in on the root of our acne, and, ultimately, ourselves. Thank you.
I have two question about the diet for PCOS, though: I am a vegetarian because I live in the states and I find our meat industry appalling and immoral. I would not be able to live with myself for going back on this decision, so I am posed with a dilemma as far as the PCOS diet. Is meat necessary?
My second question is about the amount of carbs/sugar that I should allow myself. The idea of limiting myself too much also makes me sad, as life is just more fun with leeway and not stressing too much about food. It worries me, as I have been obsessive about foods in the past, that this will not be healthy either. I know you mention that each person is different, but a general ballpark might help me with this question.
Again, thanks for your amazing resource, and your tenacity for helping. It really does make a huge impact.
Im sorry to hear you have been diagnosed, but I am very happy to hear that you now know what is wrong!
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if the low carb diet that is generally prescribed for PCOS is actually a cure for it. From reading that I have been doing (since writing this article), it kind of sounds like it just manages the symptoms… so if you do the low carb paleo thingy, then it should work to keep your symptoms away, until the minute you stop doing it. I encourage you to read gokaleo.com … this woman had PCOS, and eats a mainly plant based diet (although she is adamantly against diet dogma and rules) and basically cured all her problems by strength training and eating enough whole foods to get enough calories to support a “metabolic balance” ….. anyway…. just go to her site. You’ll like it.
I am so glad that you have a ND helping you out! Diet is so very important when dealing with this ailment. I do want to mention that it’s truly about hormones especially insulin. Most PCOS have insulin resistence in which the body doesn’t properly utilize insulin when it’s fired off from the pancreas. There is a symbiotic relationship with the liver and pancreas, and then thyroid/adrenal/gonads or ovaries. Therefore please note that liver congestion is one of the root causes as well as getting the right nutrition into the body-malaborsorption issues or vitamin deficiencies another root cause to PCOS. The liver controls the reproductive hormones and the pancreas fires off insulin when foods enter the body. Even vegans/non meat eaters can heal from PCOS-it just takes longer imo with supplement support, and finding the fruits and vegetables that do not trigger high response to insulin requirements. Someone can eat potatoes and another can not due to their tolerance to insulin response. By going low carb/paleo allows the body to rebalance and absorb vital nutrients the body needs to heal and “reset”. Everyone will have what is called a set point for the amount of carbs allowed that doesn’t trigger excessive insulin spikes. Some start with 30 grams of carbs from whole foods for about 2 weeks and then add 10 every week until they feel ill or weight gain. I also do want to suggest having food sensativities testing done. I recovered very quickly when I found out what foods were causing my insulin to go astray/digestion issues/resistance causes. I hope this helps with the low carb question. Best of luck, and yes you can be in remission with PCOS like I am 🙂
thanks so much for this. i should get my simplex f from standard process tomorrow. i hope it helps. i have had pcos since i was 1. i am 31 now. i am not doing so well, y periods are more regular since going paleo, and i have lost weight but i have the worst anxiety and panic attacks. maybe its hormone related cause nothing is helping. any advice on anxiety? please say i am not alone
i means since i was 17 🙂
From what I’ve heard about serious anxiety is that the way to stop it is to accept it. I know, sounds weird, but apparently this is coming from serious anxiety sufferers who found this was the only thing that worked. Since we’re always trying to push away the anxious feelings, it really harms our nervous system. By accepting the feelings and just letting them be there, paradoxically they go away and allow your nervous system to relax and heal. For more of what I mean, maybe check out this article for more info: https://thelovevitamin.com/5043/do-you-want-to-be-happy-stop-trying-to-be-happy/
Hi there everyone, there is hope for pcos sufferers! I was diagnosed at 19 after two emergency room admittances to hospital for Heavy periods. I had acne, irregular periods– either none or weeks of continual menstrating–, weight gain and male pattern hair growth. My husband and I struggled for 8 years to conceive. We adopted our beautiful little girl when she was 8 months old . When she was 15 months old I became really ill and was laid up for two weeks. Turns out I was pregnant!! Our beautiful baby boy was born on our daughters 2nd birthday.
