Updated: Jul 26
How I Healed My PCOS Acne Naturally
Although it’s a sensitive topic for me, I wanted to dive into the world of PCOS acne and how I naturally healed and manage my acne.
I have been wanting to write this post for soooo long but honestly just didn’t really know where to start.
Our skin is our body’s largest organ so I think it’s safe to say when it doesn't look how we want it to look, our self-esteem, mood and overall well-being can REALLY suffer.
For me having acne has been the PCOS symptom I have struggled with the most, it has really affected my mental and emotional health on many levels. PCOS acne is something that I still manage on a daily basis but thankfully over time due to an increased understanding (and also trial and error) I have really learnt how to manage my acne, and what to steer clear of to avoid a flare ups.
I’m writing this article to hope that it will help to educate others on what PCOS acne actually is, and to hopefully inspire other acne suffers to see that there are things you can do to help heal and manage acne in a natural way.
Although sharing my acne journey is REALLY hard for me (it honestly makes me anxious just looking at photos of how my skin used to be) I hope that by sharing it you may find some insights from my own experience that may help you.
So, What Causes Acne?
To keep it simple acne occurs when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria.”
PCOS is a hormonal disorder which causes a woman's testosterone levels to spike, leading to an excess of oily sebum production which is often the root cause of breakouts. PCOS acne often develops in awkward spots, like at the angles of your neck and jawline, and is often very painful.
However, its important to understand that the reason you suffer from acne may be different from why myself or why your friend suffers from acne, for example it could be linked to diet, stress levels, hormone imbalances or genetic.
But regardless of whether your acne is PCOS related or not, the natural treatments I’ve used can relevant for anyone is suffering from acne.
So to break it down, here are my top tips for healing PCOS acne!
Eat To Control Blood Sugar
Interestingly acne is more widespread in western populations who follow high-GI diets laden with sugary foods.
Having been a vegetarian since I was 9 and then moving to a plant based diet, I have always been very accustom to eating a diet high in carbohydrates (unfortunately the vegetarian options always seem to revolve around carbs!).
SO I had to learn how to eat to ensure I keep my blood sugars balanced, and this meant not overdoing it with the carbs and steering clear of sugary foods.
How does this affect acne?
Eating sugary, high glycemic foods increases levels of insulin, which is a hormone that shuttles sugar out of your blood and into your cells where it can be used for energy. This stimulates the release of other hormones, including testosterone.
This increase in hormones leads to excess sebum production, which can result in acne.
The Benefits of A Plant-Based and Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Although I was already vegetarian before, it was not until I decided to really commit to a plant based diet that I started to notice some big differences in my skin.
The reason that ‘plant based’ diets work so well for many conditions including acne is that they are incredibly anti-inflammatory (which can help to actively reduce acne) PLUS they are packed with ALL the good nutrients minus B12 which can easily be supplemented) our bodies needs to work at an optimal level and help keep our hormones balance
I genuinely believe switching to a plant based diet has been one of the most significant ways I have naturally healed my PCOS acne.
Eating plant-based foods has helped me become more conscious of what I put into my body (not to mention the incredible impacts it has in terms of animal welfare and global warming YAY).
The reason I like to refer to it as a plant based diet rather than ‘vegan’ is that plant based has the emphasis on EATING MORE PLANTS, so foods that are closer to their natural plant form, however I have found with the term ‘vegan’ foods can be super processed/ sugar laden ie foods like Oreos are vegan, but that doesn't make them healthy.
Regardless of whether you go fully plant based, or just decide to add more plants into your diet you hormones (and skin!) will thank you for it.
If you’re wondering what specific dietary changes I’ve made on top of the above, some examples include:
Choose organic fruit and veg (Many fruit and veg are spray with endocrine disrupting chemicals so if you can always choose organic)
Eat more cruciferous vegetables (they contain loads of vitamins and minerals and the fibre helps to remove excess hormones)
Ground flaxseed (source of omega 3 and helps to detoxify system and eliminate excess oestrogen)
More good fats with every meal- nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, dark choc
Cut out gluten (it can be inflammatory so cut it our for a few months and then slowly reintroduced it if you must, I personally still try to avoid it 80% of the time)
Have a bigger breakfast in the morning (helps to stabilise blood sugar and is proven to help fertilty)
Ditch dairy products
Cut out processed foods
Stick to low GI fruits such as berries
Cut out alcohol (Once my body was in a more balanced state i now occasionally have aglass of champagne at weddings etc)
Cut out coffee (I stick to tea or will have an almond chai tea or turmeric latte)
Drink medicinal herbal teas (I get all my favourite herbs from Cysterhood tea)
I also have loads of recipes which you can find on my blog to help inspire you!
The Best Herbs and Supplements For Acne
PCOS acne relates to a hormonal imbalance within your body. That’s why it’s important to understand what herbs and supplements can help with hormonal imbalances and testosterone reduction.
Whilst everyone is different, I have found herbs and supplements to be one of the most effective tools when it comes to balancing my hormones and healing my acne.
So what do I recommend when it comes to herbs and supplements?
Well, firstly, it’s important to look at the ingredient label. Make sure the supplements you choose are of the highest quality, easily absorbed and chemical-free. Using supplements or buying low quality herbs can have counterproductive effect.
