Acne Flares – PCOS – my backstory
My life in a nutshell. Ha!
When it comes to Acne ….. it’s always been a very sensitive subject to me. Especially because I’m a makeup artist & a licensed skin care specialist (esthetician)! Naturally a problem solver, go-getter & a huge perfectionist too. I guess, I always felt like an oxymoron really. I mean … I’m a licensed skin care specialist that can tell you all the in’s & out of skin, how to improve not only your acne but also your skin quality (pretty passionate on skin and skincare) yet I suffer from PCOS Cystic Acne. 😏
Till not too long ago, I didn’t realize how my cystic acne really did play a huge role on my self-esteem issues. I openly admit I do struggle with low self-esteem & anxiety/depression/physiological effects of my PCOS. Will definitely hit that up soon too on my “Beauty & PCOS” page.
Ironically when I was in my teens, my body never suffered from acne; Although I technically didn’t have “PCOS symptoms” but did get my first menstrual period at the age of 9. Ever since then,my menstrual cycle has been irregular ever since.
I got pregnant at the age of 16 with my bubbs ! Looking back my bubbs was my miracle baby. When I found out I was pregnant my menstrual period for was missing in action for about 6 months.
Now don’t be alarmed! That’s a norm for me since I was 9 years old, Sometimes I would have my period missing in action for 3 months even up to 7 months. (but you know… I “didn’t” have PCOS symptoms).
Side note: This was back in the day too (were talking 2001 – AIM days) At the time the doctor estimated I was about 2 months & 3 weeks pregnant. So in-between this time; I didn’t have my period for almost 6 months yet i was almost 3 months pregnant!
Technology wasn’t what it is now & I am sure the amount of research for PCOS wasn’t too great at that time either. My gynecologist was pretty shocked to realize that I didn’t have my period for so long, but he didn’t make a big deal out of it. The priority was just to make sure that I had a healthy & safe pregnancy.
Now knowing that I DO have PCOS just rectifies to me how my son really was my miracle baby & although some may had strong opinions of me becoming a teen mom; everything really does happen for a reason. My bubbs is my biggest blessing ♥
2003 – 2020
My acne really started once I was pregnant. It really started at first with back cystic acne & then eventually worked his way up to the jawline & into the face throughout my pregnancy. My doctor stated that was very normal due of my age (16/17) & because I was pregnant so hormones were all over the place. He considered at time that to be normal.
Unfortunately my acne never really got better after I gave birth or after my son’s 1st birthday or 2nd or 3rd birthday. It actually progressively got worse throughout the years. Now don’t get me wrong it wasn’t like that full cystic – painful acne 365 days out of the year. Sometimes I would have very light acne flares in my jawline, cheeks, chest, neck & or back.
Honestly, there’s really has never been a moment where I can say my skin has been,flawless pimple/cystic acne free 100% you know.
After seeing numerous dermatologists, nutritionists, cosmetic dermatologists & other estheticians with no real good long term results. I just basically decided to trial & error my own skin. (What can I say besides that I like science experiments)? Ha!
Currently, I’m 35 years old so I’ve been on this trial & error run on my skin & health for quite some time now.
After my previous and first PCOS blog got so much love (ahhhhh so exciting! thank you guys!) I wanted to clear a few things up because I got a few questions regarding my PCOS & PCOS acne.
So let’s get to it!
After seeing numerous dermatologists, cosmetic dermatologists & also endocrinologists they all came to the conclusion that I should drink Accutane. I had already tried out the, topicals creams, soaps, and a few rounds of Doxycycline. For the record I’ve refused Accutane three times in my life & I will continue to decline Accutane just because I don’t even drink Tylenol when I have a migraine (I’ll pop a Vitamin C tho ha)). Of course this is a personal decision but I just don’t feel comfortable consuming such a harsh medication. I mean…. it has to be harsh to the body if when taking this medicine it’s required to get blood work done consistently to make sure you’re okay no? Again it’s just a personal decision this is not the only medication I have declined throughout the years of me having PCOS.
This isn’t to hate on Accutane but when it comes to PCOS ladies, especially if you’re having a hard time getting pregnant or getting your menstrual cycle to begin with… Accutane is a serious hard pass. May it improve your acne? Sure, (long term?…ehhhh again my opinion but after many years of being a makeup artist i’ve heard differently) but if you’re trying to get pregnant or have been unsuccessful in trying to become pregnant,? You CAN’T even try to conceive for an X amount of years after drinking Accutane because it can cause super harmful side effects to a pregnancy. We already know how difficult it is for PCOS women to get pregnant to begin with. Again my opinion.
