It happens. Every. Single. Month.
My skin is clear and flawless for days but, as soon as my period hits, a party of pimples springs up all over my chin (because cramps and mood swings aren’t torture enough).
Every month, I hope it’s the last month. Every month, they come back.
Well, until recently. I’ve made a couple of tweaks to my skincare routine and diet that seems to be keeping them away. Of course, I had to share them with you. 🙂
Here’s what I do to keep my hormonal acne at bay (and how to treat it if you already have it).
Why Do You Get Hormonal Acne During Your Period?
Because hormones hate you. They’ll take any chance they get to screw up your life.
Ok, maybe not. But that’s how it feels, isn’t it?
And those pesky hormones are indeed the culprit. Progesterone and estrogen, to be exact. These two are involved in your menstrual cycle and fluctuate throughout the month.
When you’re ovulating, estrogen is at its peak. That’s good. Estrogen = healthy, glowy skin. Estrogen gives your skin a beautiful radiant glow and, with the help of progesterone, keeps testosterone at bay.
But, once the ovulation phase is over, the levels of estrogen and progesterone dip way down. Without these soldiers blocking the way, testosterone has a field day.
Now high enough to wreak havoc, testosterone tells your skin cells to pump out that sebum like there’s no tomorrow.
The extra sebum mixes with dead skin cells, clogging your pores and erupting in all kinds of acne: pimples, blackheads, whiteheads. You name it, it’s there.
By the time you period starts, acne has firmly set up camp on your face (it’s particularly fond of your chin). Ugh!
How Do You Know If You’re Dealing With Hormonal Acne?
There are a few clues:
- Breakouts occur during the same time every month (usually, just right before your period is about to start).
- Breakouts spring up mainly on your chin and jawline.
- Acne is the cystic type (hard, painful bumps).
If you’re nodding your head vigorously, you’re dealing with hormonal acne, gorgeous.
How To Prevent Hormonal Acne
There are a few things you can do:
1. Pop A Pill
Hormonal acne is why many doctors prescribe young women the pill, even if they aren’t sexually active.
Birth control pills reduce the levels of testosterone in your body. Less testosterone = lower risk of breakouts.
I’m not on the pill. Personally, I don’t like to mess with hormones. Do it wrong and it can screw you right up. I prefer to find other ways to keep my acne under control. But if you’re on the pill and it’s working for you, that’s totally cool. It’s all about finding what works for you.
P.S. I know I don’t need to say this, but if you’re thinking of going on the pill (even if just for your acne), consult your doctor.
2. Exfoliate To Keep Your Pores Unclogged
All that excess sebum your skin produces right before your period gets easily trapped into your pores. Especially, if they’re already full of dead skin cells. The two mix together, clogging up your pores. The result? Breakout galore!
I exfoliate my skin three times a week with glycolic acid to slough off dead skin cells from my face. Plus, it hydrates and boosts collagen, keeping my skin firm and soft.
But, a week before my period is due, I switch to salicylic acid. Unlike glycolic acid, salicylic acid gets inside the pores, exfoliating them from within.
Salicylic acid cleans up the pores, allowing sebum to flow out freely. It keeps breakouts at bay and zaps the blemishes you already have.
I use this one every morning until the end of my period. If your skin is more sensitive than mine, try two or three times a week instead.
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): don’t be fooled by the name, it HAS salicylic acid, too. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
- The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£4.25): available at Adore Beauty, Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
3. Soak Excess Sebum Up So It Won’t Clog Pores
My combo skin gets a little oilier on my t-zone, but it’s nothing a piece of blotting paper can’t fix. Most of the time.
A week before my period, my skin is at its oiliest (thanks, testosterone!). That’s when I take out the big guns: clay masks.
Clays like kaolin and bentonite soak up excess oil so that it doesn’t get stuck into your pores. Bye bye, pimples!
- Clinique City Block Purifying Charcoal Clay Mask + Scrub ($28.00): available at Nordstrom, Sephora and Ulta
- Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask ($27.00): available at Nordstrom and Sephora
- Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask ($22.00): available at Look Fantastic and Paula’s Choice
4. Tweak Your Diet To Reduce Inflammation
I’m a sugar addict. I wish I could eat pizza and cake all day. Every day.
My body has other ideas. Sugar (by the way, carbs turn to sugar in the bloodstream) promotes inflammation. Inflammation is bad on so many levels. It’s what causes deadly diseases like cancer and Alzeheimer’s. It makes you age faster. And it increases your risk of breakouts.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s no way this Italian is ever gonna give up pizza for good (or cake, for that matter). But, I’ve seriously cut back on grains and sugar.
Instead, I’ve upped my fat intake. I’m eating more foods rich in omega-3, such as salmon, avocado and walnuts. I’ve added more probiotics, such as kefir and Greek yogurt. I have my fair share of vegs with every meal.
And, then, once in a while, I have a cheat day when I eat pizza at dinner and snack on chocolate. A healthy diet is about moderation, not deprivation.
Personally, I’ve found this has the biggest impact on my hormonal acne. It’s easy to eat a balanced diet at home, but when I travel, I cheat a little too often.
I don’t feel too guilty about it. In the grand scheme of things, eating more sugar for a week every few months won’t kill me. But, I find it makes pimples more prone to come back during that time of the month.
If I want clear skin, a low glycemic diet is the way to go.The secret to dealing with hormonal acne: amp up the exfoliation, cut down the sugar.
How To Treat Hormonal Acne
Now you know my secrets to prevent hormonal acne. But what if you’re already dealing with it? Here are a couple of tips to help you:
1. Exfoliate with Salicylic Acid To Unclog Pores
I’ve talked about salicylic acid before so I won’t repeat myself here.
I’ll just say that your pores are all clogged up now. Salicylic acid frees them up from all the gunk inside, making those blemishes go away.
It works especially well with blackheads and whiteheads. Those clog up your entire pores. If you only remove the top part, it’ll only be a matter of time before they rear their ugly heads again.
2. Zap those pimples
If you’re dealing with pimples, there are a few things that can help. They all have one thing in common: they’re super harsh. Use them on pimples only!
So, who are these pimple busters? Here are my faves:
- Benzoyl Peroxide: it kills P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. Best of all, bacteria don’t become resistant to it.
- Sulfur: a mineral that reduces oiliness and kills P.Acnes.
- Tea Tree Oil: in 5% concentrations, it works as well as benzoyl peroxide. Can cause allergies.
Choose your poison!
P.S. I’m partial to sulfur. It works faster than anything else I’ve tried so far.
- Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel-Lotion ($18.50): available at Nordstrom, Sephora and Ulta
- Dr Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask ($42.00): available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Net-A-Porter, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Malin + Goetz 10% Sulfur Paste (£19.00): available at Harvey Nichols and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Clear Extra Strength Daily Skin Clearing With 5% Benzoyl Peroxide ($19.00): available at Dermstore, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
The Bottom Line
Change your diet and tweak your skincare routine a week before your period and you’ll never have to deal with hormonal acne again!
How do you deal with hormonal acne during that time of the month? Share your experience in the comments below.