Here’s why your skin breaks out during your period — and what you can do to prevent it

  • Acne is just one of the many side effects of your period.
  • Breakouts generally peak the week before your period starts.
  • But hormonal fluctuations can actually cause changes in your skin throughout the entire month.
  • INSIDER spoke with several experts to break down exactly how your cycle affects your skin and how you can prevent pimples during your period.

Your period can bring about a number of symptoms: hunger, bloating, pain, and for some, breakouts. But your period isn’t the main culprit. Rather, your hormones should take most of the blame. Because when it comes to your skin, hormonal changes affect you all month — not just the week of your period.

That’s because, as dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick told INSIDER, the hormones estrogen and progesterone contribute to acne and fluctuate throughout the 28-day menstrual cycle. These hormones cause acne by increasing skin inflammation, oil production in the pores, and the production of a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, according to Mayo Clinic.

Hormonal changes can be confusing, so INSIDER spoke to dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Kleinerman, gynecologist Dr. Alyssa Dweck, dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, and Garshick to break down exactly how your menstrual cycle affects your skin.

Your skin should start to clear up after you start your period. Conagh Kathleen/YouTube

What happens to your body:

Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period, which typically lasts four to eight days. During this time, the blood and tissue lining the uterus leave the body while follicles containing eggs develop in the ovaries, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

How it affects your skin:

You may have some pimples due to the hormonal changes you experienced in the week leading up to your period. Fortunately, once you start your period, your progesterone levels go down, which means your skin should start to clear up, according to Garshick.

Skin-care tip:

“Gentle skin cleansers and moisturizers are important now to help the skin recover from previous week’s inflammation,” Zeichner told INSIDER. He recommended choosing a moisturizer that’s oil-free, like Aveeno Ultra-Calming Nourishing Night Cream.

Make sure the moisturizer you use is oil-free.

What happens to your body:

One follicle continues growing while the others stop and are absorbed back into the ovaries, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As this happens, estrogen levels rise to help the lining of the uterus grow.

How it affects your skin:

Garshick said your skin should continue to clear up and become less oily, although you may notice some dryness due to rising estrogen levels.

Skin-care tip:

Continue to use a gentle cleanser and oil-free moisturizer. “If your skin is on the dry side, you can use a little extra moisturizer or try micellar water, which removes dirt without stripping the skin of its natural oils,” Garshick told INSIDER.

Having a consistent skincare routine will help prevent acne rather than treating it on an as-needed basis. TORWAISTUDIO/

What happens to your body:

A few days before ovulation (which usually occurs on day 14), your estrogen levels peak, according to the Office on Women’s Health. A sharp rise in the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) causes the mature follicle in the ovary to rupture and release an egg, according to NIH.

How it affects your skin:

With your estrogen levels at their peak, your skin should be clear and glowing, although your pores might appear a little bit more noticeable. “During ovulation, a lot of times, your pore size is actually larger,” Garshick told INSIDER. “A lot of that corresponds to just kind of how much sebum is going to be produced and that’s basically that oil.”

Skin-care tip:

You should still be consistently using a gentle cleanser and moisturizer. With hormonal changes around the corner, sticking to a routine is essential.

Charcoal masks can help clear clogged pores. Vladislav Lazutin/

What happens to your body:

For about a week following ovulation, the fallopian tubes help the newly released egg travel from the ovary toward the uterus, according to the Office on Women’s Health. The ruptured follicle produces more progesterone to thicken the uterine lining.

How it affects your skin:

Higher levels of progesterone stimulate oil glands and rev up the production of an oil known as sebum, according to Zeichner. “This oil blocks pores and creates an environment that allows bacteria to grow,” he told INSIDER.

Skin-care tip:

“Salicylic acid should be your go-to ingredient at this time,” Zeichner told INSIDER. “It helps remove excess oil from the skin and keep pores clear.”

Garshick added that products with glycolic acid can help in similar ways. Additionally, Garshick suggested using an alcohol-free toner, like Simple Soothing Facial Toner or Murad Clarifying Toner. To clear clogged pores, you can also use a charcoal-based face mask.

It’s common for pimples to appear along the jawline as a result of hormonal acne.

What happens to your body:

If the egg isn’t fertilized, it breaks apart and, around day 24, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

How it affects your skin:

This premenstrual phase is when you may experience your worst skin changes. This is all due to a rapid change in hormone levels. High sebum and oil levels cause clogged pores and support the growth of bacteria known as P. acnes, according to Zeichner. “This promotes inflammation and the pimples that typically develop around the mouth at the jawline,” he told INSIDER.

