Oh, period acne — thou art such a consistent torment. While some may be genetically #blessed in this regard, if you have a menstrual cycle, you’ve probably experienced the unfortunate phenomenon of getting gnarly breakouts during that time of the month. It seems like your regular skincare routine, no matter how devoted you might be to it, just doesn’t work anymore once your period shows up. Skincare during your period seems to be a whole other ball game, so how the heck do you go about rerouting your usual routine? And why do these period breakouts even happen in the first place?
Well, according to Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of the skincare line Curology, most pimple-prone women do, indeed, find that their acne tends to get better and worse in cycles, often in tandem with their period.
“The average menstrual cycle is 28 days,” Dr. Lortscher tells Elite Daily, “and in the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the predominant hormone is estrogen, which helps acne.”
Of course, there’s always a “but.”
“But in the latter part of the cycle, the main hormone is progesterone, and its rise stimulates the production of sebum,” he says. “This is oil produced as a natural skin lubricant by the sebaceous glands in the skin.”
As your 28-day cycle heads toward menstruation, the dermatologist explains, these higher progesterone levels further influence the sebaceous glands to make even more sebum, which can lead to more clogged pores — and, you know, those gnarly, often-super-painful zits. Basically, when Aunt Flo comes to town, it’s just a freakin’ oil factory for some of us. Thus, careful skincare is, not surprisingly, pretty key here.
But the bottom line is this: If you struggle with hormonal acne, before you try anything, it’s always best to check in with a skincare specialist or dermatologist, since everyone’s skin is different, and what works for someone else might not work for you.
Luckily, Elite Daily gathered some expert insight and general, go-to tips for how to approach the acne that seems to explode in pimply little fireworks during that time of the month. Here’s how to handle your period pimples the next time they pop up.
1Experiment With A Double Cleanse, Twice A Day
Charlotte Cho, a skincare expert, esthetician, and co-founder of Soko Glam, admits that, despite how much she knows about skincare in general, she, too, deals with major hormonal acne during her period.
“I’ve always had pimples here and there, but on the day of my 30th birthday, I woke up to cystic, painful acne along my jawline,” Cho tells me in an interview with Elite Daily. “It’s been [like] clockwork ever since. Every month, I get inflammatory acne on my chin that also leaves behind marks.”
One of her methods of everyday skincare that has helped treat her period acne is, what she calls, “the double cleanse” — i.e. cleaning her skin twice, two times a day, in the morning and night. First, she uses an oil cleanser, followed by a cleansing foam. Cho says she loves this oil and blackhead cleanser from Soko Glam, as well as the Dr. Oracle A-Thera cleansing foam.
2Remember That Prevention Is Key
Dr. Lortscher says the best strategy for period acne is prevention. And if cystic acne is a real, persistent struggle during your time of the month, he explains, you might want to look into actual medicine or supplements.
“That means using a topical medication every day of the month to prevent clogged pores and inflamed blemishes that might tend to occur during your cycle,” the dermatologist tells Elite Daily, adding that it’s definitely important to talk to your own doctor about what types of oral medication you might be able to use for your period acne, such as birth control pills, other prescribed supplements.
3Think About The Foods You’re Eating During Your Period
“Be extra careful to avoid certain things in your diet during your [period],” Dr. Lortscher says. “You may find that minimizing or avoiding sugars/carbohydrates and dairy can help.”
Specifically, the dermatologist explains, high-glycemic foods — think white bread, potatoes, etc. — can lead to blood sugar spikes that can, in turn, cause inflammation in the skin. In fact, Cho says she knows from experience just how much your diet can affect your skin.
“I’ve also found that my diet greatly affects my breakouts,” she tells Elite Daily. For instance, she explains, while she was on the Whole30 diet a few months back, she didn’t experience hormonal acne the entire time, and was able to focus on healing the marks previously left behind from other hormonal breakouts.
“Through my own skincare journey,” Cho says, “I’ve learned to create a holistic approach to reduce my breakouts, and [this] has allowed them to heal faster, as well.”
Start developing an awareness around the foods you eat and crave during your period, and how your nutrition might be playing a role in what’s going on in your skin. If you need to, take literal notes about what foods seem to correlate with your breakouts, and go from there.
4Find A Fast-Acting Product That Works For You
Sometimes, no matter what the heck you do, you wake up on day one of your period, and the pimples are just there. When that happens, the best thing you can do is find a go-to, fast-acting product that you know gets the job done for your skin. For example, my mom used to have luck with the ol’ toothpaste-on-the-zits trick.
According to Walgreens beauty expert, Courtney Larrabee, adding a spot-treatment product (i.e. something that goes directly on your zits) to your skincare routine will help calm your temporary skin-storm while you wait out the week of your period. Cho tells Elite Daily her personal go-to for spot treatment is the Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch.
“When I have inflamed pimples, I put the patches on them to draw out impurities,” she says, adding that these little puppies treat breakouts by eliminating infection and bacteria, which are likely causing the zits to show up in the first place. The product breaks down debris from blackheads, she explains, and absorb gunk from whiteheads overnight, ensuring there are no harsh dry patches in the process.
5Consider Treating Yourself To A Facial
According to facial surgeon, Dr. Michelle Yagoda, you should make time to indulge in a facial — aka the ultimate form of self-care — when it’s your time of the month.
Toward the end of your cycle, Dr. Yagoda tells Elite Daily, consider getting a facial with extractions to help clear out clogged pores and get rid of excess sebum, as this can help cleanse and reset your skin for the month ahead.