It’s almost that time of the month again and you find yourself breaking out right on schedule as your period approaches, or, maybe just as your last episode is clearing up. GREAT. That’s just… Freaking FaBulOUs!
Before you throw in the towel and give up on life, I want you to know that SO many of us have been in your shoes before. Hormonal acne can be super annoying to deal with. Not to worry, though! We are going to uncover exactly how you can clear up these pesky period pimples in a way that you’ll find to be simple yet effective, and you’ll learn how to manage them long term as well!
We believe in tackling our skin concerns from the inside out. What this means is not only treating our skin at the surface, but also addressing our acne at the root of the issue or finding the “root cause.” If you are ready to feel more confident and in control going into your next cycle, then keep reading.
Why do I break out around my period?
Simply put: hormones.
Month after month, our hormones are constantly fluctuating, hence why it’s called a ‘cycle’. As they fluctuate, they may also contribute to inflammation and, in case you didn’t know, acne is inflammatory in nature. The week leading up to your period, progesterone and estrogen (the female sex hormones) reach their peak where progesterone is higher than estrogen, and then both levels begin to fall. This triggers the sebaceous glands in your skin to produce more oils, known as sebum. Excess sebum, along with any dirt or dead skin cells, clog your pores creating the yummy foods that acne bacteria (also known as P acnes) thrives on.
If you experience other symptoms leading up to your period, such as:
- feeling anxious
- breast tenderness
…You can thank your hormones for that, too. By the way, your hormones are not the ‘bad guy’ by any means. They are simply feeling misunderstood, so they tend to lash out for your attention. Insert eye roll.
Side note: These symptoms of PMS are common for many women who experience high estrogen in comparison to progesterone (generally progesterone should sit above estrogen) in the days leading up to their period. This is called estrogen dominance.
During all this, testosterone remains higher relative to the estrogen and progesterone, which further triggers your sebaceous glands to produce more oils. All this combined with inflammation results in, you guessed it: A BIG OL’ BREAKOUT.
This may show up for you as the following types of acne:
- Papules: painful small red/pink bumps
- Nodule: large solid painful lumps deep under the skin
- Pustule: a lesion with a red base and white/yellow puss at the top
- Cyst: painful pus-filled lumps beneath the skin
All of these are typically inflammatory in nature (painful, red, irritated). You may find that they predominantly appear on your chin, neck, and jawline although they can truly be found anywhere. They can be very painful and may spread if you pick on them. So, as tempting as it is, leave them alone!
Now that we have uncovered why we break out just before our period, let's look at ways to calm things down and heal the skin.
How to soothe your inflamed acne
Anyone who has experienced any of these forms of breakouts will agree that they are painful to the touch. If this is what you are currently experiencing, here are two simple things you can try today:
- Use a warm green tea bag as a compress to soothe the pain and help draw the puss to the surface. You can do this for about 10 minutes up to 3 times a day if needed.
- Ice your blemishes for about 5 to 10 mins to help relieve the pain and swelling.
Funny how heat and ice can be polar opposites yet also benefit the skin in various ways, right?! Green tea contains polyphenols which are great for anti-inflammatory purposes, and ice can soothe the skin and reduce swelling.
How to treat your current breakout
When treating your inflamed acne lesions, the best thing you can do is follow a simple yet effective skincare routine that works for your skin.
Cleanse: Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser (suited for your skin type) that won’t strip your skin or leave it feeling too dry. Don’t forget to double cleanse after wearing makeup and sunscreen.
Clarify: Optimize your skin’s health by restoring its pH while also removing excess dirt, oil and dead skin cells deep within the pores. Our Clarifying Acne Toner is really amazing for this because it has a blend of 2% salicylic acid and activated papaya enzymes, two acne-killing ingredients that you want in your acne skincare lineup.
Moisturize: Hydration is key! Keeping your skin hydrated with a lightweight oil-free moisturizer that will help decrease the overproduction of sebum and reduce any redness and irritation. This is key for preventing future breakouts.
Protect: Use your favorite mineral-based sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s powerful UV rays which can further irritate your skin and make things worse. SPF is also key to reducing inflammation and preventing scarring.
