Pimples are right up there as one of the worst period symptoms. As if suffering from pain, cramps, bloating, and PMS isn’t enough, blemishes deal an instant blow to your complexion, not to mention your confidence. The harsh reality is hormonal acne doesn’t discriminate — around 80% of us are hit with it regardless of age or skin tone, thanks to surging hormones. Pimples and wrinkles anyone? In a bid to clear your skin — and the misinformation around period pimples — check out this expert guide and get glowing again.
Acne versus hormonal acne
Your body naturally produces oil (sebum) to prevent skin dryness. Breakouts occur when the body starts producing excess sebum often as a result of fluctuating hormones (teenage years, during menstruation, pregnancy, and perimenopause). It’s worth noting, though, that the root cause of severe or cystic acne is largely genetic.
Like your period, your skin is on a 28-day cycle to shed dead skin cells and regenerate new healthy ones. In the lead up to your period, your body experiences an uptick in the rise of estrogen and progesterone levels, which, when combined with an added dose of the stress hormone cortisol and testosterone, adds up to the perfect recipe for the creation of excess oil. The dead skin cells get trapped in the oil, clogging your pores. And then it’s hello inflamed blemishes (those nasty pus-filled pimples, pustules, and cystic breakouts) or, if you’re lucky, the lesser of two evils, whiteheads and blackheads.
Hormonal-related breakouts mostly wreak havoc on your jawline and the lower part of your face. And these can turn cystic or nodular, so be proactive with your skin care routine, treatment, and prevention.
Clear skin starts with self-care
Acne care 101 is all about keeping your body — the skin being the largest organ in the mix — fit and healthy. This means eating lots of fresh veggies and fruit (especially leafy greens), lean protein, whole grains, legumes, and unsweetened beverages. And do all you can to avoid fatty, sugar-laden, and processed foods. Regular exercise (getting all that blood pumping will get skin glowing), managing stress levels, getting a good night’s sleep, and taking probiotics to ease the gut inflammation that can trigger breakouts will also hold you in good skin stead.
It’s called a beauty regime for a reason
Adopting a regular daily beauty routine is your best defense against breakouts, dull, dry, and aging skin. And hydration, hydration, hydration is the mantra. Along with exfoliation, exfoliation, exfoliation (at least twice a week) to remove dead skin cells so your products can penetrate more deeply and you’re less likely to get clogged pores. Cleanse your skin morning and night, boost hydration with serums and moisturizers, and protect against premature aging by applying SPF. It’s best to stick to non-comedogenic, natural, vitamin- and antioxidant-rich skin care products to avoid clogging and nasty chemicals. See a dermatologist or acne-savvy esthetician for the best products for your skin type for optimal results. When it comes to shopping for products that specifically tackle acne, look for those that have antibacterial properties and salicylic or glycolic acid to exfoliate. And nip spots as they crop up with Cleo CLEAR acne patches. These handy little skin care weapons feature high-quality hydrocolloid, which creates the perfect environment to promote healing, calm inflammation, and draw out pus and impurities.
Topical retinoids are acne enemy number one
Derivatives of vitamin A, topical retinoids are usually the go-to treatment for dermatologists when it comes to relatively mild or medium cases of hormonal acne. Retinoids accelerate your skin’s ability to shed dead cells, keeping your pores clear to help lower the blemish-potential. You can find retinol products at your local pharmacy, but it’s best to consult a dermatologist on what’s right for you, especially if you need a higher-dose option. Disclaimer: retinoids can be very drying to sensitive skin and are also reactive to sunlight, which can cause photodamage, so always apply an SPF or better still, use only at night.
Birth control may help
If bad period acne caused by hormonal fluctuations is the bane of your existence, your doctor may recommend trying birth control pills. While the FDA has approved several estrogen/progestin based pills (i.e., Yaz, Estrostep FE), it’s worth keeping in mind that pills handle hormones in very different ways. Any birth control that can potentially raise androgenic symptoms (i.e., a progesterone-only pill, also known as the “mini-pill”) should be avoided, especially if you’re prone to acne.