Some herbs and supplements I have found have helped with my acne are:
Mongolian sea buck thorn (Contains omega 7 and helps to control free-radicals and to reduce inflammation)
Spearmint leaf (Anti inflammatory and proven to help lower testosterone levels)
Stinging nettle leaf (Powerful detoxification herb to remove of excess hormones)
Zinc (Great for inflammation and can help to increase healing time)
Ladys mantle (Great for wound healing, repairing damaged skin and good for eczema and acne)
Alfalfa leaf (Highly nutritious and helps to reduce acne and large, visible pores
Berberine (Proven to help insulin resistance and powerful anti inflammatory)
Probiotics (Helps to decrease inflammation, increase good bacteria and fight of harmful bacteria that cause acne
CBD oil (reduces inflammation and production of sebum and fights bacteria on the skin)
A note on herbs-
I became so passionate about how much herbs have helped me on my own acne and PCOS journey that I created a powerful hormone balancing blend of herbs (working with a naturopath) that help with the many frustrating symptoms of hormone imbalance and PCOS, including acne.
If you would like to find out about the exact herbs I’ve used to create Cysterhood tea click here
Stress and PCOS seem to be a common topic, in fact studies have shown that women with PCOS produce higher than normal amounts of stress hormones, and unfortunately we don’t metabolise them well either.
In normal circumstances, we would become alarmed at something, our stress hormones, like cortisol, would increase, and then when the threat subsided our cortisol would lower, and our blood levels of stress hormones would lower too, this is the light or flight response.
However studies show that women with PCOS tend to have higher than normal cortisol levels, often resulting in an over production of androgens which can lead to many PCOS symptoms, including acne.
Some of my favourite ways to reduce stress include:
Getting out into nature/ earthing
Having a bath
Getting a massage
Drinking a cup of tea
There are soooo many other things you can do, just make sure its something you enjoy and take 30- 60 mins out of your day to dedicate some for yourself
Lifestyle Changes To Help Acne And The Appearance Of Acne
Our physical appearance is intrinsically linked with our overall well-being, particularly our mental and emotional health.
There were many days when my acne affected me so much it stoped me from going out, seeing friends and even made me want to hide from my husband because I was so embarrassed by the way I looked… I a professional model and yet my skin looked like a pubescent 15 year old boys skin.
Switching to all natural products:
One of the biggest lifestyle changes I made was turfing ALL my current skincare and makeup and switching over to natural, chemical free products.
Honestly this was hard in the beginning as I would find one or two good products but I continued to use other chemical laden products, so It wasn't until I really committed to switching over all my products that I started to see results.
Yes, it was expensive but to do, but I figured it was an investment into my health. Its also really made me look at how many products I was using and made me realise I didn’t need half the stuff I had so in many ways long term it has saved me money as I now use less products overall.
I now cleanse, tone and moisturise every morning and night, gently exfoliate twice a week and do a leave on hydrating/ purifying mask when I sleep
Depending on how my skin is going that day/ week I may do a clay mask or spot treatment using bentonite clay mixed with apple cider vinegar.
I also often use specialised serum or oils to hydrate/ reduce inflammation if needed.
I am going to put links to my favourite brands I use here , I am not endorsed by these brands I just genuinely believe in them and their products.
One of my fave skin care brands ‘Edible Beauty’ also gave me a 20 % discount code (which is actually HUGE!) to share with my followers (you!) which you are welcome to use if you would like to!
Edible Beauty CODE: Brigitte20
I also switched all my make up to another great hormone friendly brand Ere Perez- I love their foundation, mascara, blush and bronzer (Its the only make up brand I use!). It doesn't flare up my acne and sits really nicely on my skin and covers my blemishes really well without looking cakey.
Ere Perez CODE: pcostowellness
Professional Herbal Peels and Light Therapy.
On the topic of wanting to look good (and how i treat my acne on a surface level) I have really found getting regular facials with a professional dermal therapist incredibly helpful.
I am a big believer that you have to treat the root cause to see long term results, but I also believe that having visible acne can be a real blow to one self esteem, so getting regular facials in combination of light therapy has really helped me to keep my active acne at bay, clear up congestion and improve scarring and pigmentation.
There are some really great natural treatments out there, I am currently getting fortnightly -monthly herbal peels which help togently remove the non-viable epidermal layer to reveal a new skin surface within 24 hours! The herbal peels are equivalent to having several microdermabrasion treatments without the stress and damage to your skin (I honestly see results within a few days of having one)
LED Light Therapy is something else I have had really great results with on my skin too.
LED Light Therapy is a non-invasive revolutionary light therapy treatment which can reduce pore size, improve health and vibrancy of the skin, promote healing of damaged or compromised skin and can remove bacteria which causes redness and inflammation in acne-prone skin… its also super relaxing and feels like your just laying out in the sunshine! I love it!
Both these treatments I get from my fave clinic Face Plus- I see the Kimberly who is not only amazing with skin, but also has PCOS so she totally gets it!
I actually interviewed her a while ago and she gave some amazing tips for dealing PCOS acne.
I hope sharing my acne journey will help you on your own acne journey!
And don’t forget to always consult a health professional if you concerned or want more information about what is right for you.