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Have you ever noticed that you tend to break out more before, during or after your period? You’re not imagining it. 63% of women who are prone to breakouts experience period acne. There is some solid science behind pesky period breakouts. You might be wondering how periods cause acne? And, how to prevent period acne in the first place? We’ve got you covered with answers to all of these questions and more.  

How does your period affect your acne?

Your period does in fact impact your skin and the possibility of breakouts. That’s because before your period begins, your body’s hormones fluctuate. In particular,  estrogen and progesterone levels drop. As a result of these changes, your skin will secrete extra sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that your skin needs so that it doesn’t dry out, but add too much of it to the mix and it can clog pores and you guessed it, lead to breakouts! In addition, hormones can also increase inflammation of the skin and produce acne causing bacteria.  

Does the menstrual cycle cause acne breakouts?

So, do periods cause acne? It’s not so much your menstrual cycle that causes breakouts, but instead the change in hormones leading up to the start of your cycle. Period acne usually strikes between seven to ten days before the start of Aunt Flow. Most women notice breakouts clearing up at the onset of bleeding. 

When do acne breakouts occur during the menstrual cycle?

The average cycle is 28 days, and each day of this cycle your hormones vary slightly. The beginning half of your cycle is characterized by higher levels of estrogen, while the second half is ruled by progesterone.  Then, right before the start of your cycle, both estrogen and progesterone fall to the lowest levels they will be all month. Interestingly, women have low levels of the male hormone testosterone coursing through them, and so when both progesterone and estrogen fall, testosterone is actually temporarily at higher levels than other hormones in your body. This is why period acne is most common right before your period begins. 

What other factors contribute to acne breakouts during the menstrual cycle?

All of these hormonal changes create unique changes to your skin. For starters, they increase the presence of the thick, oily substance known as sebum. This natural skin lubricant can clog pores when there’s too much of it, leading to period acne. 

In addition, as progesterone levels pick back up, it can cause minor skin inflammation that leads to pores compressing shut. On the bright side, this makes your pores look smaller. On the dark side, sebum is more likely to build beneath the surface of your skin and cause breakouts.   

You can thank testosterone for making even more sebum. As a result, some women get a beautiful glow, while others get an oily buildup. All of this oil provides a delicious source of calories for the bacterium P. acnes. Hence why breakouts and skin inflammation are so common around your period.  

What can I do about acne breakouts while I’m on my period?

Do periods cause acne? They absolutely do, but they usually cause breakouts before your period starts. So, while you’re on your period it’s important to practice good skin hygiene and not pick any festering pimples because this will only prolong their presence on your face. 

How can I prevent acne breakouts during my period?

Wondering how to prevent period acne? Luckily, there are some things you can do to help decrease the persistence of pimples. 

Keep Bacteria Off Your Face 

Bacteria is going to increase your risk for period acne, so the goal is to keep your face as clean as possible. For one, avoid touching your face because that is an easy way to put bacteria on your skin and further increase the risk of zits popping up. In addition, keep your cell phone clean since that gets pressed right up against your face. In addition, be extra cautious at the gym; always take your own towels to cover mats or other surfaces you place your face on. Use your clean towel to dab your face and avoid using your hands to swat away all that sweat. 

Take birth control 

Many women notice a reduction in period symptoms, including period acne, when they take birth control pills. Birth control will increase estrogen levels, which will reduce the side effects of testosterone in the body. In addition, BC pills increase a protein known as sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which actually absorbs testosterone in the body. Birth control pills also help slow down oil production, which is why doctors often prescribe them to reduce period acne. Talk to your doctor to find out if hormonal birth control options will help.

Medications May Help 

For more serious period acne, or acne that persists all month long, you may want to consider taking a medication for acne like accutane. Of course, you’ll need to speak to your doctor before starting accutane. 

When does acne get worse during the menstrual cycle?

Acne tends to be at its worst right before your period starts. Most women notice their period acne improving once they start bleeding. 

When to see a doctor

Some signs you should see a dermatologist for period acne include: 

You’ve tried all OTC methods to no avail. 

So you’ve looked up how to prevent period acne, tried it all, and pimples still persist? Now is a good time to talk to a doctor about possible solutions to help. 

You notice nodules or cysts as a result of your acne. 

If nodules or cysts form as a result of bad acne, it’s important to see a doctor for proper treatment and to prevent scarring. 

Changes to or worsening of hormonal acne occur. 

If you notice your acne is getting worse around your period, consulting with a doctor may help find the underlying cause. 

While periods are no walk in the park, the right pair of period underwear can help make the journey feel less like a struggle. Period effects like acne, bloating, and PMS might be hard to control month to month, but at least staying dry and leak free is easy. Our Leak Proof® underwear are made with multiple absorbent layers to keep you dry all day and night.  From your lightest days to the heaviest of flows, you’ll be comfortable, dry, and odor free.  


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