Period acne is an ongoing problem that sometimes continues to happen well into adulthood. It’s annoying and may make you want to hide in a hole. Don’t worry – you’re not alone – today’s article discusses this condition (occasionally referred to as PMS acne or hormonal acne) in depth and explores what you can do to make it more tolerable. Let’s dive in.
What Is Period Acne?
Before we dive too far in, let’s first talk about what period acne is and what it isn’t. Period acne, PMS acne, hormonal acne – this condition may have many names, but all mean acne at an inconvenient time, and often (but not always) on your face.
Very Well Health describes period acne as, “Premenstrual acne, often dubbed “PMS acne”, is a consistent flare up or worsening of acne every month, coinciding with the menstrual cycle.”
This means period acne:
- Is influenced by your hormones and menstrual cycle.
- Occurs near or during your period.
- May make existing acne worse.
- Can happen even if you typically don’t have acne.
What Causes Period Acne?
Leading up to your period, your body goes through many hormonal changes. These changes prompt a perfect storm of conditions that allow for acne to pop up. So what exactly happens?
WebMD explains it best, “The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, and each of these days is different hormonally. “In the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the predominant hormone is estrogen; in the second half, the main hormone is progesterone,” explains ob-gyn Elizabeth Gutrecht Lyster, MD…. “Then levels of both hormones fall to their lowest levels of the month as bleeding approaches,” she says.”
These fluctuations in hormones, as explained by ob-gyn Elizabeth Gutrecht Lyster, MD. in the above quote, send your body through all sorts of changes. This includes oilier skin, cravings for fatty or sweet foods, skin swelling, etc., creating a perfect environment for pores to become blocked and acne to form.
Whether you’ve just gotten your period, or you’ve been menstruating for a while, there’s a lot to learn about your body. Take the quiz to find out how much you know about Aunt Flow.
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How To Prevent Period Acne
With a better understanding of what causes period acne, what can you do to prevent it? We’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news first – if your skin is already typically oily and you’re already prone to acne, the struggle is going to be harder. That said, it won’t be impossible! Let’s talk about some methods of preventing acne from forming:
- Wash your face and other areas with gentle cleansers – First and foremost, don’t just leave the oil sitting there. A little oil is fine, a ton of oil could set you up for acne. If you don’t normally wash your face, it may be time to start. There are many gentle cleansers who will help to remove excess oil without stripping the face and causing it to become dry.
- Try rose water or witch hazel – Rose water is a great anti-inflammatory, and can help to reduce the swelling in your face, as well as reduce redness and aid in the reduction of acne (and possibly even scars). On the other spectrum, witch hazel helps to clean and shrink pores, as well as reduce excess oil from the skin. Be careful when using either of these products, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Avoid eating fatty or fried foods – Not only does consuming these foods invite potential problems, but these foods may impact more than just your stomach. Consider that as you are consuming these foods, oil and grease from these meals are making their way onto your face (queue the image of grease dripping down your chin). If you don’t remember to wash your face after eating (which many of us don’t, and a simple napkin might not be enough), you’re leaving this residue in an area that may already be angry – potentially causing unwanted acne.
Avoid sugar as well – Sugar is commonly referred to as an inflammatory. As mentioned in #2 above, and earlier, we’re working towards reducing inflammation and calming our skin, where sugar may be contributing to the opposite effect. While sugar on it’s own may not be the direct cause of acne, it’s often combined with overly processed ingredients that are high in fat. In addition, excess sugar consumption could aggravate underlying conditions that may cause acne.
How To Treat Period Acne
You unfortunately weren’t able to prevent period acne, and now you’ve got a big white spot on your chin – what next? Now, we treat it, carefully. It’s important to note, always always always make sure you wash your hands and only use clean materials when treating acne to reduce the risk of spreading or infection.
Another important note, rarely are you advised to take action into your own hands and pop a pimple – even if it’s tempting – you can always watch Dr. Pimple Popper if you’re really craving some pimple popping action.
If you find yourself caught with a pimple, start first by gently cleaning the area. Before we begin with the tips, check with a medical professional and know your sensitivities or allergies.
A few tricks you can then try include:
- Repeating the steps we mentioned above to prevent the acne.
- Apply witch hazel to the spot using a soaked cotton ball. This may help to dry out the acne spot.
- Apply apple cider vinegar to the spot using a soaked cotton ball. Similar to the witch hazel, this may help to dry the spot out.
- Carefully apply tea tree oil (you may consider using a carrier oil, as recommended by most reputable sources). Be mindful of the carrier oil, as this may further cause the acne versus helping it.
- Oatmeal face mask, or oat masks. There are many gentle cleanser available, which are made using fresh oats, dried fruits, and natural clays. These make excellent facial masks to clear up blemishes and freshen the face.
Let us know – what tricks do you have? Head to the forum to share your story!
What’s Normal vs. What’s Not Normal
It’s important to carve out some time to mention conditions that can cause period acne but may not be “normal”. These conditions could actually be harboring harmful bacteria and occur more regularly than what’s expected for period acne. Some conditions include:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): This condition may alter your hormones, making you more prone to acne year round, as well as causing insulin resistance and other symptoms such as excess body hair, weight gain, and potential hair loss from the scalp.
- Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS): A disease that appears as pimple-like bumps, typically in the groin or underarm regions. Often confused for really bad acne, HS does require medical attention.
- Boils or Cysts: Occasionally confused for a really deep pimple, a boil or a cyst may actually be caused by bacteria or clogging of a gland. These may require medical attention, and should not be self-treated.
- Cystic Acne: An inflammatory type of acne that isn’t easily treatable using over the counter treatment options, and may be accompanied by redness, swelling, and pain.
When To Seek Help
If you are experiencing any of the conditions listed above, these require medical attention. In addition, please talk to a medical professional if you are experiencing:
- Acne that is painful or hot to the touch.
- Acne that doesn’t go away.
- Acne that gets worse after treatment.
- Acne that keeps returning.
- Acne that doesn’t “feel right”.
You know your body best. If you are concerned about anything always speak with a medical professional as they will be the best the determine what’s going on. We are not medical professionals here.
Acne happens to everyone at some point or another. Sometimes the acne goes away on its own, without any cause for concern. Other times you should be aware of what’s happening inside your body as the cause of your acne may not be your period at all. As mentioned above, always speak with a medical professional if you’re concerned or worried about something on your body.
If you are dealing with period acne and are looking for more tips and tricks, we recommend joining us on our PeriodTalk Forum where you can connect with other like-minded folks in a safe space to discuss intimate concerns. We’ve also included some excellent resources below to help you learn a little more about the conditions we’ve mentioned in today’s article.
Here’s to a better period!
Additional information regarding Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS):
Additional information regarding Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439
Additional information regarding Cystic Acne: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/a3q7y4/how-to-treat-cystic-acne
Article: Does Sugar Really Cause Acne? https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/01/20/does-eating-sugar-really-cause-acne/#7a5560b45af4
Article: Home Remedies For Acne
Article: How The Menstrual Cycle Affects Acne
Video: Dr. Pimple Popper
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