Hormonal Acne: Why You Break Out Before Your Period
Between cramps, bloating and PMS, there’s no doubt that periods can be tough. For some of us, we experience cyclical breakouts that can occur just a couple of days before that time of the month — almost like clockwork. If you’re one of the many women who finds themselves asking, “Why do I break out before my period?” you’ll want to keep reading. Ahead, learn about the most likely culprit — hormones — and what you can do about the pre-period and hormonal acne.
How Hormones Affect Skin
Just like breakouts that can appear during puberty and pregnancy, premenstrual breakouts are often due to hormonal changes and fluctuations. Prior to your period you experience an increase in androgens — male sex hormones that are in both males and females — and a decrease in female sex hormones. This fluctuation during your time of the month can lead to hormonal acne flare-ups by overstimulating the sebaceous (or oil) glands and, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, “altering the development of skin cells that line the hair follicles in the skin.”
When our hormones are out of whack — even just for a short period of time each month — our sebaceous glands may go into overdrive, which can lead to oily skin, oily hair, and you guessed it, increased hormonal cystic acne. Excess oil on the skin’s surface can congest and clog the pores with dead skin cells and other impurities, which, in turn, causes breakouts. With hormonal acne, these breakouts often appear near the mouth, chin and jaw line just before your period begins. Pre-period pimples can happen to women at any age. While it has often been misconstrued that hormonal acne is exclusive to teenagers, this is a myth. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s can experience hormonal acne.
Other Lifestyle Factors That Can Cause Breakouts
While perhaps the driving force behind pre-period pimples are hormonal fluctuations, they don't always work alone. Lifestyle factors can come into play when it comes to breakouts, too. For instance, while it’s important to always keep your hands away from your face, during the weeks leading up to your period (when your skin may be more prone to breakouts) it’s key to be hands off. Our hands can harbor all kinds of pore-clogging dirt, so do your best to keep them far away from your complexion and always wash them before starting your skin-care routine.
Another hidden cause of breakouts may be your cell phone. Between touching them with your hands all day long, putting them on random surfaces and allowing your friends to borrow them, your smartphone is a breeding ground for bacteria. Wipe yours down often to help to reduce your risk.
Do you work out? How soon after breaking a sweat do you hop in the shower? Fact is, if you wait more than ten minutes after a workout to, at the very least, rinse off the sweat from your face and your body, you may experience breakouts everywhere from your face to your chest, shoulders, back and even your butt. In the weeks before your period, make even more of an effort to cleanse your skin from head to toe after you exercise because sweat can mix with excess oils, clog your pores and turn into blemishes.
How Should I Change My Skin-Care Routine for My Period?
Your skin-care routine shouldn’t remain the same 365 days a year. Just as you adjust for different seasons, travel plans and environmental factors, you’ll want to make a few changes to your skin-care routine during that time of the month. By going on the offense and following the right skin-care routine, complete with mild cleansers and non-comedogenic moisturizers, you can help stave off blemishes. Also, try topical products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which are key acne-fighting ingredients.
Your Pre-Period Skin-Care Routine
STEP 1: Cleanse Properly
Start your day by cleansing your skin to help remove impurities, dirt and excess oil from the surface of skin that could potentially clog your pores and cause breakouts. If you typically experience breakouts before the arrival of your monthly cycle, consider a cleanser formulated with salicylic acid and use it twice daily. We love the SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel from our parent company, L’Oréal, which is an exfoliating gel cleanser formulated with a blend of salicylic acids to address breakouts, decongest pores, smooth skin texture and brighten.
STEP 2: Tone Your Skin
In order to effectively and thoroughly cleanse your skin, you’re going to want to follow up with a toner. Toners can help balance your skin’s pH levels and reduce excess shine on the skin’s surface. The best part? There are a multitude of toners specifically designed for oily, acne-prone skin. A toner for acne-prone skin we recommend is the AcneFree Witch Hazel Mattifying Toner. Formulated with witch hazel and exfoliating glycolic acid, this toner works to balance your skin’s pH levels while also managing your skin’s oil production.
STEP 3: Moisturize
Just because you are experiencing extra oil doesn’t give you a pass on hydration. Even oily skin needs moisture, or else you can run the risk of dehydrating your skin — which in turn can cause your oil glands to produce even more sebum than before. If breakouts are an issue, during the weeks leading up to your period, reach for lotions that are formulated for blemish-prone skin; typically they will contain salicylic acid. Other great options are water-based moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, like the L'Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care, which tend to be lightweight and offer just enough hydration for oily skin.
STEP 4: Spot Treat
Even the most diligent skin-care routines are no match for some breakouts, and in these cases you’ll want to use a spot treatment. The best spot treatments help to target acne and unclog pores. Look for ones with acne-fighting ingredients including salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Personally, we always try to keep our medicine cabinets stocked with the AcneFree Maximum Strength Terminator 10. Formulated with micro-benzoyl peroxide, this spot treatment helps to fight acne bacteria and fend off breakouts between applications.
STEP 5: Blot
If you notice your skin gets extra oily as the day goes on and you can’t wash your face, reach for blotting papers — some are even formulated with salicylic acid — to help you combat breakouts. Blotting papers help to remove excess oil from the skin’s surface and help to get rid of the appearance of shine without ruining your makeup application.
STEP 6: Mask
If there’s any week of the month that you’re deserving of a spa-like experience, it’s during your period. Indulge in an at-home spa night with a clay mask, which is great for blemish-prone skin because it helps to purify pores. One of our favorites from L’Oréal is the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask. Formulated with Amazonian white clay, this mask helps draw out impurities while smoothing and refining skin.