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Living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Updated: Jan 11

A Hair and Skin Survival Guide

Polycystic ovary (ovarian) syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age (i.e. from the first period to menopause). It affects 8-13% of women, about 1 in 10, in this group. Although higher rates are seen among Indigenous, Asian, North African and Caucasian European women. And this doesn’t include women who may be living with symptoms of PCOS but are as yet undiagnosed.

Symptoms of PCOS may include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles or periods may stop altogether – this may negatively affect fertility

  • Excess dark or coarse hair on the face, chin, or parts of the body (Hirsutism).

  • Acne on face, chest, and upper back

  • Thinning hair (Alopecia) or hair loss on the scalp (male-pattern baldness)

  • Darkening of the skin (Acanthosis Nigricans), particularly along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts

  • Skin tags, which are small excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area

  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight

  • Fatigue and sleep problems

  • Mood changes – low self-esteem, depression and/or anxiety

Not every woman with PCOS will have every symptom, and each woman will be individual in her experience. Symptoms can also change during a woman’s life.

If you are reading our blog and think you may have some PCOS symptoms, we advise you to see your doctor. A diagnosis of PCOS doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and with knowledge, treatment and support, you will be able to manage your symptoms better.

So, let’s delve a little deeper.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is thought to be caused by many factors including hormone imbalance, environmental/lifestyle and genetics. Women with PCOS are 50% more likely to have an immediate female relative – mother, aunt, sister or daughter – with PCOS.

The name, however, is slightly misleading and suggests a problem with multiple ovarian cysts. PCOS is sometimes accompanied by polycystic ovaries — these are not cysts. They are a higher-than-average number of immature ovarian follicles (fluid-filled sacs that would usually house and release eggs during ovulation). These underdeveloped follicles in PCOS are caused by the increased levels of certain hormones. And as these follicles do not fully mature, the egg is not released, which is why PCOS is among the leading causes of women’s infertility.

It is important to note that there is no known link between immature follicles in women with PCOS and either larger true ovarian cysts or the risk of ovarian cancer.

However, PCOS has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, obstructive sleep apnoea, anxiety, bipolar disorders, and depression.

What hormones affect PCOS?

PCOS is commonly associated with an imbalance of three hormones: androgens (mainly testosterone), insulin and progesterone. Let's take a closer look:

Androgens are often called ‘male hormones’, although they occur naturally in differing amounts in men and women’s bodies.

In women, androgens are produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. They play a crucial role in puberty, are necessary for oestrogen synthesis and help regulate the function of many organs, including the reproductive system, bone, kidneys, liver and muscle.

Women with PCOS tend to have increased levels of androgens which affect the menstrual cycle and cause excess ‘male-pattern’ hair growth (hirsutism) and acne.

Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to absorb and use glucose, your body's primary energy supply. If you are insulin resistant, your cells stop responding to the action of insulin, and your blood glucose levels can rise. Your body then starts to produce more insulin in response. Excess insulin can increase androgen production in the ovaries.

Around 85% of all women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which leads to increased insulin production and consequently an increase in androgen production. Both lead to a rise in oil (sebum) production in skin cells, contributing to the development of acne.

Progesterone is one of the essential hormones in the second half of our menstrual cycle - helping prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. However, a lack of progesterone in PCOS can lead to irregular, missed or heavy periods.

How does PCOS affect your hair and skin?

PCOS can cause unwanted facial and body hair growth (hirsutism), scalp hair loss, and/or excessively oily skin and severe acne. These conditions can challenge your ideas of femininity, causing you to lose self-confidence.


Up to 60% of women with PCOS have excess hair growth (hirsutism) on the face and body due to high androgen levels that stimulate the hair follicles. This excess hair is thicker and darker than usual. It often appears in areas where we expect men to grow hair, such as sideburns, chin, upper lip, around the nipples, lower abdomen, chest and thighs.

The best way to reverse the condition is to resolve the hormonal imbalance. However, medical treatment can take several months to fine-tune, leaving women in the throes of hirsutism struggling with embarrassing stubble and ingrown hairs for what seems like an eternity.

