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Acne Health Center

How Your Period Affects Acne

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Treating Menstrual Acne

For acne closely related to your period, you may need to do something hormonally to intervene. An ob-gyn or endocrinologist can help. Treatment options include the following:

Birth control pills
Birth control pills may help women who see a clear link between their acne and periods. “Anything that raises estrogen levels will lessen the effects of testosterone in women,” Lyster says. Birth control pills work by increasing a protein called sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in the blood. “SHBG acts like a sponge, soaking up the free testosterone in the bloodstream,” she says. “This means there is less testosterone available to cause acne.”

Birth control pills also work by slowing down oil production. Some pills are specifically approved for the management of acne. These pills include Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrosten, and Yaz.

If you start using birth control pills to control acne, be patient. When some women begin taking the pill, they experience increased acne for the first three to four months in response to the change in hormones. This should subside as your body adjusts.

Spironolactone
If acne doesn’t respond to birth control pills alone, your doctor may add medication to lower testosterone levels. This medication, called spironolactone, curbs testosterone-related oil production in the skin. Side effects include breast tenderness, irregular periods, headaches, and fatigue. Spironolactone is not appropriate for all women; be sure to discuss its risks and benefits with your doctor.

For those who are obese, weight loss.
“Anything that lowers SHBG may lead to increased acne,” Lyster says. One major factor that reduces SHBG and increases testosterone is obesity. “Therefore, eating a healthful diet and maintaining a healthy weight will help control acne breakouts around the time of menstruation.”  

In addition, you can try the following non-hormonal remedies:

Practice good skin hygiene
Any extra bacteria you introduce to your face will worsen menstrual acne. To keep your skin as clean as possible, New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, suggests the following:

  • Avoid touching your face; your hands introduce dirt and bacteria.
  • Clean your cell phone regularly; phones breed a lot of bacteria, and you hold them against the most vulnerable area to hormonal acne: your jaw line and chin.
  • When you work out at the gym, cover all mats with a towel; don’t put your face in other people’s germs.
  • Don’t smoke; smoking is a contributory factor to all types of acne.  

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