Skin-care tip:

To reduce inflammation and bacteria, Zeichner recommended using products containing benzoyl peroxide, such as Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser. “Apply to the face and let it sit there for enough time for it to do its job,” Zeichner told INSIDER.

Garshick added that the Clean & Clear Acne Spot Treatment can help rescue you from acne emergencies and that prescription antibiotics may help if over-the-counter products aren’t working.

Overall, it’s important to have a consistent skin-care routine to prevent and treat acne throughout the month. But sometimes, even an ironclad skin-care routine isn’t enough to combat hormonal acne. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options.

If topical skin-care treatments aren’t working, birth control may help control hormonal acne.

Some birth control pills have been shown to prevent acne. Flickr/Nate Grigg

Birth control pills can help prevent pimples by keeping acne-causing hormones in check. Pills that contain estrogen and progestin (a synthetic, man-made form of progesterone) can help prevent hormonal acne, according to Dweck.

There are many oral contraceptives on the market, but Ortho Tri-Cyclen, YAZ, and Estrostep are the only ones that have been approved for the treatment of hormonal acne by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to WebMD.

These pills help prevent hormonal acne by decreasing the amount of male hormones known as androgens which contribute to acne flares by overstimulating the oil glands, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Antiandrogen medications such as Spironolactone can also help control hormonal acne by blocking androgen receptors and decreasing the effects of testosterone, which include oil production in the skin, according to Kleinerman.

Kleinerman added that some birth control pills have better antiandrogen activity than others so it’s important to ask a doctor about the side effects before going on any medication.

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Treating Menstrual Acne

For acne closely related to your period, you may need to do something hormonally to intervene. An ob-gyn or endocrinologist can help. Treatment options include the following:

Birth control pills
Birth control pills may help women who see a clear link between their acne and periods. “Anything that raises estrogen levels will lessen the effects of testosterone in women,” Lyster says. Birth control pills work by increasing a protein called sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in the blood. “SHBG acts like a sponge, soaking up the free testosterone in the bloodstream,” she says. “This means there is less testosterone available to cause acne.”

Birth control pills also work by slowing down oil production. Some pills are specifically approved for the management of acne. These pills include Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrosten, and Yaz.

If you start using birth control pills to control acne, be patient. When some women begin taking the pill, they experience increased acne for the first three to four months in response to the change in hormones. This should subside as your body adjusts.

If acne doesn’t respond to birth control pills alone, your doctor may add medication to lower testosterone levels. This medication, called spironolactone, curbs testosterone-related oil production in the skin. Side effects include breast tenderness, irregular periods, headaches, and fatigue. Spironolactone is not appropriate for all women; be sure to discuss its risks and benefits with your doctor.

For those who are obese, weight loss.
“Anything that lowers SHBG may lead to increased acne,” Lyster says. One major factor that reduces SHBG and increases testosterone is obesity. “Therefore, eating a healthful diet and maintaining a healthy weight will help control acne breakouts around the time of menstruation.”

In addition, you can try the following non-hormonal remedies:

Practice good skin hygiene
Any extra bacteria you introduce to your face will worsen menstrual acne. To keep your skin as clean as possible, New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, suggests the following:

  • Avoid touching your face; your hands introduce dirt and bacteria.
  • Clean your cell phone regularly; phones breed a lot of bacteria, and you hold them against the most vulnerable area to hormonal acne: your jaw line and chin.
  • When you work out at the gym, cover all mats with a towel; don’t put your face in other people’s germs.
  • Don’t smoke; smoking is a contributory factor to all types of acne.

What to do about chin pimples

Share on PinterestIt is very common for pimples to appear on the chin, especially amongst females and teenagers.

Pimples on the chin are no different to pimples on other parts of the face, neck, chest, and back.

Oil traps dead skin or other debris and bacteria in one or more pores on the skin. This causes pimples to form.

Pimples on the chin are very common. They are typically the result of fluctuations in hormones. This is particularly the case for females and teenagers, as both tend to experience extreme hormone fluctuations.

Androgens are the hormones responsible for stimulating the creation of sebum. Sebum is the oil responsible for clogging pores and creating pimples. Since hormones can fluctuate throughout adulthood, pimples on the chin can come and go at any time.

Pimples may be a mild nuisance, but they are not typically dangerous.