While I was battling my weight loss in the beginning … & when I mean in the beginning we’re talking many years ago. I decided to customize my own diet thanks to my PCOS research that I had done. At the time I was about 245 lbs & 29 years old with hypertension, prediabetes as well as high blood pressure & of course the PCOS acne right? I was originally prescribed by my doctor to drink metformin twice a day if I remember correctly it was 500mg to help control my blood sugar levels.
Both of my parents are diabetic, so I was no stranger to Metformin. I mean when you think of Metformin it’s like this “miracle pill” that you can consume sugar & this pill will magically not let your insulin rise & make sure it doesn’t affect your body. Wrong! Again personal opinion I’m no doctor but I’m also no fan of any medication your body needs to depend on. The side effects for me & metformin were terrible. I was having the only case of cottonmouth all day thirsty every moment it didn’t matter if I drink water, a gallon of Gatorade … nothing THE THIRST just wouldn’t go away. It also gave me recurring headaches & also made me feel very nauseous.
As my parents are diabetics, I asked my mom if she could hook me up with one of her blood glucose monitors (you know the ones that you have to prick your finger to make sure your sugar levels are good) so I can start my own trial & error blood sugar level monitoring system at home lol. I started testing my blood sugar levels every morning fasted & at night after eating dinner & drinking the metformin. Then I would also test out my blood sugar level on days without any metformin and with a low sugar diet. I did this “at home testing system” for numerous weeks , maybe even months & learned I actually didn’t need metformin … I just needed not to eat sugar.
,Once I got to the results of my little blood sugar science experiment , I stopped drinking metformin cold turkey & applied a really strict low sugar diet upon myself because I just didn’t want to depend on medication. So in a nutshell, that was the end of me and metformin and pretty short lived too! I would say at most 5 months,
When it comes to a birth control, I’ve been on & off on for about 15 years. Lo Loestrin, Ortho-Tri-Cyclen, Ortho-Novum, Ortho Tri-Cyclen lo & the NuvaRing have been the birth controls I’ve used throughout the years. I was originally prescribed birth control to regulate my menstrual cycle as it’s always been irregular since I got my first menstrual cycle at 9 years old. As well as prescribed .certain birth controls that could aid my acne flare-ups.
If I had to pick to birth control favorites that really helped me out in general with my PCOS & semi with my acne flare-ups? I will definitely go with the NuvaRing for sure! For one, because I felt like I wasn’t internally drinking a pill, I also didn’t have extremely painful cramps while using the NuvaRing. Completely low maintenance too! Don’t have to worry about if you forgot a pill & the next day you have to drink 2. But most importantly my menstrual cycle was easy peasy while on the NuvaRing. I didn’t have any severe bleeding, didn’t have any pain just very light cramps & the usual acne flare-ups when I got my menstrual cycle in the jawline chest & cheek area.
Side note: When I originally did get on the NuvaRing the emotional side effects were present the first month & the second month. I did notice that I was crying a lot that & I was completely over emotional about just anything but that only lasted till the second month. After that it was pretty fabulous.
Secondly if you don’t want to do the NuvaRing I personally really liked Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo. Although this is an oral contraceptive I really didn’t get really bad side effects either. The downfall if you’re forgetful person like I am, you may forget a pill or maybe two. Menstrual cycle was also very easy peasy on this medication. Cramps were also pretty normal, no severe bleeding,& my acne was pretty normal not too aggressive. But again I’m a forgetful person so this didn’t work out too well for me.
I’m currently 3 months off of birth control & I’m not going to lie my acne outbreaks in these 3 months have been a bit aggressive. But in these three months my diet hasn’t been the best either so I would like to continue to further experiment when it comes to birth control. I’m 35 with numerous years of birth control, I just don’t think it’s can be too healthy anymore especially at my age.
I also got a few remarks too after my PCOS entry such as “okay so it’s just diet & exercise?
I mean …. yeah! It’s a hard truth but unfortunately what you consume on an everyday basis really does trigger PCOS side effects & PCOS acne flare-ups.
First thing I’ve noticed & all this trial and error. Dairy is a no-go! All the dairy… milk, cheese, ice cream I’m also including eggs on here although it’s not considered dairy but imma throw it in there too because eggs are equally just as bad too.
Not a nutritionist again or a doctor just a girl who is science fact-checking junkie especially if it’s going towards my health.