I have turned to the fast metabolism diet and this is working for me, it’s about balance and soothing the body to help it do what it should be doing. As for the hair growth — I have a great beautician. My skin is a lot better since I had my baby and when I follow my healthy eating plan.
that‘s great to know! Also, I feel that your comment can be extremely encouraging for many other girls suffering from PCOS. I wish you all the best for you and your little family. 😀
Lots of love,
Hey Tracy! I would like to add that another symptom of PCOS is crazy oily skin (maybe that’s assumed with the excess androgen). I have just started taking saw palmetto and in ONE day have noticed a decrease in sebum production. I don’t fit all the symptoms of PCOS, like you said most woman don’t, but I have absolutely tried everything to treat my acne and finally with manuka honey, hemp oil, saw palmetto and dim….. I might finally have arrived at clear town too. IDK, lets see.
Woohoo! Let’s hope so 🙂
I am 26yrs old and was diagnosed with PCOS and Endometriosis on April 2013, I am 5’5 and I was 148lbs when diagnosed. I was recommended by my good friend to consult her Dr (Holistic btw!). My Dr has a wonderful staff, which includes; a nutritionist, an exercise therapist and a family counselor. My wonderful Dr, the nutritionists, the exercise therapist, my wonderful husband’s support and my AMAZING will power helped me start and continue a grain-free & refined sugar-free diet. I also now work out 4-5 days per week. My workouts include running. I now enjoy a good run and Im loving my progress!! Im down to 135lbs and have lost 2 pant sizes since. More importantly, Im so excited to share that after a whole year of no periods, my body began to menstruate on its own in May! Thats right, a month after I began my new lifestyle!! My body is still under construction and I feel even better now than I ever did! My next ultrasound is in Oct. We will be seeing the inner changes. Hopefully the transformation is as good on the inside! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me! Good luck and dont lose hope! 🙂
Yay Helen, that’s awesome! Thanks for offering hope and inspiration for other PCOS sufferers
Great article! I’ve always thought my acne would go away when I got out of puberty, but it just keeps getting worse, and I’m 18 now. 🙁 When I read this I realised I have symptoms I haven’t even recognised before. I feel a bit reluctant to the diet, that’s probably what has made me deny the possibility of me having PCOS. My “diet” includes gluten and dairy, I’m underweight, so what I eat has never been of concern to me before. I’ll definitely try this out, I used to be on the pill, it made my periods regular but the mood swings were extreme. Hopefully the diet can change my periods without messing up with the hormones. 🙂 Thanks again, for writing this article that made me open my eyes!! (Sorry for my English, btw!)
I was so happy to come across this article! I’m 33 yrs old and I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 17. I had never had a period before then. My doctor prescribed me orthotricyclen and I’ve been on it for all but 1 of the last 16 years. It really helps to regulate my cycle and helps with the acne. While off the pill, my skin was horrendous. I had horrible acne. I’m pretty much a text book example of PCOS symptoms – acne, no period, facial hair (thank goodness for wax), trouble keeping my weight down, particularly in my mid-section. Anyway, I’ve never been comfortable taking bc all these years, but my doctor (who is not the one who diagnosed me) doesn’t seem concerned, which concerns me. :-\ Also, it seems to not be effective anymore. My skin is getting bad again and it’s pretty much impossible for me not to have a belly, regardless of how much I exercise. I’ve been looking into grain free/sugar free diets just for my general health and wondered what effect it might have on my PCOS. I’m hoping to be able to stop taking the bc and be healthier overall. This really gives me hope! Thank you!