However, as one study in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology — which examined adult females with acne — notes, pimples can cause mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety. As a result, they can impact a person’s ability to concentrate on work or school.

Underlying conditions

In some cases, a person may not have pimples on their chin. Instead, they may have one of two other conditions that resemble pimples: ingrown hairs or rosacea.

Ingrown hairs can occur due to shaving. As a result, males are usually more susceptible to ingrown hairs on the chin than females. However, anyone can develop an ingrown hair on their chin or other parts of their face or body.

An ingrown hair is a hair that grows back into the skin instead of out of it. If this occurs, the ingrown hair can resemble a pimple and may swell or become red and painful.

Learn more about ingrown hairs, include how to treat and prevent them, here.

Rosacea is a common skin condition. It causes a person’s blood vessels to become visible, which results in noticeable redness. In some cases, rosacea can cause a person’s skin to form bumps filled with pus, and these may resemble pimples.

Learn more about rosacea here.

  • Salicylic or glycolic acid: These ingredients help exfoliate the skin. Both Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Wash ($7) and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser ($15) are derm-approved picks for acne-prone skin.

  • Probiotics: Jegasothy recommends a probiotic cleanser, such as Glowbiotics MD Probiotic Acne Treatment Cleanser ($30). “It’s very effective in controlling the microbiome, or bacterial and yeast environment, in the skin,” she says. “This keeps the skin in normal pH balance for optimal penetration of stronger prescription topical treatments.” Research suggests that some microbial strains in topical probiotics can improve the skin’s protective mechanisms, impede inflammation, and inhibit the P. acnes bacteria that causes breakouts.

Topical retinoids

In acne patients of any age, most dermatologists will consider topical retinoids as the first step for treatment of mild to moderate acne, especially when it’s hormonal. “Retinoids help your skin slough off dead skin cells at a more normal rate so the dead skin cells don’t bind together and clog your pores,” explains Peredo. “They are the preferred avenue for long-term treatment because of the limited severe side effects and are known for preventing new acne in the long term.”

While you can get retinol-containing products like Differin Gel ($11) over the counter, your dermatologist can prescribe you much higher concentrations, which is likely the level of strength you’ll need to get rid of hormonal acne.

Important note: Retinoids, especially prescription ones, can be super harsh when you first start them. We’re talking dry, red, flaky, painful skin. So make sure to follow your dermatologist’s instructions carefully (they’ll likely suggest using it just a few times a week to start). And if you have particularly sensitive skin or a skin condition like rosacea, retinoids may be too harsh for you to handle, possibly resulting in even more breakouts. You should also avoid retinoids if you’re pregnant. Your best bet is talking to a dermatologist before jumping in.

Birth control

If you’ve ever been on birth control, and then gotten off of it, you probably noticed your skin go into total panic mode. But before you go cursing your sensitive skin, know that this type of reaction is totally normal, as oral contraceptives can do a great job of clearing acne in women.

In fact, some, like Ortho Tri-Cyclen and YAZ, are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of hormonal acne. “These oral contraceptives are composed of ethinyl estradiol plus either the progestin norgestimate, norethindrone acetate, or drospirenone, which work together to alter levels and activity of hormones that can trigger acne,” explains Peredo. If you’re not on the Pill, you might want to ask your doctor if he or she recommends it to help stabilize your hormones and treat hormonal acne.

Antiandrogen drugs

“These oral therapies help reduce the amount of excess androgens (primarily male hormones) that can cause hormonal acne,” says Peredo. Antiandrogen drugs, such as the spironolactone pill, work by blocking androgen receptors to decrease the actions and effects of testosterone in the body. “When given at low doses, spironolactone works very well to improve cystic acne and decrease overall oil production in the skin,” says Levi.


A much stronger defense mechanism against breakouts is Isotretinoin (also known as Accutane, even though that specific brand was discontinued in 2009). Isotretinoin is a form of oral vitamin A (meaning it’s similar to a retinoid but taken orally) that reduces the amount of oil released by oil glands in your skin, helping it renew itself more quickly. “It’s used in the treatment of severe acne, and is usually given after other acne medicines or antibiotics have been tried without success,” Peredo explains. “Due to its strength and potential side effects, however, this treatment isn’t typically considered as a first solution, but it can be quite effective when other remedies aren’t working.”

