Hormonal Breakouts 101

On top of the moodiness, cramps, random “fat kid” cravings and bloating to follow, it’s a common occurrence to also wake up with some brand new breakouts, especially around the jawline or chin (aka, the perioral region). Lucky us, ladies!

Menstrual acne affects roughly 63% of women every month according to a study published in the Archives of Dermatology. These flare ups develop about 7-10 days before a period, and then subside once bleeding starts. Curious as to why this happens? Let me explain.

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Most cycles are about 28 days and each day, hormones slightly shift. The beginning of the cycle is highest in estrogen, and the last half is highest in progesterone. Towards the end of the cycle, both hormones fall to their lowest points and stimulate bleeding. Testosterone, the male hormone we carry in small amounts, remains at a constant level all month. A peak in progesterone combined with testosterone stimulates sebaceous glands to produce more sebum than usual. Sebum is another word for oil – it gives skin its lubrication and also serves as a food source for P. acnes, the bacteria that causes pimples.  When progesterone rises, this causes the skin to swell and pores become compressed shut. Debris, dead cell build up and oil accumulation in the follicle contribute to an overgrowth of P. acnes and cause inflammation. Thus, a new zit.

While we can’t control the flux in hormones, we can be one step ahead of oil production. If you struggle with this, I suggest increasing your use of medicated products (benzoyl peroxide, acids) about 7-10 days before your period. This will help keep oil accumulation at bay. Avoid touching your face, wipe down your phone with alcohol wipes often, cut back on smoking, drink lots of water and wash right after sweating. If you feel oily mid-day, feel free to wash again. Taking an anti-inflammatory or antioxidant supplement can help a lot too!

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