Hi Lindsey, yes you can definitely reverse PCOS with diet and lifestyle – good luck 🙂
When I was 14 I had my first period. I was just having regular periods, like everyone else. At the age of 15, an older girl told me of this magic ‘pill’ that solved all her acne. By that time my acne was almost completely gone, because I started eating better. I went obsessed right away. She was talking about diane 35 btw. So, while my acne was barely even a problem anymore, I wanted to go on it so bad. My doctor prescribed me the pill and I felt like I could eat sugars and stuff again. Before going on the pill it felt like a punishment not to eat sugars en chips and stuff. About 8 months later I stopped taking it and my period just came back after around 3 months. Acne was barely even an issue. At the age of 16 I got a new boyfriend and decided to go on the pill again (again diane 35…) I broke out a little when I started, but soon all my acne faded. At the age of 18 I decided to stop the pill AGAIN. And that was the worst nightmare ever… I started breaking out like crazy! Especially on the chinn, forehead, and between the eyebrows. It was so bad that I went back on the pill after a few months. In the hospital they sad I had pcos. They could see the little cysts on the ulstrasound (or something? sorry I’m from Europe!). My bloodlevels were normal… no increaed testosteron, no insulin resistance… I don’t take diane 35 anymore, but a pill called ethinylestrodial/desogestrel. We call it ‘mercilon’. It’s a light pill that slightly fights androgens. I can’t say that it doesn’t work at all, but I’m still breaking out daily. My breakouts are especially black and whiteheads, I never get cystic acne. It kind of frustrates me that I still break out, even because I try to eat healthy. It’s also hard to make good choices for food, because I’m so skinny (always been) and I feel like I can’t cut out too much carbs… I only eat the whole grains though…
Well, that’s pretty much my story. Never thought that my acne would be worse at the age of 23 than at the age of 15 *_*
I get the occasional painful cyst-type acne (I am in my mid 20’s and this is a recent development).I have pretty sensitive dry/normal combo skin and other treatments I have tried have just made me peely and flaky.
I have been using Citrus Clear Control products for a month. At first the treatment was a little drying so I went to using it every other night and now I am applying it every night following it up with the moisturizer. My skin is DEFINITELY clearer. It is still a little irritating every once in awhile but I have not had any peeling/redness. It definitely stops the cyst-type acne from coming back.
this sounds good! It’s great you found a solution for your skin!
Thank you for this. PCOS is currently ruining my life, and I am going to try some of these things to try to restore my health, my figure, and hopefully some sanity!!!
I have been diagnosed with PCOS while getting infertility treatment which resulted in quadruplets. I have only one symptom of PCOS, and that’s acne. I am athletic and typically eat well, and my periods have always been 28 days and predictable to the hour practically. I had one child naturally before my quadruplets. Does that mean PCOS gets worse as time goes by?
I think I am going through peri-menopause, as for the last 3 months, my periods have been coming early, thank goodness they are still light, I have been doing raw organic juicing in a last ditch effort to clear my skin, but I know that it wont last long. I have lost 5 lbs in 4 days, and I dont really want to lose more, but I am at a loss as to what to eat.
I went to my GP, and she wants to put me on Diane35 (the pill) and gave me retenoid cream which wouldn’t fix my problem. I am looking to reduce my risk of diabetes and affiliated problems associated with PCOS. As I wait to find a good Dr, and possibly see an endocrinologist, I need to do what I can for myself with diet, Is there any programs or diets you would suggest to leave me with something I can do in the meantime? Also, will I start to get other symptoms? As my acne has got severe only in the past 3 months. I used to get one cystic pimple right before my period, but now I am breaking out constantly in my chin and cheek area.
Hi~I’ve been struggling with hormonal acne since I was 19. It came on rather suddenly and was accompanied by periods that were horrid.. I’m talking, I had symptoms of shock for the first day, every month without fail. As a teen, I had beautiful skin and normal periods. I became pregnant and my skin was immediately beautiful but 10 months postpartum, the acne started coming back. My GP only suggests the pill of course. I haven’t asked about PCOS but would they have seen cysts on my ovaries during pregnancy ultrasounds if I had it? I’ve tried so many natural supps. I was taking dong quai and DIM before I got pregnant and I remember my skin being slightly better. I’ve been taking liver supps, DIM, and vitex but haven’t seen improvement (4 months). Any suggestions as to what the heck is wrong with me? I eat very healthy, am thin. No excessive hair but dry skin, hair and..um.. feminine areas. Low libido, depression, fatigue, acne on chin and jaw only. Everything makes me think low estrogen actually but can’t find any info on it.