Your doctor will likely ask whether or not you’re pregnant or trying to conceive in the near future before writing you a prescription for isotretinoin, as it’s been shown to cause birth defects. Peredo tells SELF, however, that taking isotretinoin in general will not affect your child-bearing potential for the future.

The bottom line: Hormonal acne is annoying but you don’t have to live with it. Work with your dermatologist to find a solution, which may entail a combination of over-the-counter and prescription treatments.


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Get Period Pimples? Here’s How to Deal with Hormonal Acne Breakouts

August 24, 2017 • Feel Good / Health

Do you find yourself breaking out at the same time every month?

It may be because of your hormone cycle. Yes, while the burst of new hormones that cause your teen breakouts may have subsided, that doesn’t mean that they’re done wreaking havoc on your face. But, it also doesn’t mean you can’t fight it!

What is Hormonal Acne?

If you’ve been tracking your breakouts and notice that they occur at the beginning of week 3 of your cycle (about 2 weeks before your period begins), then congratulations, you’re looking at a case of hormonal acne. During this week in your cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically if no egg has been fertilized, while you will also experience a slight increase in testosterone.

While testosterone is thought of as the ‘male’ sex hormone, it exists in slightly differing amounts in everyone. Amongst other things, this androgen triggers oil production (sebum) in skin and hair follicles – meaning you might see oilier hair during this week too. This oil provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and thus causes clogged pores, pimples and cystic acne (those somewhat painful bumps just under the skin) – usually around the chin and jawline.

And unfortunately, while this bump in testosterone during your 3rd week is likely to start your trouble skin, the effects can continue through your cycle, sometimes right through your period.

So What Can You Do About It?

So if the causes of these monthly crops of clogged pores and zits are hormonal, does that mean you’re powerless against them? Not quite! Here are 4 of the best tactics for tackling testosterone’s onslaught.

1.Stop the Spot Before it Starts

The best offense is a good defense, so you need to pay extra special attention to your skincare routine during this week of your cycle.

Firstly, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The spike in testosterone and dip in estrogen can leave your skin dehydrated – yes, and oily too; hello, combination skin! – so make sure you’re drinking your half gallon (2 L) of water a day.

Next, brush up on the correct order to use your skincare products. In particular, remember to use a cleanser with salicylic acid the week prior to your period, as this acne-busting ingredient helps to remove excess oil and give your pores a deep clean.

And, of course, if you can see or feel a pimple starting to form, go ahead and start treating it with your ESPADA – the blue light therapy will combat the bacteria that’s forming.

2.Adopt an Acne-Fighting Diet

PMS can make even the most cross-fit-and-smoothie addicted of us go on a junk food binge, but sticking to healthy foods is the best recipe for clear skin.

For a short-hand guide, stick to these basics:


  • Drink more water
  • Eat more leafy green veggies
  • Cut back on sugar (including lactose!)


  • Over-Drink – alcohol = sugar, sugar = breakouts
  • Pig out on processed foods – fresher is better!

3.Outrun Your Acne

Regular exercise is an important part of overall health, both physical and mental, which is why it’s so important not to skip when you’ve PMSing or have your period.

Not only do you feel more energetic and generally bad-ass after an intense workout, sweating is actually great for your period acne!

It helps cleanse your pores by pushing excess dirt and bacteria to the surface of your skin, ready to be cleansed away in your nice steamy post-gym shower. A mini face brush like LUNA play plus is perfect for tossing into your gym bag for lunch time workouts!

4.Explore the Pimple-free Effects of the Pill

Hormonal birth control – including oral contraceptives, patches and vaginal rings – regulate hormone levels to prevent pregnancy. Certain forms containing both estrogen and progesterone lower the amount of androgens in your body, and thus lower sebum levels. These methods of birth control lead to fewer acne breakouts for many women, but be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before deciding if this is right for you.

Disclaimer: The information on this website and any related links are for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, contact a professional healthcare provider.

Tags: acne

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Lane Baumeister is a staunch proponent of the em-dash and made-for-TV movies.

  1. Addie Stewart says:

    I started getting acne at 24, hormone related acne due to PCOS. NOTHING worked, I tried it all; homeopathic, prescription pills and topicals, I was close to giving up. I saw reviews for dermalmd acne serum and figured I’d try it. I’m so glad I did, it keeps my acne at bay, and doesn’t stain my pillowcases (or anything for that matter) highly recommend!

Period Troubles: How Your Cycle Messes With Your Acne

Getty Images

When your period comes to visit, it brings gifts: bloating, fatigue, and even the occasional freak-out. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, though, many of us also contend with the seldom recognized, but very real, skin problems that pop up around that time of the month. The cause of the oily complexion and magnified pores that suddenly surface? It’s actually our hormones.

As our hormone levels shift from the more female oriented (like estrogen and progesterone) to the more male oriented (like testosterone) during our cycle, our oil glands go into overdrive, pores blow up, and cystic zits emerge. But, in the same way we’ve learned to prep for our periods by traveling with a stash of tampons and extra Motrin, we can also do a thing or two to quell our out-of-whack complexions.

So, to get the scoop on just how to do this, we enlisted a few experts: Bethanee J. Schlosser, M.D., Ph.D, an assistant professor in dermatology and obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Sara Gottfried, a San Francisco-based ob-gyn and author of The Hormone Cure; and Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. Ahead, get a week-by-week playbook of what’s happening in our bodies, how it affects the appearance of our skin, and how to get it all under control.

What’s Happening Two Weeks Before Your Period

As far as our skin is concerned, this is the week that should be considered the dreaded time of the month. Between seven to 14 days before the start of our period, our levels of the sex hormone estradiol fall. Meanwhile, our testosterone remains at higher levels than those of the estradiol. This move to more male-prevalent hormones can lead to a more acne-prone complexion, particularly for those with skin that’s more acneic in the first place.

“It’s that shift of balance that can lead to increased activity of sebaceous glands and can manifest as oily skin, with an increase in developing acne lesions and oily hair and scalp as well,” says Schlosser. This is the time when inflammation and zits can rear their ugly heads.

  • By Refinery29

Spironolactone. If you don’t get a response to birth control pills, your physician may add medicine to reduce your levels of testosterone. This medicine is known as Spironolactone and it reduces production of oil in the skin related to testosterone. The side effects of taking Spironolactone may include irregular periods, breast tenderness, fatigue, and headaches. Spironolactone may not suit all women; hence, you should discuss its benefits and risks with your physician.

Weight loss. Anything, which reduces SHBG, may result in increased acne. Obesity is one of the major factors that reduce SHBG and increase testosterone. Thus, eating a well-balanced and healthy diet and maintaining an optimum and healthy weight may help in controlling acne before periods.

Practice skin hygiene of high quality. Any extra bacteria that you bring to your face may aggravate premenstrual acne. You should keep the skin as clean as possible to prevent acne before periods. Don’t touch your face too often as your hands may introduce bacteria and dirt to the skin. Clean your phone regularly as it’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Furthermore, you keep it against the area that is most vulnerable to premenstrual acne; your chin and jawline. While working out at a gym, you should cover all the mats using a towel. This way you will avoid putting your face in the germs of other people. Avoid smoking as smoking contributes to all kinds of acne.

For severe premenstrual acne, you should visit a dermatologist. They may prescribe one of the following medicines to relieve your symptoms of acne before period:

Isotretinoin. If other treatments haven’t worked for you or you suffer from severe cystic acne, then you may try isotretinoin. It is a vitamin A derivative. The drug may cause various side effects including birth defects in pregnant females and increased risk of suicide. Thus before using this drug, discuss all the risks and side effects with your physician.

Antibiotics (low-dose). If you suffer from deep-seated acne lesions, your doctor may prescribe low-dose tetracycline for five days, which you may start a few days before the beginning of your periods.

Your dermatologist may ease acne before periods by performing certain in-office treatments including cortisone injections, a chemical peel, and laser therapy or acne surgery.

You may also take some general steps to prevent acne before period. Some of these are:

  • Wash your face two times per day with a cleanser that doesn’t contain oil.
  • Use an over-the-counter anti-acne cream to remove excessive oil.
  • Avoid makeup containing oil.
  • Remove makeup and clean your skin before going to bed.
  • Take a shower after exercising.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing.
  • Reduce your stress levels.
  • Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet that contains a minimal amount of refined sugars and fats.

Acne before period is a very common symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It may occur due to the hormonal fluctuations that happen during the menstrual cycle of every woman. The increased progesterone during the middle of the cycle may stimulate the secretion of sebum from the sebaceous glands. The secretion of sebum is also stimulated by increased levels of testosterone during and before menses. This may lead to the occurrence of premenstrual acne as the pores are clogged with excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. The bacteria breed in the clogged pores and produce infection. The characteristic symptoms of premenstrual acne are the presence of whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. You may prevent acne before periods by taking birth control pills and medicine known as Spironolactone. Obese females are more prone to suffer from acne before period; hence, they may benefit from losing weight. You should practice good skin hygiene to prevent premenstrual acne. Your physician may prescribe isotretinoin or low-dose antibiotics for the severe form of acne.