Dairy; doesn’t even matter if it’s organic dairy milk, cow’s milk isn’t the best. Is it delicious? SURE! is it highly addicting too? Yes! Milk contains a lot of saturated fat,/bad cholesterol. A single serving of milk contains almost 24 mg of (very heart harming) bad cholesterol unlike happy fats such as nuts, avocados & or olive oil. Milk is also very high
in prolactin, steroids including estrogens, progesterone ,corticoids, & androgens. Not going to go real sciencey right now but I mean steroids was on that list & we all know what steroids do right? They get you larger definitely something us PCOS ladies try to avoid at all costs. Steroids is also known to give its users acne, doesn’t matter if they have PCOS or not. I mean… I have PCOS I don’t need help for extra acne? Feel me?
Although I was a four-year vegan. I took a pretty long break, & it’s been quite the challenge for me to let go of cheese this time around. Which is pretty disappointing honestly I hate that I love it so much. & like clockwork… I consume dairy ? The next day, I have a nice pimple forming that’s usually MEGA itchy and or or I’ll get an acne flare up on my jawline or my chest. (chest flares example photo posted).
Sugar:: I have to confess sugar is my downfall lol I’ve always had a sweet tooth since I could remember! Candy, chocolate, cake, frappes & all the goodies? that’s my jam.
But how does sugar affect PCOS & acne? Well for starters PCOS women tend to have a really hard time breaking down sugar because we produce more androgynous hormones as well as testosterone vs the average female. Unfortunately sugar causes the same response to the body. So in a woman that has PCOS this will trigger the acne flares like you have no idea. In reality the best solution is to stop consuming sugar. But I know that’s easier said than done as sugar is too addicting as well.
Of course this is not only apply to food that taste “sweet”. This also applies to foods such as white bread, white rice potatoes, carbs & anything that in reality is high in starch. Why? Because these foods convert into sugar in your body & are too considered high in the glycemic index scale.
The glycemic index is really a fabulous tool for women who have PCOS. It’s a tool that basically grades certain foods from 0-100 depending on how it may affect your blood sugar levels. Basically the (GI) is a good guide for bad & good carbs.
So this one was actually really hard for me because the love for coffee runs deep. But I do have to openly admit that when I do over drink coffee it does heighten my acne flare-ups. But not only does it flare up my acne, it also flares my anxiety and my stress levels tend to wa7 up!
Tons of research has shown that PCOS women can suffer from several be mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, increased risk of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and eating disorders.
Stress as you know not only causes acne but why? My guess it’s because stress causes an increased production of the cortisol, which causes the production of excess oil not only to the skin but the hair too! Causing what? Mega breakouts! Now don’t get me wrong … you don’t have to go cold turkey but I think it’s best to probably drink it in the morning, as it gets time for the body to process it. Always follow up with some water cause not only can the coffee give you acne and stress you it could also dehydrate you.
After many years of dealing with PCOS acne the best recommendation I can give any woman that is dealing with PCOS is not to be have super high unreal expectations when it comes to the skin. You can go ahead and take all these changes internal/external and you possibly may still get a breakout out. Disappointment due to expectations is one of the biggest downfalls when it comes to depression, anxiety and emotional stands. I think when it comes to PCOS women we really have to hold it down for ourselves and learn to accept that this is something that we are possibly going to live with forever and deal with forever and it’s okay.
And this day in age we can get so lost in expectations and false realities due to… well … let’s just agree to disagree that’s the way it is now.
Self esteem work/ Inner work is a big deal here because I know I can relate I understand how this can affect us but if we attach ourselves to the Judgment/Expectations of what we’re supposed to look like it? We hurt ourselves every time. We need to be easy on ourselves too, Be kind to ourselves as we are too others, generous with ourselves and most importantly give ourselves a lot of LOVE daily! 🖤
Surround yourself with people that uplift you, that truly understand you and don’t judge your actions because you may do things differently as a result of your PCOS. Take the necessary actions/sacrifices to improve your PCOS vs finding an excuse (no judgment here I’ve been there too). Find other PCOS ladies to chat with! We get it!! Join PCOS groups on facebook! No seriously Facebook PCOS Groups are awesome! (I love it there ha)
Slap on the makeup, wear the faja, rock that filter, drink some water, eat more veggies, tell yourself that YOU ARE THAT B***H and tell yourself every damn day that YOU ARE AMAZING!
I’ll be back on this page with a few recommendations of actual skin care products that help alleviate some of the excess production of oil on the skin and can help improve the skin texture while dealing with PCOS! So Stay posted!!
I hope you guys found this information useful sending you guys lots of love!