If you’re anything like us, then you’re no stranger to the appearance of acne. And you’ll no doubt be completely unsurprised to hear that your Menstrual cycle is often to blame. But how can you tell whether you’re experiencing a bog-standard breakout, or a PMS pimple purge? And what, if anything, can you do to battle it? Stay tuned, Hormonas, because today we’re talking Menstrual acne and its remedies.
The Menstrual Cycle and Acne
The Follicular Phase
Estrogen steadily increases during the Follicular phase, which begins with your period and ends in Ovulation. It’s coined the “goddess” phase, and for good reason. You’ll likely bask in the glory of increased collagen, meaning improved skin elasticity, sustained hydration, and less sensitivity. And your self-confidence is through the roof. Can we stay here forever, please?
The Luteal Phase
As Estrogen plummets, Progesterone rules the hormonal roost during the Luteal phase. A lot is happening here as Ovulation kicks off, and your body will certainly let you know. The elevated Testosterone to Estrogen ratio, paired with the rise in Progesterone, encourages skin swelling and oil production. Paired with a heightened body temperature, your skin becomes a breeding ground for P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. And voilà! Just like that, say hello to hormonal acne.
Now, toward the end of the Luteal phase, Estrogen and Progesterone drop to their lowest levels as your period approaches. This generally leads to lower oil production, and therefore, less acne. But that’s not to say you’ll feel entirely fresh-faced. Your skin is likely to feel quite sallow, dehydrated, and dull. That is until Estrogen returns in its full glory-restoring force in the Follicular phase, when you are a goddess once again.
Other causes of hormonal acne
While run-of-the-mill hormonal fluctuations are often the biggest cause of hormonal acne, they’re certainly not the only ones. There are a variety of other hormonal factors that contribute to acne, including:
These pre-existing factors are likely to aggravate the appearance of acne by increasing inflammation and skin sensitivity. And that, in turn, encourages more oil production and the clogging of hair follicles. If you’re severely impacted by the symptoms of these pre-existing factors, please talk to a trusted healthcare professional about possible treatments.
Menopause and hormonal acne
We’re sorry, we know you’ve got enough to deal with already. But those in the midst of Menopause may also notice the appearance of acne. The steep decline in Estrogen production during this period, paired with the relative increase in the presence of Testosterone, is likely to blame. Those living through Menopause often opt for hormone replacement therapies to alleviate the worst symptoms. But it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a cure for acne. Why? Because the hormonal influx it involves can actually cause acne. Fun, right?
How can I tell if my acne is hormonal?
There are several signs as to whether you’re experiencing a bog standard breakout or a hormonal one. First, timing is key. If the acne is hormone-related, you may well notice a regular pattern. And the best way to do that is tracking your symptoms for at least three months.
Shameless plug warning! The Hormona app is fabulous for tracking all of your cycle symptoms, including acne, PMS, sleep quality, mental health, cravings… Literally, everything that hormones have a hand in.
Secondly, location, location, location! Hormonal acne tends to crop up on the lower part of your face. More specifically, around your mouth, lower cheeks, jawline, and chin. This is because many of the glands that excrete oil and excess hormones are located here, making it prime real estate for acne. And it’s a very popular neighborhood with a particularly nasty form of acne, the cyst. Forming deep under the skin, they are often hard, and filled with oil and debris.
You may also notice some small spots appearing on your vulva. Do. Not. Panic. The already irritated hair follicles can be inflamed further by the use of scented period products, sometimes triggering those spots. To prevent vulval irritation, try switching to non-scented products.
Natural menstrual acne remedies
Now, here’s the catch. Many preventative Menstrual acne remedies interfere with your menstrual hormone fluctuations. And those are natural processes that you may not want to interfere with. That’s why many opt for natural Menstrual acne remedies. It’s worth noting, though, that these treatments are likely to help mild to moderate cases the most.
