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Why You Break Out On Your Period: Your Cycle & Your Skin

Posted by Guest Contributor

May 07, 2021

Hormone secretion during the menstrual cycle has a significant influence on the overall health, and also on how our skin looks.

For almost 70% of women, these hormones can cause unwanted skin breakouts. The skin changes reported by most people during the menstrual cycle include excess sebum production or oily skin, hormonal acne, spots, and blemishes.

So why do I break out during my period?

Hormones stimulate oil production

The skin can be significantly affected by hormonal activity. The increase of progesterone and testosterone, in particular, stimulate oil glands to secrete more sebum than usual. Further, excess oil will clog pores and cause hormonal acne, spots and blemishes.

The most affected area, as you might already know, is the “T” zone. During their period, women with dry or normal skin usually have a mild glow. On the other hand, those with a combination to oily skin type might experience an excessive sebum production and more severe outbreaks.


The skin is more sensitive to allergens

Increased skin sensitivity happens due to a series of chemical changes that take place at the surface of the skin before your period. These chemical changes, although physiological, make the skin cells more reactive to environmental allergens. Also, two weeks before your period, blood flow and skin temperature increase slightly, setting the path for unwanted skin changes.

Most frequent allergic skin signs include dry, itchy skin, tightness and redness. Women that already have sensitive skin may also experience stinging, burning and even pain.


Preexisting allergic and inflammatory skin conditions can be exacerbated

If you are already suffering from a skin condition, you might experience some aggravation in the week before and after your period. In this case, you might want to ask for a specialist dermatology consultation.


The skin microbiome is altered

Excessive oil production can boost the pathogenic flora and prevent healthy microorganisms from adequately doing their job, which is to keep the skin healthy.

Don't worry, there are a few things that require minimal effort and can help you minimize skin changes caused by your menstrual cycle.

Best skincare routine during period & throughout your cycle

We experience hormonal skin issues for a significant part of our life. As such, we need a natural and comfortable skincare routine that we can do in the long term and not cause more harm.


Your daily cleansing ritual is essential

Daily cleaning minimizes hormonal acne and prevents breakouts. However, you might be tempted to over-cleanse your face with more than one product and minimize moisturizers to reduce excess sebum production. Washing your face too many times during the day, along with using harsh products and not moisturizing, will only spur oil production and worsen acne.

Try to limit cleansing your face to twice a day and use a gentle soap and alcohol-free product that does not dry your skin excessively. Of course, if you work in a dusty environment, you can wash your face at the end of your shift. To do this, you might want to bring your cleansing product, moisturizer and drying cloth with you every day. Don't just use what comes in hand.


Don't skip washing your face

Especially just because you don't wear makeup. During the day, we accumulate dust and impurities from the environment, which can lead to skin issues. Oil is also secreted during the night. As such, you also need to wash your face in the morning.


Pat your skin dry with a soft organic cotton cloth or towel.

Try not to rub your skin too vigorously as it may cause irritation or worsen any skin issues. Towels can harbor bacteria and dirt, which can lead to acne breakout. Thus, you need to wash the towel as often as possible and not share it with anyone.


Use a microbiome-friendly moisturizing serum

This will keep your skin hydrated. Cleansing and exfoliating products can over-dry your skin, especially if you wash too many times a day. As you already know, dry skin is more prone to irritation, red spots, itchiness and flaking. A natural serum will restore hydration, but will not stimulate oil production. Even more, a microbiome-friendly moisturizing serum will also nourish healthy microorganisms that work hard on keeping your skin healthy.


Sleeping is also part of the skincare routine

A good night's rest can help you get relief from stress, which otherwise can exacerbate skin breakouts. Changing your pillowcase every two days might also be an excellent idea. Oil, sweat, dirt, dead cells, bacteria and other harmful particles gather on your pillowcase. By changing it more often, you can prevent and alleviate acne and other skin lesions.

Put your hair up in a loose bun during the night. Hair is like a sponge for environmental dust particles, it might also be a source of sebum and can also carry bacteria. Keeping your hair up during the night will prevent it from rubbing on your skin and aggravate or even cause acne and irritation.


Use a gentle exfoliator throughout the month

Keeping your skin free of impurities, dead skin cells and makeup can prevent buildup and clogging of pores, which can otherwise get worse during your period. Still, this does not mean that you need to do this every day. Depending on your type of skin and the product that you use, you can exfoliate once or twice a week as a skincare routine.


Use salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is one of the most effective active ingredients against skin breakouts. Cleansing lotions or leave-in products that contain salicylic acid, help reduce oil secretion, and also act as mild exfoliators. If you have sensitive skin, or even if you don't, it might be a good idea to go for the lowest concentration available. If you are allergic to salicylic acid, then you should not use products that contain this compound in any amount.


Choose a healthy diet

Eating healthy is essential for our overall health and should be a part of our day to day life. However, from time to time, we feel like we can indulge in eating processed foods that contain high amounts of fats and sugars. Processed foods will cause your skin to be oilier and will aggravate hormonal skin changes. Thus, during your period, it might be a better idea to keep a healthy diet to prevent hormonal imbalances and possible breakouts.

Spearmint tea is also known to work wonders for hormonal acne during your period.

As you can see, there are so many things that you can do to maintain healthy skin. Always choose natural products and stay away from any form of excess, either with the products that you use or skincare routine.


why-you-break-out-period


Dr. Elsa Jungman is the founder of Dr. Elsa Jungman—a clean line of skincare that’s the kindest to your skin. With a Ph.D in Skin Pharmacology, her passion for research began while contributing to peer reviewed journals at age 25, and has continued as she’s worked with renowned dermatologists and leading brands all over the world. Her mission is to be an advocate and resource for promoting a healthy skin ecosystem. She was the first woman awarded the French American Entrepreneurship Awards in New York in 2019.


References:

Cengiz, K., et al. "Is the menstrual cycle affecting the skin prick test reactivity?." Asian Pacific Journal of allergy and immunology / launched by the Allergy and Immunology Society of Thailand, vol. 22, 2005, pp. 197-203.

Farage, Miranda A., et al. "Physiological Changes Associated with the Menstrual Cycle." Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, vol. 64, no. 1, 2009, pp. 58–72., DOI:10.1097/ogx.0b013e3181932a37.

Mayrovitz, Harvey N., et al. "Skin Tissue Water and Laser Doppler Blood Flow during a Menstrual Cycle." Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, vol. 27, no. 1, 2007, pp. 54–59., DOI:10.1111/j.1475-097x.2007.00716.x.

Misery, Laurent. "Sensitive Skin." Expert Review of Dermatology, vol. 8, no. 6, 2013, pp. 631–637., DOI:10.1586/17469872.2013.856688.

Raghunath, R. S., et al. "The Menstrual Cycle and the Skin." Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, vol. 40, no. 2, 2015, pp. 111–115., DOI:10.1111/ced.12588

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