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5 Winter Skin Tips for Women with PCOS

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Updated January 03, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Women with PCOS often face unique challenges with their skin – issues like acne, acanthosis nigricans, skin tags and abnormal hair growth are all very common and can be quite troublesome. Many women also report having dry skin and dandruff from their PCOS as well.

The wintertime is a tough time of year for our skin – the cold air can be extremely drying and irritating, and the heat pumping through the radiators doesn’t help. Women with PCOS may have a particularly difficult time dealing with these issues because of the hormonal changes associated with the condition.

1. Invest in a good moisturizer or body butter

Dry skin is especially problematic in the cold weather so it is important to find a good, thick moisturizer and apply it often. Putting it on your entire body right after a warm shower will open the pores and help the cream be absorbed.

Make sure to apply hand cream throughout the day also, especially if you are washing your hands frequently (which you should be doing to prevent the spread of disease). Keep in mind that alcohol-based disinfectant gels are extremely drying to the skin on your hands – opt for hand sanitizers with an emollient like aloe and remember to moisturize often!

2. Watch the hot water

When the outdoor temperature drops, hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils. Avoid spending a lot of time in hot tubs, saunas or hot baths and keep showers short and lukewarm. Slather on thick cream immediately afterward.

3. See your dermatologist

If the above measures don’t work, it may be time to put in a visit to your dermatologist. Your itchy skin may be more complicated then just dry skin, or she may be able to prescribe a more effective treatment

4. Take care of your acne

Dry skin can exacerbate or worsen acne. If you notice that you breakout worse in the winter time, it can become necessary to make changes to your skin care routine. Try using a moisturizing, oil-free soap and exfoliant; dead skin cells can clog pores and cause acne. Products containing alcohol should also be avoided because of the drying effect it has on your skin.

5. Manage symptoms promptly

In addition to dry, itchy skin, women with PCOS may notice the development of skin tags or a condition known as acanthosis nigricans, which are patches of dark, thickened, velvety skin that can appear behind the neck, on the thighs, or on the vulva. Both of these are the result of the hormonal changes associated with PCOS, namely the elevation of certain hormones known as androgens. These can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, so you should check in with your doctor, who can recommend a course of treatment to help you deal with these symptoms.
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