I found your blog about 1.5 years ago and its helped me tremendously!!! I’ve been suffering from cystic horrible acne since I was a teenager. I’m 29 now. I did the birth controls for years and they helped but I think I was just masking the problem. I decided to get off BC about a year ago when I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease and the BC was messing with my blood sugar. To make a long story short, I have PCOS. Most doctors don’t take me seriously and brush off all my symptoms. I had been in the ER for ovarian cysts, have excessive hair, thinning and losing hair on my head etc. The list goes on.
Anyhow I tried the Estroblock and the Liver supplements. They helped for a bit and then my acne started on full rage again. It was odd. Throughout the last year I’ve experimented with a few things with my naturopath and settled on caveman regiment, grape seed and tamanu oil, Manuka honey (thanks Tracy!! 🙂 ), a DIM supplement since Estroblock didn’t work for me (DIM Avail by Designs for Health), Vitex, Omega 3 (3x daily!), Chinese Herbs (Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan) and D-chiro-insitol or (DCI). I’m not sure if you’ve heard of DCI (D-chiro-insitol) or had anyone who has tried it but its been a miracle for me. It’s a form of Vitamin B. My skin is almost 100% clear since I started taking this stuff. I haven’t had a cystic pimple now in 2 months. It’s almost too good to be true. I’ve been taking 1200mg a day. I had an initial breakout at first and then its been wonderful. The ONLY downside is I gained 10 lbs out of no where within 2 weeks. It’s odd because I maintain a very healthy diet – no gluten, dairy, lots of veggies, fish, lean meats. I work out 3x a week +. I can’t seem to lose the weight but i’ve lost inches so its not too terrible. I’m dropping the dosage down to 600mg to see if my weight changes.
I wanted to share because I struggled so much with this and I know there are girls with similar issues as me and sometimes you have to see what works for your body. Do you know anyone how has tried DCI and had good results ?
Furocyst is a natural and promising dietary supplement effective for management of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS),a chemically proven and US patented medicine.
By the grace of All Mighty..a complete cure for PCOS has been found. I’m from India and there is a three month treatment for PCOS in the field of medicine called ‘Unani’ that deals with herbs and other natural ingredients.
I have been following this blog for a while now and today i felt like i should share my story because i was a victim too. I had endometriosis for 18 years and i never thought i would ever get a cure due to the terrible symptoms i had and this made it impossible for me to get pregnant even after 12 years of marriage and it was a serious issue. I got to know about Dr. Aleta who treated someone and the person shared a story of how she got a cure and let her contact details, i contacted Dr. Aleta and she actually confirmed it and i decided to give a try too and use her herbal medicine that was how my burden ended completely. My son will be 2 this december and i am grateful to God and thankful to her for medicine too. If you have (Endometriosis, PCOS, Fibroid, Ovarian cyst, Ectopic Pregnancy or any infertility issues) just reach her on (aletedwin @ gmail. com) she has professional advise and a cure too.
This is off-topic, but I’m curious about nutritional yeast (brewers yeast). I read it can clear the skin (when eaten as a supplement). I actually tried it about 3 weeks. My skin became beautiful, should I say almost luminous…But I was also on holiday, it’s summer, so I eat much more fresh fruits etc, sun and be more outside, I also took astaxanthin, so who knows…:)
It is said to have many b vitamins, but I don’t know how this yeast is different than ordinary vitamin b supplements? Does the yeast have some extra “magical” qualities? I have also heard this yeast can have estrogenic effect…I don’t know, why would yeast contain estrogen or affect estrogen levels and how much? So is this safe if someone (like me), have some hormonal imbalance? Do you know something more about brewers yeast, have you tried?
Hi TT, ah I have never heard of nutritional yeast clearing acne. As mentioned, it’s supposed to have lots of B vitamins, but that’s not a guaranteed miracle cure! People will say anything is a miracle cure for acne.