Keke Palmer Got Super Candid About Having Acne Caused by PCOS

The hormonal disorder can wreak havoc on your skin without you even realizing it — and Palmer says you're not alone in that.
 Keke Palmer arrives to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 11th Annual Governors Awards held at The Ray...
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To us regular folk, it can be easy to fall under the assumption that every celebrity has enough money to simply pay for flawless skin with all the procedures and treatments they might have access to — but Keke Palmer just reminded us that couldn't be further from the truth. On December 1, the actor posted a slideshow of makeup-free selfies to Instagram and revealed that she's been experiencing severe acne breakouts due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

"For some of you this may be TMI, but for me my platform has always been used for things much greater than me. Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome has been attacking me from the inside out my entire life and I had no idea," she writes in her post caption. "My acne has been so bad that people in my field offered to pay for me to get it fixed." 

As she regales, she's tried every acne "solution" that's out there — Accutane, (a.k.a. isotretinoin, a retinoid you ingest), eating certain diets, drinking lots of water — to no relief. She didn't understand why until she realized that PCOS could be the cause.

"It took ME taking a personal look into my family that has a history of diabetes and obesity, to understand what was ACTUALLY happening with me. And unfortunately doctors are people and if you don’t 'look the part' they may not think that's your problem," she continues. "They may not even suggest it if you 'look healthy' whatever that means!"

PCOS is a hormonal disorder most common among people who have ovaries and are of reproductive age. Research has yet to determine its cause, but according to the Mayo Clinic, certain genes and excess insulin may play a role, hence Palmer's reference to her family's history with diabetes. Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara explains how and why it causes such severe acne breakouts.

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"Acne is a process driven by hormones: a hormonal surge creates more sebum, which then clogs the pores and invites bacteria to come have an inflammatory, cystic pimple party," she says. "In PCOS, pimple-promoting hormones called androgens are often higher and can lead to painful breakouts. The stress of the situation increases cortisol, adding fuel to the fire."

When Gohara is trying to determine whether one of her clients is having PCOS-related acne, she'll also ask about facial hair growth, irregular periods, and trouble conceiving — if you tick any of those boxes, it's worth asking your doctors about.

The good news for Palmer and other people with PCOS is that acne caused by the disorder doesn't have to be there forever. "No one should suffer with acne; it is often a curable condition," Gohara pleads. She often recommends topical retinoids and medications such as spironolactone and isotretinoin (which might not have worked for Palmer but could for other people) for this type of acne. 

And even when acne breakouts don't subside, you're not alone in your experience — and that's exactly why Palmer revealed her own story. "To all the people struggling with this please know you’re not alone and that you are still so fucking fine," she writes. "MY ACNE AINT NEVER STOPPED ME. But we don't have accept this. Now I can really help KEKE! And I love her so it's ON."


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