If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you’re probably no stranger to dark armpits and to all the skin problems that come with the condition. Apart from cystic acne, hirsutism, and skin tags, PCOS can also cause dark skin patches. These dark, brown, velvety skin patches are medically known as Acanthosis Nigricans. This skin discoloration due to PCOS can occur almost anywhere on the body, though they are more commonly seen in skin folds. While these PCOS skin patches may look unaesthetic, they rarely cause any symptoms beyond the skin. And they can be treated with the right PCOS treatment plan.
How Does PCOS Cause Dark Skin Patches?
Dark skin patches of Acanthosis Nigricans are often seen in patients who are overweight, and those with pre-diabetes or Diabetes type 2. Insulin resistance is a necessary factor leading to the development of Acanthosis Nigricans in patients with PCOS. These PCOS discolored skin patches are often found in the folds of the skin and commonly occur around:
They can also appear on palms and soles of the feet. PCOS related Acanthosis Nigricans and skin tags can often occur together.
Studies have linked hyperinsulinemia with acanthosis nigricans (AN) as well as found a relationship between these dark patches and high androgen levels in women with PCOS. In fact, acanthosis nigricans is more common in obese hyper-androgenic women with PCOS. Simply put, the presence of these dark, velvety skin patches is a sign of abnormal glucose tolerance in women who have PCOS. And if you are obese, your risk is even higher. In select few cases, medications commonly prescribed for PCOS like birth control pills, thyroid medication, corticosteroids and growth hormones can also trigger Acanthosis Nigricans as they cause changes in insulin levels.However, the good news is that once you treat the underlying condition, i.e. insulin resistance and lose weight, or change your medication, these skin patches tend to disappear.
I Have Acanthosis Nigricans. What Are My Treatment Options?
Visually displeasing, sometimes this PCOS skin discoloration and skin tags can be overlooked, especially if they occur on parts of the body that remain mostly covered by clothes. However, these dark skin patches are trying to tell you something — you need to address the underlying cause of your PCOS. Acanthosis Nigricans is not a disease, but usually just a symptom of malfunctioning inside the body regarding sugar metabolism, fat stores, and insulin resistance. Most treatment options focus on targeting these underlying causes through a healthy PCOS diet, exercise, and supplements that naturally correct hormonal imbalances. In most cases, once you have your insulin levels and weight under control, these dark skin patches disappear over time.
However, in some stubborn cases, these dark patches may require cosmetic treatments. In severe cases, your dermatologist may advise you to try:
- Topical Retinoids to lighten the skin. Examples include Retin-A, salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids and 20 percent urea
- Dermabrasion is a mechanical process of controlled, surgical scraping of the skin that could make skin lighter
- Laser therapy can improve the appearance of acanthosis nigricans by removing the top layer of the discolored skin
Your doctor may also prescribe drugs that could help correct hormonal imbalances or metformin to get blood sugar levels under control. In some cases, Isotretinoin, which is usually used to treat severe acne, can be prescribed. This is a rather strong drug with many potential side effects and not at all safe if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Most allopathic medicines used to treat PCOS skin discoloration come with unwanted side-effects. We strongly believe that it’s best to reverse the underlying causes of PCOS through diet, exercise, and dietary supplements.
Tips to Naturally Heal Dark Skin Patches Caused By PCOS
The best way to find permanent relief from dark skin patches and hyperpigmentation is to heal your body from within. A good PCOS treatment and management plan can help reverse hormonal imbalances and cure Acanthosis Nigricans naturally in time.
Improve your Blood Sugar Levels
Since insulin resistance is the common culprit behind PCOS skin discoloration, this is where you should begin. The right PCOS diet devoid of processed sugars and carbs will help increase insulin sensitivity. In fact, sometimes eliminating all sugar from your diet can make these skin patches disappear completely, without any additional treatment required. Dietary supplements like aloe vera, inositol, flax seeds, licorice root, fenugreek, cod liver oil can further help increase insulin sensitivity.
Exercise is important for PCOS treatment and management, as it helps improve insulin sensitivity. Aerobic exercise can also help you lose weight and combat inflammation.
Since obesity increases your risk to Acanthosis Nigricans, it’s very important to lose weight. Unexplained weight gain with PCOS can be quite a challenge and doesn’t always respond to traditional weight loss methods. However, but it is possible to lose weight effectively with PCOS with the right plan.
Lower Your Testosterone Levels Naturally
Getting your testosterone levels under control will go a long way towards fading away these dark skin patches. Add more testosterone lowering foods to your PCOS diet. Along with a healthy diet, some dietary supplements can assist you in lowering testosterone levels naturally. Omega 3 fatty acids, Ashwagandha, Diindolylmethane (DIM), Vitamin D, Calcium-D-Glucarate, Vitex Agnus Castus, Spearmint Tea, Saw palmetto, and Dong Quai root can help.
Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly
Exfoliating your skin will remove dead skin cells and help lighten your skin. Try a homemade scrub with equal parts of raw oats mixed with tomato pulp. While the gritty oats will scrub off dead skin cells, the tomato has natural bleaching properties to help lighten skin.
Try Coconut Oil
When you regularly exfoliate your skin, it’s also important to keep skin hydrated post scrubs. Coconut oil contains natural fatty acids that help nourish, moisturize and rejuvenate skin. Additionally, the antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties of organic coconut oil make it a potent natural remedy for skin discoloration and itchiness. Try rubbing 2 spoonfuls of coconut oil mixed with camphor to affected areas, and wash off after 30 minutes.
Zinc Supplements Can Help
Adding more Zinc to your diet is good for skin health. Zinc plays a key role in your hormonal health and is beneficial for several symptoms of PCOS, including Acanthosis Nigricans and skin tags.
To some, Acanthosis nigricans might seem like nothing more than a cosmetic problem, but it can have deeper, more serious effects on a woman with PCOS. Coping with these dark, velvety skin patches can be emotionally and physically hard for you, particularly when they make you feel more self-conscious and attack your body image. Sometimes living with PCOS can seem like a never-ending battle, and even something like a cosmetic problem can take its toll. Our advice to you — be patient. Give your body the time and care it needs to heal itself. Show your body some love….regardless of the skin discoloration, rashes, skin tags, acne and all….and it will love you right back.