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How Your Period Affects Acne

Treating Menstrual Acne continued...

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.

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.  

For menstrual acne that is more severe, see a dermatologist
A dermatologist may be able to prescribe one of the following medications to help:

  • Accutane. “In people with severe cystic acne or who have tried other remedies without success, isotretinoin (Accutane) can be a real skin saver,” Fusco says. Accutane is a natural derivative of vitamin A. The drug comes with a number of side effects and potential drug associations, including a possible increased risk of suicide and birth defects in pregnant women; discuss all these risks with your doctor before using it.  
  • Low-dose antibiotics. “If you have deep-seated pimples, ask your doctor for a prescription for low-dose tetracycline,” Fusco says. “Take the antibiotic for five days, starting a few days before your period.”

In addition to prescribing oral and topical medications, a dermatologist can ease menstrual acne by performing some in-office treatments. Treatments may include cortisone injections, acne surgery, laser therapy, or a chemical peel.

Reviewed on April 11, 2011

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