Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Acne: Connection, Treatment, and More

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder characterized by excess male hormones called androgens, which are produced primarily in the ovaries. PCOS occurs most often in women between ages 15 and 40 years old, but it can occur at any age.1,2 The cause of PCOS remains unknown.3 There is no known cure for PCOS.4

Acne vulgaris is a common skin disease affecting up to 80% of young girls and women aged 12–30 years old.5 Acne refers to the appearance or inflammation of the sebaceous glands (oil producing glands located under the surface of your skin).6 Although there are many possible causes for acne, one theory suggests that genetic factors play a role in its development.7 Acne may result from a combination of environmental factors such as stress, poor nutrition, and excessive sun exposure.8

In addition to acne, PCOS is associated with other skin conditions including hirsutism (excessive facial hair growth), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hyperandrogenism (high levels of testosterone in the body), adrenal insufficiency, thyroid dysfunction, obesity and insulin resistance.9 These conditions increase your risk for developing certain types of cancer.


Several treatment options are available to help manage the skin conditions of hirsutism as well as PCOS and acne. The best course of treatment for you will depend on the extent of your symptoms and your own personal preference.10,11

The topical retinoid (vitamin A derivative) tazarotene (a.k.a.

Tazorac) is commonly used to treat acne and improve skin cell turnover.12,13 Azelaic acid (a.k.a. Finacea) is another effective acne treatment in the form of a topical cream or gel.14,15 Topical antibiotics such as erythromycin, clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide are also sometimes used to treat acne.16

Birth control pills may be used to treat the hormonal factors and acne associated with PCOS.17,18 Spironolactone (a.k.a.

Aldactone) is a medication that blocks the action of male hormones in women (called androgens). It is used to treat women with severe cases of PCOS and abnormal hair growth.19,20 Metformin helps your body use insulin effectively and lower your blood sugar levels. It is usually used to treat women with PCOS who also have diabetes.21

The treatment of hirsutism (excessive hair growth), PCOS and acne will vary from person to person and may include lifestyle changes as well as medication. The best course of action is to consult your family doctor or dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment options that are right for you.

More information about skin problems and treatments are available at the next article on skin problems.

Also read the article at how to get rid of stretch marks naturally.

Sources & references used in this article:

Correlation between endocrinological parameters and acne severity in adult women by F Borgia, S Cannavò, F Guarneri… – ACTA …, 2004 – academia.edu

Polycystic ovary syndrome and acne by SS Chuan, RJ Chang – Skin Therapy Lett, 2010 – skintherapyletter.com

Skin improvement with two different oestroprogestins in patients affected by acne and polycystic ovary syndrome: clinical and instrumental evaluation by L Colonna, V Pacifico, S Lello, R Sorge… – Journal of the …, 2012 – Wiley Online Library

Clinical manifestations and insulin resistance (IR) in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among South Asians and Caucasians: is there a difference? by CN Wijeyaratne, AH Balen, JH Barth… – Clinical …, 2002 – Wiley Online Library

Descriptive review of the evidence for the use of metformin in polycystic ovary syndrome by L Harborne, R Fleming, H Lyall, J Norman, N Sattar – The Lancet, 2003 – Elsevier

Diagnosis and management of the dermatologic manifestations of the polycystic ovary syndrome by EJ Lowenstein – Dermatologic therapy, 2006 – Wiley Online Library

Hyperandrogenemia association with acne and hirsutism severity in Croatian women with polycystic ovary syndrome. by NF Goodman, RH Cobin… – Endocrine …, 2015 – American Association of Clinical …

Pyoderma gangrenosum, acne, suppurative hidradenitis (PASH) and polycystic ovary syndrome: Coincidentally or aetiologically connected? by DB Pavičić, L Škrgatić, ZM Bukvić… – Acta …, 2013 – europepmc.org