Period problems are one of those inevitables that often comes along with being a woman: Our boobs hurt. Our tummies bloat. Our brains trick us into thinking that cupcakes are a cure-all. (They aren’t?) But have you ever noticed what happens to your skin on your period? Sometimes, our skin throws a serious temper tantrum, TBH. But all of these side effects are largely the result of hormones, according to Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. Think about how your mood flip flops from hormonal fluctuation—it turns out that what happens to your skin on your period can fluctuate just as easily, causing issues like increased oil production, breakouts, and skin sensitivity.

Here, what to expect (and how to prep) your skin for that time of the month.

1. Out-of-whack hormones can make your skin super oily.

Hormones called androgens (like testosterone); as well as the hormones progesterone and estrogen, are all involved in menstruation and fluctuate all throughout the month, says Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. And that constantly-shifting ratio between each of the hormones determines, in part, what your skin looks like. When specific hormones surge in the week or two before your period, oil glands can go into overdrive increasing oil production, says Zeichner.

2. Which could easily lead to some acne. (I know, amazing, right?)

When oil production spikes, the cells that line your pores turn over super quickly, says Piliang. And when these cells aren’t easily sloughed off (and the oil builds and builds), blackheads and whiteheads can park it on your face. Excess oil also feeds whatever existing acne-causing bacteria there is, says Zeichner—which explains why our periods tend to also be the breaking-out time of the month.

“Adjust your cleanser to one containing salicylic acid in the week leading up to your period, consider ” says Zeichner. “It’s a beta hydroxy acid that removes excess oil from the skin and can help prevent breakouts.” He likes

Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser

This facial cleanser is gentle on skin but still potent enough to effectively stave off breakouts.

By Kayleigh Donahue

3. Bonus (in the worst way): Your hair could get seriously oily too.

The spike in testosterone that comes with PMS doesn’t just impact your skin, says Piliang. (Our moods, hi.) “Hair follicles are sensitive to hormonal changes, too,” she says. Beyond excess grease, you might notice more dandruff or flakiness and itchiness from your scalp.

Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo

This tinted Moroccanoil dry shampoo will refresh hair without dulling your color.

By Lindsay Colameo

is infused with skin- and scalp-soothing argan oil along with oil-absorbing rice starch, says Zeichner, combatting both issues with just a few sprays and a bit of a scalp massage, too.

4. This whole hormone thing is why ob-gyns put many acne-prone women on birth control in the first place.

“Birth control pills are probably your best friend if you have troubles with your skin,” says Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics gynecology, and reproductive services at Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, Connecticut. That’s because the Pill significantly cuts testosterone production from your ovaries. You get a steady dose of hormones, including progesterone and estrogen every single day (and because of that, clearer skin throughout the month), essentially helping you kiss hormal breakouts good bye.

What’s particularly interesting, though, is that certain birth-control pills are friendlier to your complexion than others, says Minkin—but all should help temper any potential bad breakouts. She adds: “The skin-friendliest pills tend to contain drospirenone, such as Yaz and Yasmin; Ortho-Cyclen, which contains norgestimate; and a very old pill, Demulen, with an unpronounceable progestin-ethynodiol diacetate.” Norgestrel and levonorgestrel are less helpful, along with its other derivatives” if hormonal acne is a concern, notes Minkin. “But to be honest, by blocking the testosterone, even a norgestrel pill tends to be skin friendlier than not taking anything .” Some types of the pill can increase your risk for blood clots, so talk with your doctor about your health history when deciding to go on the pill and which type to use.

5. Alternatively, your period could also just make your skin extraordinarily sensitive, too.

Does your fave lotion all of a sudden feel funky? Do your legs feel like tree bark? Are you oily and dry? (Why is being a woman so hard?) You shouldn’t be surprised: “Around your period, your skin becomes more sensitive and more easily irritated overall,” says Piliang. Which you can blame on—you guessed it—those same fluctuating hormones. So no, acne isn’t the only thing that can happen to your skin during your period.



