While PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can wreak havoc with your menstruation and fertility, it also is a very visible condition. In most cases of PCOS, even before a gynecologist, it is actually dermatologists like us who identify PCOS patients because of the involvement of skin and hair in the condition.
So what exactly can one expect on their skin and hair if they have PCOS?
Besides the gynecological symptoms like irregular periods and chances of increased bleeding there are quite a few visible changes as below:
1. Excess hair growth
2. Patterned balding
3. Dark patches of skin in the folds of your body
4. Heavy acne outbreaks on the lower half of your face.
5. Abnormal weight gain
6. Skin issues associated with weight gain like skin tags.
But there is no need to fret, as modern medicine offers effective treatments for most of these conditions.
So what can I do for my skin and hair issues?
It is important to understand that the best way to manage your cosmetic symptoms is to improve your lifestyle. Things that can go a long way in helping control the above skin and hair issues are:
1. Reduce weight
2. Ensuring a healthy and balanced diet
4. Ensuring adequate sleep hours
5. Reducing your stress levels
In addition to these changes, your gynecologist may recommend medications to manage your hormones, which will significantly help you with most of your issues.
What if my skin and hair issues do not resolve by controlling PCOS alone?
It’s time to see a dermatologist who can help you control and reverse the damage done by PCOS on your skin and hair. A dermatologist may recommend oral and topical medications for each of your issues along with some in-clinic procedures. Here’s a list of the symptoms and what can be done to solve each of these issues.
1. Acne breakouts
A dermatologist generally follows the below protocol to manage this:
a. Start with topical medications which work toward reducing bacterial proliferation
b. This may be accompanied by oral medications which are based on derivatives of vitamin A which control the sebum production
c. For severe cases there are procedures like chemical peels which can yield very good results
2. Acne Scars and Marks
For mild marks and spots, simple topical medications may be prescribed. But for more intense marks and scars, the dermatologist will recommend in-clinic procedures like:
a. ND Yag Lasers & Chemical Peels: To reduce pigmentation, marks, and spots.
b. Microneedling and CO2 Lasers: To reduce any scarring or pits left behind by acne
3. You may also experience darkening in the folds of your body like in your armpits, neck, groin, etc.
This type of pigmentation is more constitutional, but it can still benefit from:
a. Topical applications which have antioxidant ingredients like vitamin c and glutathione.
b. Also in-clinic procedures like ND Yag Lasers, Chemical Peels are known to help with this.
4. Excess skin tag growths
These are benign growths that can occur all over your body and can be removed by procedures like:
a. RF Cauterization
c. CO2 laser treatments
5. Unwanted Excess Hair Growth on the body
The best mechanism to handle such hair growth is to undergo Laser Hair Reduction. This procedure helps destroy the hair follicles at the root and brings about a substantial reduction in hair growth.
6.Female Pattern Balding
This is a common symptom of PCOS and is handled as per the following protocol:
a. Topical and oral medications
b. PRP or Meso treatments in which a dermatologist injects or ionizes growth factor proteins into the scalp which helps in extending the growth phase of the hair and also improves the health of the follicles.
c. The ultimate treatment for very widespread hair loss remains hair transplant.
What about at-home therapies and OTC medications?
I sincerely recommend that one must not choose any such solutions. These are not only ineffective but can even cause serious degradation in the condition. I urge you to meet a dermatologist you trust and discuss your concerns and start only with the prescribed oral and topical medications even if you do not like to engage in any recommended skin and hair procedures. These medications and procedures are all scientifically proven to be safe and effective and have been done on millions of patients over many years.
Hope these tips help you take the fight against PCOS and thrive, no matter what.
To be attributed to Dr. Sejal Saheta, Dermatologist and Venereologist, InUrSkn
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