Is acne a key skin feature in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Dr. Daniel A. Dumesic, MD
Fertility Specialist

The reason acne is a warning sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is because the hair follicle also has a sebaceous gland associated with it. Sebum (the semi-fluid that sebaceous glands excrete) can block the sweat glands, and bacteria can enter into the sweat glands and cause acne. That can occur faster than the growth of a hair follicle, which tends to have a turnover rate on the face of about four months. So acne can be a prodromal (early) feature of PCOS. The problem is that there’s no uniform way of measuring it. Therefore, doctors will combine acne as a symptom with other laboratory data to determine whether it may be related to PCOS.

Dr. Susan G. Bershad, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Yes, there are 3 ways PCOS shows up on the skin: acne, excess facial and body hair, and thinning scalp hair. All three are caused by high levels of androgen hormones, such as testosterone. Teenage girls and women may suffer from PCOS, a condition that can be diagnosed by a pediatrician, internist, endocrinologist, gynecologist, or dermatologist. It makes sense to be tested for PCOS and other causes of abnormal hormones if you have 2 or more of these symptoms: acne, excess hair on your face or body, thin scalp hair, irregular menstrual periods, a deepening voice, or excess weight around your middle.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Acne can be a warning sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal condition in women of childbearing age. PCOS alters a woman's hormones, menstrual cycle and fertility. Symptoms include missed or irregular periods, small cysts in the ovaries, male-pattern baldness and increased hair growth on the face and body. PCOS also causes an increased production of insulin in a woman's body. Extra insulin increases androgen, a steroid hormone in the body. Hormonal changes make women more sensitive to an increase in androgen and that can lead to acne. Talk to a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in treating skin, nail and hair conditions) about how to treat acne that's a symptom of PCOS.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.