The present study supports the notion that women experience acne exacerbation prior to the onset of their menses, with 65 percent of participants reporting perimenstrual acne flare. Prior to this study, little documentation existed about the pattern and prevalence of perimenstrual acne flare in adults. A recent review of the clinical and epidemiological literature on adult acne found that the prevalence of adult acne ranged from 41 to 51 percent.12 One study documented menstrual periods as the most aggravating factor for acne flare in 78 percent of participants.13 In 2001, Stoll et al7 studied the effect of the menstrual cycle on acne, revealing that among 400 participants, 44 percent of respondents experienced perimenstrual acne flare. Furthermore, Lucky8 quantitatively documented the presence and degree of flare by surveying acne lesion counts in the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. The study revealed that 63 percent of adult women had more acne lesions in the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, with 23.2 percent of participants showing an increased number of total acne lesions, 25.3 percent being inflammatory lesions and 21.2 percent comedonal lesions.

While the relationship between acne and the menstrual cycle has been clearly described, the exact mechanism and causal association remains unknown.9 Acne in the postadolescent patient is most frequently due to the persistence of adolescent acne, characterized by follicular hyperkeratinization, inflammation, colonization by P. acnes, and increased sebum production. However, postadolescent acne or late-onset adult acne remains differentiated from adolescent acne in that it presents as deep-seated, mild-to-moderate inflammatory, papulo-pustular lesions located on the lower third of the face, jawline, and neck.14 The pathophysiology of postadolescent acne and underlying hormonal dysregulation in patients has been extensively investigated; however, the data remains controversial. Levels of testosterone, DHEA, and DHEA-S have been reported in some studies as elevated, and in others within normal range.15,16 However, some studies have revealed that higher levels of free androgens and DHEA-S and lower levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) are strongly associated with adult onset acne in comparison to controls. Interestingly, these levels do not correlate with acne severity.17,18 Additionally, excess levels of androgens in the skin and sebaceous gland may promote sebum production and thus significantly impact the prevalence of acne in the postadolescent female.19

The incidence of perimenstrual acne flare among the postadolescent population suggests a need for therapies that target this cohort of women. Since a portion of postadolescent acne is simply a continuation of adolescent acne, many reports have suggested treating both populations in the same way. A review of recent literature found that sebum excretion is decreased perimenstrually, which may help to explain the effects of isotretinoin, an extremely successful treatment for severe acne that works by causing sebaceous gland atrophy.20 Additionally, hormonal treatments may be a successful approach for treating perimenstrual acne flare in patients with elevated levels of androgens. The use of OCPs has improved acne severity in some women. A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluated the effect of norgestimate-ethinyl estradiol in the treatment of acne vulgaris, finding that the oral contraceptive group had a significant reduction in inflammatory lesions and total lesions compared to controls. Lower mean baseline levels of sex hormone binding globulin were found in the treatment arm, which decreases the availability and concentration of diffusible androgen for acne pathogenesis. The ethinyl estradiol component inhibits the production of ovarian androgens by inhibiting the secretion of pituitary gonadotropins. Antiandrogen therapies may be useful in the treatment of acne resistant to or rapidly relapsing after treatment with isotretinoin.21 However, women obtaining contraception for acne treatment should avoid regimens containing androgenic progestins (i.e., norgestrel and levonorgestrel), as they can increase the level of free testosterone and thus complicate and exacerbate acne. Multiple studies have proven the efficacy of using oral contraceptives in the treatment of acne.22-24 To our knowledge, there is no study that looks directly at the effects of OCPs on perimenstrual acne flare. However, given the hormonal nature of the menstrual cycle, use of OCPs may prove to be a successful therapeutic approach.

This study has several limitations. The questionnaire was only offered in English and thus only those able to communicate in English were recruited for the study. The study population was recruited from a single geographic area and included only persons attending the dermatology clinic, which may represent a cohort of individuals with more severe acne. Thus, further studies must confirm the prevalence and pattern of perimenstrual acne.

Furthermore, the study population comprised primarily young, postadolescent Caucasian women, which may not be entirely generalizable to other populations. In terms of technical weaknesses, because the questionnaires asked patients to report information after a significant time elapsed, self-reported symptoms and presentation is often subject to recall bias, which can be misleading and inaccurate.

