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Notes on PCOS and Endometrosis

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis are two of the most common hormonal conditions that affect women. PCOS occurs when the ovaries or adrenal glands produce an excess of male hormones (androgens) or there are high levels of insulin, which can result in irregular periods, acne, weight gain and hair growth in irregular places such as the face. 

The cause of endometriosis remains unknown, although studies suggest it’s linked to fluctuations in estrogen. Endometriosis can have similar symptoms to PCOS although it occurs when the uterus tissue grows abnormally outside of the uterus and can result in severely painful periods as well as pain during sex and going to the bathroom. Both conditions can also create difficulty in falling pregnant, as well as changes in the skin such as hormonal acne. These conditions are typically treated with birth control in hopes of regulating the hormone imbalance, this can also help to minimise certain symptoms. 

In addition to any prescribed medication, it’s key to follow a healthy and considered diet accompanied with a simple and targeted skincare routine to help manage symptoms.

Eating a healthy, predominantly plant-based diet containing lots of anti-inflammatory foods can help to ease the pain. Load up on fresh fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, lean protein and good fats while reducing your intake of sugar, processed foods, red meat and alcohol. Some of my favourite anti-inflammatory foods include salmon, blueberries, cherries, kale, olive oil and green tea. 

For a topical approach, ensure your skincare routine is simple and targeted to treat acne. Look to products and ingredients that will work to balance your skin rather than stripping it. Avoid high-foaming cleansers that can strip the skin of essential lipids and fatty acids as these can actually provoke the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and produce even more oil to overcompensate. Try a balm to remove makeup and sunscreen, followed by milk or gel with a delicate lather to get deeper into the pores to shift acne-causing bacteria, dirt and dead skin cells. 

A morning and evening serum are essential to treating acne, a vitamin C is well placed in a morning routine to deliver a potent dose of antioxidants whilst also brightening and protecting from free radicals. For the evening, a gentle retinol or BHA serum with salicylic acid can help to increase cell turnover and gently break down congestion. Look to non-comedogenic lightweight or gel versions for your moisturiser, with key ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to boost hydration without clogging the pores. An SPF50+ is essential as the final step in your daytime routine. In studio treatments such as gentle peels and LED light therapy can also be incredibly helpful to address acne.