Mar 13, 2019 · 6 min read
Every woman with a menstrual cycle has a unique experience around their period, and let’s be real: none of them are fun. Bloating, cramps, headaches, PMS, and period pimples are a common part of the package. Studies have shown that at least 65% of women get pimples around their period, often around the week before it starts.
Not-so-fun fact: adult acne is much more prevalent among women than men. A study conducted by the Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School found that “45% of women aged 21–30, 26% aged 31–40, and 12% aged 41–50 had clinical acne.” Another study showed that women were more likely to have acne than men after their teen years. It hardly seems fair on top of premenstrual symptoms, right? (Hey, at least we’re getting a period emoji in 2019 to show solidarity.)
We know that breaking out in hormonal acne on top of all the other period symptoms is frustrating to say the least, but it’s not hopeless! You have more control over your hormones than you may realize, such as by controlling your diet and reducing stress, for a couple of examples. Even better: the right skincare routine and a custom formula of active ingredients can work wonders to help prevent period acne and get rid of any zits that might pop up. The ingredients in your custom Curology formula are designed to keep your skin’s natural processes in tip-top shape, so those natural hormonal changes won’t throw off the works!
In a way, all acne is hormonal. Causes of acne include various hormone-triggering factors aside from the menstrual cycle, such as stress or eating too much sugar. What these all have in common is that they lead to an over-enthusiastic response by the skin’s oil glands. A good way to tell what could be causing your breakouts is face mapping, which we explain in this post.
Acne tends to flare up around the same time some women experience PMS: the one to two weeks between ovulation and the start of the period. Estrogen decreases during this time, so for a while, there’s more of the androgen (male-type) hormones progesterone and testosterone. (This is a natural process that can happen differently from person to person, but FYI, everyone has both “male” and “female” hormones!) When those hormones fluctuate, the male-type hormones stimulate the skin’s sebaceous glands, so the skin produces more oil. This extra oil production can lead to clogged pores — unless you’re using the right skincare products to prevent those pores from getting clogged, of course (that’s where Curology comes in).
This is why some kinds of hormonal birth control can help with acne: they help level out those jumpy hormones to avoid such a dramatic fluctuation around that time of the month.
Of the many different kinds of hormonal birth control, from the pill to the IUD, only some of them can help control hormonal acne. Some kinds of hormonal birth control can actually make acne worse! Our guide to birth control for acne makes it easy to find out if your birth control might be part of the problem, and which kinds might be able to help.
For sure, hormonal fluctuations are a key factor in preventing and getting rid of pimples whether you have a period or not. The catch-22 of period acne is that it’s so common to have cravings that time of the month! Especially if you suffer from the kind of mood swings that are symptomatic of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). But caving in to cravings such as sugar, alcohol, carbs, and dairy (mmm, pizza and wine) can throw off your hormones even more. Ironically, the most important time to watch what you eat is the hardest possible time to control those cravings!
We know it’s not easy to cut out treats when you’re feeling crummy, to say the least. The trick is to replace whatever you’re craving with satisfying alternatives. For example, if you’re craving chocolate, treat yourself to some dark chocolate that’s low in sugar and, ideally, dairy-free. (To prevent acne, it’s a good idea to avoid milk chocolate and sugary candy bars.) There are plenty of delicious good-for-you chocolate alternatives out there, especially at health food stores. For example, you can get chocolate made with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and it is DELICIOUS. The world is your oyster! (Mmm, chocolate and oysters.)
Another way to satisfy that sweet tooth and help you feel better: snack on some fruit (but not fruit juice, because that’s a sugar bomb waiting to happen) such as a banana. Bananas are high in potassium, which some people believe can help relieve cramps! Spread some (unsweetened) peanut butter or almond butter on that banana and you’ve got yourself one craving-killing healthy snack. Also, sometimes when you’re having sugar cravings, what you really need is to hydrate. Drink lots of water — we know we’re probably sounding like a broken record, but seriously, it’s the best thing for your skin and your body. You can also treat yourself once in a while to some coconut water: it’s also rich in potassium, and it’s super hydrating.
For more pro tips on the best diet for acne, check out the guide.
So, besides exerting some super-impressive self-control of your diet, what can you do to prevent hormonal acne?
Get ahead of the hormonal domino effect on your skin with a custom formula of active ingredients that’ll maintain your unique skin’s harmonious balance. Continued use of the right active ingredients can help prevent period breakouts (although some people also need to address the hormonal component directly with birth control or other medications). Some of the best stuff you can get for your skin requires a prescription, and that’s where we come in. If you’re dealing with acne breakouts before or during your period, try a free trial of Curology to get a month’s supply of your own custom acne-fighting formula.
We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.