Oily Skin/Cystic Acne

Most PCOS-related skin issues are caused by excess androgens and insulin. This results in increased inflammation in the skin, and overproduction of oil (sebum) by overactive glands, which can increase the chance of clogged pores, blackheads, redness, cystic acne, and pain.

When you’re a teenager and you have a few spots on your forehead or cheeks, you know that you’ll grow out of it. Cystic acne, however, is a severe form of acne-causing deep, red breakouts in your skin. This type of acne can cause emotional distress and physical pain.

What can you do to minimise the visible effects of hirsutism and acne and boost your self-confidence?

Often women with PCOS say that they struggle more with the visible symptoms, e.g. excess facial/body hair and skin changes like acne, than with the invisible symptoms. And that unwanted changes to their appearance were causing high levels of mental anguish.

Our appearance and our mood are very much interconnected. Spending large amounts of time each week managing facial hair or continually checking in the mirror for new stray hairs or spots can often lead to anxiety or depression. When you think you look less than your best, you will feel uncomfortable in social situations, feel less confident at work, feel stressed and try to hide from the world.

We at Beauty Essence can help you minimise the visible effects of unwanted hair growth, oily skin and acne. We can create a regular treatment plan that alleviates stress and helps to put you back in control of your life.

When you feel good about your appearance, it will show. Your posture will improve, you’ll look people in the eye, feel light and energetic when you walk, and smile because you feel confident and relaxed.

So, how can we help?

Hair Removal for women with Polycystic Ovaries

You’ve likely tried plucking, shaving and waxing to remove unwanted facial and body hair. You may feel happy with the instant results of these temporary methods but exasperated when the hair grows back and you’re back to square one.

We’re sure you would you like to spend more time doing the things you love without worrying about regrowth or ingrown hairs. Have you considered a more permanent solution to unwanted hair removal?

You may even have started a course of treatment (like IPL or electrolysis) for a more permanent result but stopped because it didn’t seem to be working for you. No wonder you’re fed up with the situation and are unsure what to do next.

Waxing, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) therapy or electrolysis are all effective methods for getting rid of unwanted facial and body hair. And for long-lasting results, IPL and electrolysis can help you take back control of your appearance before your medical treatments take effect.

Read our IPL blog or Electrolysis treatment page to learn more.

What’s important, though, is not so much the hair removal treatment per se, but which treatment would be best for you, as everyone’s hair and skin are different. A professional skin consultation with one of our experienced beauty therapists would be the first step in identifying an individualised treatment plan.

Facials, Body Treatments and Celluma for Oily skin and Cystic Acne

It is easy to view facials as a treat for us or a gift for someone else. And why not? They can make us feel wonderfully relaxed and refreshed and leave us with a beautiful complexion. But sometimes, when we have a medical condition, facials and body treatments are not the first things that spring to mind.

But facials and body treatments provide benefits for your skin, including:

  • Cleanse – remove dirt, pollution, and excess oil

  • Tone – stimulate blood flow and close pores

  • Exfoliate – remove dead skin cells and promote new cell growth

  • Increase circulation

  • Relax tense muscles

  • Moisturise

  • Relieve, improve and prevent common skin concerns (discolouration, acne, inflammation, redness and scarring)

  • Minimise and prevent the effects of ageing

At Beauty Essence, we offer a wide range of facial and body treatments that address different aspects of skin health. We are happy to advise you on the best treatments according to your skin type and individual needs.


Celluma is a low-level-light therapy. Low-level-light therapy is based on Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology. It is the application of light energy at different wavelengths to the body for therapeutic benefits. The LED device delivers only safe wavelengths of light, blue, red and near-infrared (not visible to the naked eye).

Celluma treatments are particularly good at reducing oil production, treating acne, killing bacteria and healing cystic acne.

Mary Gillmore

Director and founder of Beauty Essence

Beauty Therapist


7 Well Court, EC4M9DN

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