Our top tip? Be gentle when it comes to the products you use and how you use them. Avoid harsh products that irritate your skin, as well as those that include alcohol, perfume, and excess oils. They might smell lovely, but they might not be very kind. Opting for water-based products is always a safe bet — it lowers irritation and the risk of allergic reactions.
Heat as a menstrual acne remedy
Here’s a fab idea for anyone who suffers breakouts — it’s not just helpful, it’s actually super-relaxing. Using a warm press on active acne for 10-15 minutes up to three times a day can effectively reduce inflammation. Just be sure that it’s not too hot, as you definitely don’t want to add burns to the catalog of physical symptoms you’re probably already experiencing.
But where heat works for mild acne, cold presses are more effective when it comes to alleviating the swelling and pain associated with larger, painful acne, such as cysts. Just be sure to not do it for longer than 10 minutes at a time.
Skincare to remedy Menstrual acne
Benzoyl peroxide is effective when it comes to battling the bacteria that cause acne. It’s available over the counter, just be sure to not start off too strong, ideally staying below 2% concentration.
Cleansing isn’t going to prevent hormonal acne, but it’s a good way to minimize exposure to further bacteria. Twice daily, and double-cleansing if you’re a make-up wearer, is recommended. This will make the other acne-banishing efforts you make more effective. Remember, gentle is better, water-based is best, and take it easy on your face.
Tea tree is a mainstay of natural Menstrual acne remedies. Even better, it’s widely available and affordable, as well as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. The great thing is that it’s available in many different forms, from cleansers and moisturizers to pure oils depending on your skin sensitivity. If you do opt for a more concentrated form, though, be sure to dilute it with neutral oil or use it super sparingly, K?
Salicylic acid is efficient when it comes to keeping pores clear. It works to get into pores and hair follicles to banish the blockages that cause acne. The good news? It’s also widely available, be it in moisturizers, cleansers, or serums. You’ve got the pick of the lot here.
Whether you use more intensive medications to tackle your acne or not, sustained sun exposure when your skin is already feeling sensitive and inflamed is a no-no. Not only will encourage more oil production, it’ll also interfere with the skin’s healing process after sun damage. Stand by your SPF. And the higher the factor the better. And we’re talking 50+ here, gang.
Maintaining hygiene to remedy Menstrual acne
It’s important to note that hormonal acne is certainly not a cleanliness issue. That said, being extra careful about cleaning the things that you come into contact with regularly is always a good idea. That includes bedding and regular touchpoints, like your phone.
Traditional Menstrual acne remedies
Now, hormonal acne tends to form quite far below the surface of the skin. Which means that those who suffer from more severe forms of it may find the above natural treatments aren’t as effective. There is a range of traditional Menstrual acne remedies, some of which can be helpful. But beware, gang because, some of these treatments are more invasive than their natural counterparts.
The more concerning factor though, is that some are incompatible with certain medications. So please, please consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional before trying any of these options. They’ll be able to recommend the right treatment for your individual case.
Retinoids are another mainstay of menstrual acne remedies. Derived from Vitamin A, or at least, chemically related to it, they have powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
They also work to unclog pores and increase cell turnover, banishing acne-inducing bacteria from the skin. But be sure to start with a low potency and with a sparing hand. Retinoids will make your skin more sensitive to the sun and are not compatible with certain products. Which means SPF is your friend.
Oral medications are widely used to treat hormonal acne. Spironolactone, for instance, lowers Testosterone-related oil production. Similarly, hormone birth control pills increase Estrogen production while reducing Testosterone levels, limiting the hormone’s ability to increase the oil on your skin. These are, however, long-term options that carry their own side effects that are well worth taking into account before starting treatment.
Menstrual acne remedies: Where do I stand?
The most important thing to remember, gang, is that hormonal acne is totally normal. And you can totally rock it, too. In the meantime, though, it wouldn’t harm to keep track via our App. We’ll see you over there!
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