The Gentle Acne Trio is particularly helpful for this because it balances your oil production, clears your skin and prevents breakouts, all without stripping your barrier or causing redness and irritation.
Need help picking the right routine for your skin type? Click here to find out.
Preparing for your next cycle
Here are a few things you can do to feel more confident and in control each month:
As estrogen and progesterone fluctuate throughout the month, they may also affect your blood glucose levels too. In case you don’t know, high glucose levels in the blood directly impact the insulin levels. This is important to note because it increases the production of oil in your skin as well as causes inflammation.
There is some evidence that regulating your blood sugar can help with hormonal acne. This can sometimes feel challenging when the week leading up to your period is when we crave sugary treats the most (which is not great for blood sugar levels)!
What To do:
- Exercise throughout the month to keep your blood sugar in check and manage your mood. Walking immediately after large meals can drastically help as well.
- Don’t skip meals and eat a balanced meal every 2-3 hours. A balanced meal includes a healthy source of fiber, protein, fats and complex carbs.
- Reduce your consumption of sugary foods, drinks, alcohol, and processed foods especially during the week before your period.
Zinc is necessary for healthy skin. It helps our body use vitamin A more effectively, which is known to reduce acne and help with wound healing. Zinc also helps keep testosterone levels in check.
A few examples of foods high in zinc are:
- Whole grains
You can also apply zinc topically which is found in our mineral based sunscreens. Click here to learn why mineral sunscreens are the best sunscreens to use on your skin.
Cortisol is our main stress hormone and while it is necessary, it can negatively impact our skin if we have too much. Too much cortisol can increase the production of testosterone and trigger more acne.
Engage in relaxing activities like:
- Not skipping meals, especially breakfast
- Epsom salt baths
- Yoga/ meditation/ breathwork/ journaling
- Walks in nature
- Getting a facial/massage regularly
Using acids like lactic, glycolic and salicylic acid is a gentle yet effective way to slough off all the dead skin cells, oils and debris trapped in your pores. They also help calm inflamed skin. Use Exfoliating Pads 2-3 times a week to keep your acne under control. Caution: Over-exfoliating can make things worse.
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is highly effective in clearing acne and keeping it at bay. We recommend starting with a lower dose, such as our 0.25% Retinol Pads, to minimize any redness or irritation.
Please consult your doctor or health care professional before starting any new supplements as it can have the opposite effects.
If you also struggle with PMS symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, breast tenderness, irritability or moodiness, the week leading up to your period, you may be experiencing symptoms of estrogen dominance. This is where estrogen is higher in relation to progesterone before your cycle. Remember progesterone should be higher in relation to estrogen. DIM is a compound known to help detox these excess hormones from your liver and gut and restore balance.
You can find its natural form of DIM in foods like:
Chaste berry or “vitex” is a herb commonly used to help increase the level of progesterone in your body in relation to estrogen. By balancing progesterone and estrogen levels, we also help balance the androgens (male hormones) as well. Progesterone is commonly low for females as stress/cortisol steals progesterone from the body and can cause estrogen dominance. It takes 3-6 months to see full benefits.
Less commonly talked about, quercetin is a powerful antioxidant most commonly found in onions and is both super effective at reducing inflammation (similar to turmeric) and is also great for healing your gut!
Always consult your doctor and dermatologist before trying any new medications or skincare products.
Without a doubt, period acne sucks and you can thank your hormones for that. But now you are equipped with all the knowledge and tools you need to confidently tackle these pesky pimples, head on! Yes, that pun is intended. Let me know in the comments, do you struggle with acne around your period?
Written by: Kimmie Wagner, reviewed by Licensed Medical Aesthetician and CEO, Ashley Nordman
How To Treat Hormonal Acne Naturally- Top 3 Ingenious ways https://www.naturalacneclinic.com/blog/natural-treatment-of-hormonal-acne/
How Your Period Affects acne
Understanding your hormonal acne: what causes it and how to fix
Quercetin: A Common Antioxidant With a rare Acne Power