5 Tips for Managing Itchy Skin From PCOS

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.


Invest in a Good Moisturizer or Body Butter

Woman applying eye cream
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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.

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.

If your skin is sensitive, avoid fragrances that may irritate your skin. Consider using an all-natural moisturizer, such as coconut oil.


Watch the Hot Water

Close-up of a hot water shower knob
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When the outdoor temperature drops, a hot bath or shower may sound inviting, but 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 as cool as you can stand the water.

Slather on thick cream immediately afterward.


See Your Dermatologist

Dermatologist using magnifying glass to examine woman's skin
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If the above measures don’t work and you still suffer from cracked, itchy or irritated skin, it may be time to put in a visit to your dermatologist.

Your skin problems may be more complicated than just ordinary dry, winter skin.

Your healthcare provider should be able to diagnose most skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, or bacterial or fungal infections, and will be able to prescribe a more effective treatment.


Take Care of Your Acne

Woman in the bathroom

Dry skin can exacerbate or worsen acne. If you notice that you break out worse in the wintertime, it can become necessary to make changes to your skincare routine.

Try using 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.


Manage Symptoms Promptly

Doctor and patient working on digital tablet

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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 usually appear on the neck or armpits, but can also occur on other sites like the thighs or vulva.

Both of these are the result of the hormonal changes associated with PCOS, namely insulin resistance.

These can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, so you should check in with your healthcare provider, who can recommend a course of treatment to help you deal with these symptoms.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Keen MA, Shah IH, Sheikh G. Cutaneous manifestations of polycystic ovary syndrome: a cross-sectional clinical study. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2017;8(2):104. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.202275

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. 10 Skin care habits that can worsen acne.

  3. Schmidt TH, Khanijow K, Cedars MI, et al. Cutaneous findings and systemic associations in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(4):391-398. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.4498

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."