The present study is one of the first to document the pattern and prevalence of perimenstrual acne among the postadolescent population. In this study, 65 percent of all participants reported worsening acne with their menses, the majority of whom reported worsening symptoms in the week preceding their menses. The authors’ findings for the prevalence of women with perimenstrual acne is comparable to the earlier studies by Lucky et al.8 Conversely, the authors’ prevalence is slightly higher than the prevalence noted in Stoll et al,7 which may reflect differences in study design and the smaller number of subjects in the study discussed herein. While this study has proven an association between acne exacerbations and a woman’s menstrual cycle, it also identified a significant gap in literature and lack of large-scale epidemiological studies that assess the incidence and clinical features that are involved in this disorder.

In conclusion, the results of this study highlight that perimenstrual acne flare is a significant and growing complaint affecting a large number of adult women. The study provides good evidence that acne is no longer simply a disorder of adolescence; postadolescent acne can be a devastating disorder with a significant impact on quality of life. The increasing prevalence of perimenstrual acne requires us to recognize this subset of women as an increasingly important population requiring treatment. For women with hormonal breakouts related to the menstrual cycle, hormonal therapy may be a helpful addition to the treatment armamentarium. However, given the dearth of literature and epidemiological studies, a large-scale cross-sectional analysis is needed to further evaluate the prevalence of perimenstural acne flare as well as improve clinical outcomes through the development of targeted therapeutics.

Words by Maisie Bovingdon

Spots. We all get them, and we all hate them. As much as we try to cover them up with concealer or foundation, they still manage to make themselves seen.

There are a whole host of reasons why we suddenly breakout, but the main culprit is hormonal changes, especially throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Within a 28-day cycle our complexion can change drastically; from crystal clear one minute, to pussy pimples the next, super dry and flaky to oily and unpleasantly shiny. We just can’t win.

But experts at Swedish brand FOREO has revealed exactly why our skin changes in the run up to our period, during and afterwards, and the tips to take to have radiant and acne-free skin even if it is your TOTM.

Stage 1: The Menstrual Phase (Day 1 to 5)

The first phase starts with day one of your period, and it tends to be the peak time of the month when we are most vulnerable to breakouts *sigh *.

Within the first few days of Aunty Flo making her return some some people may feel spots brewing under the skin’s surface, and redness around the face, which means the dreaded zit is planning to show its face – literally.

During this time our bodies start to produce excess oestrogen, which triggers the production of oil and sebum, and causes skin – the main contributors to spots.

As much as we may feel sluggish during our period, it is paramount we take extra care of our skin by gently exfoliating and cleansing the face, especially the T-zone, which is often the main problem area as it is the most oily, as well as our chin, and around the nose too.

To use: FOREO recommend the Luna mini 2 device, with its small brushes that can removed 99.5% of dirt hiding in all crevices.

Stage 2: The Follicular Phase (Day 5 to 15)

The mid-point in a woman’s cycle is when we notice our skin has become dry and flaky, in comparison to the week before, which left us feeling like a grease ball, all because our oestrogen levels have dropped.

During these 10 days our skin, and body, is crying out for some extra TLC. While last week we needed to cleanse, cleanse, cleanse, now it is time to hydrate yourself to repair the skin’s barrier after a week of going through the wars (well that’s what it feels like anyway, right?)

Hydrating masks, deeply nourishing moisturisers, vitamin sprays, and simply drinking all the H20 will work wonders on the skin and help to achieve the desired glow.

To use: Foreo H2Overdose UFO Advanced Collection Mask or Ultra Hydrating Face Mask for Dry Skin, which is infused with hyaluronic acid to combat dry skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Face wash

Stage 3: The Luteal Phase (Day 15 to 28)

No, we didn’t know it was called that either, but it’s the last leg of your cycle, and the prime time to show off your radiant skin in all the selfies your camera roll can handle.

During these two-weeks ahead of your next period your blood circulation will increase, thanks to oestrogen, which instantly leaves us looking fresh faced with a bit more colour in our cheeks. Although oestrogen will start to rise again it is not to the point where our face becomes too oily.

Our skin in this fortnight will easily absorb ingredients, which is why we still need to be mindful what we put on our skin, and in our bodies too.

A FOREO expert has advised women to use cleansers containing amino acids, and antioxidants including vitamin E and vitamin C, to boost cell function, collagen and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots and UV damage.

To use: FOREO advise using the Micro-Foam Cleanser because its lightweight formula, which is filled with skin-replenishing amino acids and vitamins, will provide a deep but gentle cleanse.

Spot-free, glowing skin all year round we’re ready for you!

Note: Every woman’s skin and menstrual cycle is different depending on their hormones, so listen to your skin too.

Breaking out before period

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