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Living with PCOS: 9 Ways to Cope with Acne + Hair Growth

These symptoms may be less serious, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating.

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Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, can cause a long list of frustrating symptoms. They’re caused by an imbalance of hormones, mainly an excess of androgens (the “male” hormones). Learn more about PCOS symptoms here.

PCOS is most known for causing irregular ovulation—that is, the ovaries do not consistently release an egg during the menstrual cycle. As a result, people with PCOS frequently have missed periods, and infertility or trouble getting pregnant is common. (Here are other potential causes of a missing period.)

Treatment tends to focus on regulating the menstrual cycle and improving fertility. That means other less serious PCOS symptoms, such as acne, unwanted facial hair and excess body hair, may be lower on the priority list. However, finding ways to cope with these symptoms can improve self-esteem and quality of life.

Coping with Unwanted Hair Growth from PCOS

Because of the excess androgens, people with PCOS may experience male-pattern hair growth, such as on the face and chest. Here are possible ways to deal with unwanted hair growth:

  • Plucking with a tweezers is a cheap way to remove hair at home. This may be particularly useful for small amounts of unwanted hair, such as on the upper lip.

  • Waxing is another affordable way to remove hair, and it allows you to remove hair from larger areas than plucking does. Waxing can be done at home or in a salon.

  • Depilatory creams, such as Nair or Veet, are over-the-counter, topical medications that can remove hair from the chin and upper lip. They basically “dissolve” your hair below the skin. The best part? They’re painless.

  • Prescription creams, such as Vaniqa, are also available to slow down facial hair growth. By slowing down hair growth, you’ll be plucking and waxing less frequently.

  • Electrolysis is an option for long-term hair removal, but it can be pricey. It works by sending an electric current into the hair follicle.

  • Laser hair removal is similar to electrolysis, but it works by giving mild radiation to the follicle. 

Talk to a doctor or dermatologist to learn more information about these hair removal options, and which ones may be right for you.

Coping with Acne from PCOS

No matter the cause, acne can be difficult to deal with. What makes treating acne especially challenging is that it can take weeks or even months to see changes from a new skin routine, so it takes persistence and patience to find what works.

Here’s what experts recommend for reducing acne caused by PCOS:

  • Oral contraceptives have been shown to reduce PCOS-related acne. If you decide to go this route, it’s important to take your oral contraceptives every day at the same time. Learn more about the Pill here.

  • Anti-androgen medications can help block the effects of androgen hormones, such as testosterone. Since many of the symptoms of PCOS are fueled by androgens, blocking these hormones can block the symptoms.

  • A good skin care regimen is obviously essential, but there’s no one perfect routine that works. The right skin care routine for you depends on your skin type, your budget, and even the climate where you live. (Here are daily habits that make acne worse.)

If your acne is severe and you’re having trouble finding something that works, meet with a dermatologist to learn about your options and find the individualized routine that’s best for your skin.

One more thing: Research has shown that a healthy lifestyle and weight loss tends to reduce PCOS symptoms—including acne and unwanted hair growth—and it can also reduce the risk of insulin resistance. Learn more about the link between PCOS and insulin resistance here.