The Real Reason Why You’re Getting Monthly Hormonal Acne

If you’re over the age of 25, more than likely you’ve found that your blemishes are staring to level out. However, you may still deal with “that time of the month” breakouts. Often I’ll hear my clients say, “Like clockwork, I always break out right at the start of my period.” These breakouts can be cysts on the chin area (those hard, sore bumps under the skin that are painful and take forever to go away), or those familiar pustular-type zits. Either way, it’s frustrating and leaves you with the challenge of how to deal with them when they only come monthly during your cycle.

Why do you get them? What can you do to help prevent these hormonal breakouts? How do you ensure your skin is blemish free every day of the month? No worries! I’ve got answers and I’ve got solutions to “clear things up” for you.

What causes monthly hormonal breakouts? Just before the start of a woman’s cycle, there is more progesterone in the skin causing water retention resulting in the skin appearing puffier. (If you find yourself bloated and your pants get a little tight, then this surely will sound familiar.) When this occurs, it puts pressure on the pores and creates a narrower pore lining. Additionally, oil can get thicker because of the imbalance of hormones and the increase of testosterone during the pre-period hormonal shift. When you have thicker oil trying to get through a narrower opening, this creates an environment within the skin where breakouts can now begin.

What can you do to prevent these from appearing? The key here is prevention. Most of you probably have a plan of attack for when a blemish appears, to get it to go away as quickly as possible (and if you don’t, read this), but it’s more challenging to try to figure out how to prevent them from showing up in the first place.

Modify your skin care routine slightly about 3 to 5 days prior to the start of your menstrual cycle.
Replace 2-3 products in your current regimen with ones that focus on clearing away bacteria to prevent the formation of breakouts. I generally suggest switching up your cleanser. If you’re currently not using a mask, add one for daily use during this time. If your hormonal breakouts usually appear on a certain area of the face such as the chin, you might consider using these products on that area only, so as not to give other places on your face something they don’t need.

Use products containing the ingredient, salicylic acid. It’s a keratolytic beta hydroxy acid (BHA) ingredient famous for its ability to penetrate the pores to help clear out bacteria and shed breakout-clogging cells—all without irritating the skin and causing dryness. It is important to understand  that most acne products are intended to dry out breakouts when they are in their active stage; while this is appropriate for someone who has a lot of pustular acne showing all over their face (such as a teenager), it’s simply NOT appropriate for the prevention of adult acne. Drying out the skin will only make it worse as this creates surface cell buildup that can keep oil and bacteria trapped in the pore leading to even more breakouts. Plus, adult skin types need to focus on keeping the skin in a healthy, hydrated state to encourage the slowdown of lines and wrinkles. You’ll usually find salicylic acid in cleansers, serums and masks, as well as in acne spot treatments. It’s a fabulous ingredient with proven results in preventing the appearance of blemishes. (And it helps with blackheads, too!)

My favorite non-drying products containing salicylic acid that truly deliver results are BHA Clarifying Serum, AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser and Rapid Response Detox Masque. You can check those out but let me elaborate a bit on the Rapid Response Detox Masque as this was specifically formulated for the prevention of “that time of the month” acne. In addition to salicylic acid, one of the key ingredients is lichochalcone, a molecule contained in licorice root extract which offers many anti-acne benefits. It’s anti-bacterial due to how it can help starve the bacteria so it can’t breed; it also helps to control oil production (lack of oil means lack of breakouts), and it calms and soothes hormonal-induced puffiness. There are other potent ingredients used in this advanced formula that work to create an environment deep within the skin to prevent breakouts but I wanted to touch on this one and its very unique benefits. You can use this mask every day leading up to the start of your cycle (leaving it on for 15 minutes at a time) on your troubled areas.

Apply a thin layer of Anti-Cyst Treatment on the specific areas prone to breakouts to keep blemishes from developing. This product is definitely the ‘Holy Grail” for cystic breakouts—both for prevention and for reducing them when they appear. Since it works specifically for cysts, this is another great option to use. On clean skin at night, apply a thin layer to areas prone to cysts. For the best results, use it right after rinsing off the Rapid Response Detox Masque. The two pack a powerful punch when used the days leading up to your period.

Looking for our most comprehensive solution for breakouts? Shop our Zit Care Kit, complete with everything you need to tackle blemishes at every stage.

Consult with your doctor. A gynecologist may be the most beneficial type of doctor to see since they work more closely with women and have a better understanding of hormonal fluctuations. They will most likely have your hormone levels checked via a blood test and prescribe oral medications such as birth control pills (or switch your current dosage) or spironolactone, a popular drug that can work well for balancing hormones. Some doctors take more of a natural approach and may suggest vitamin supplements or offer dietary recommendations. A gynecologist client of mine told me that she has seen a lot of patients experiencing adrenal fatigue. That condition can lead to acne as well as a host of other symptoms, so you may want to search the web for more information about it.

Acne is an inflammation disease of the skin so the goal with monthly breakouts is to not dry out your skin with harsh acne products, especially when the breakouts are occasional and appear only on certain areas of the face. Instead, treat the skin as needed with the use of gentle, calming, pore-clearing, antibacterial ingredients and you just may find that your hormonal blemishes are a thing of the past.

Read: Why Most Acne Spot Treatments DON’T Work
Read: Five Ways To Hydrated Oily, Acne-Prone Skin Without Causing Breakouts
Read: The Upside of Having Acne

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

For more expert advice, check out the blog. Also, sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGLOW!