Premenstrual Acne: You're Not Alone

Dec. 11, 2001 -- Do you feel like your face reverts back to your pimple-faced teen years right before your period? Well, you're definitely not alone. A new study shows that a surprising number of women have a premenstrual acne flare.

You may have known for years that acne peaks its ugly head right before your period every month. But medical research has yet to show that -- until now.

"Acne has often been associated with hormones and a woman's monthly cycle," says researcher and dermatologist Alan R. Shalita, MD, in a news release. "This study confirms that many women do, indeed, have a premenstrual flare of their acne."

Shalita and colleagues surveyed 400 female participants aged 12 to 52. They asked them whether their acne got worse before, during, or after their menstrual period or whether it was unrelated to their period.

Overall, 44% reported having premenstrual acne flares. And if you're thinking that you'll eventually grow out of this, think again. Women over 33 years had more acne flares before their period than women aged 20 to 33.

"Acne that worsens during a woman's monthly cycle isn't something that women will grow out of as they get older," says Shalita, at State University of New York, Brooklyn.

The study results appear in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Previous research has been unable to establish any definite link between abnormal hormone levels and acne related to a woman's period, the researchers write. While some studies have shown increased hormone levels, others have shown normal levels.

"While it is likely that this is due to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, further study needs to be conducted to confirm this," says Shalita.

Doctors have used hormones in the form of oral contraceptives -- the pill -- for years to treat acne in women. However, it was only recently that birth control pills were approved for this purpose. Ortho Tri-Cyclen 28 was the first, followed by Estrostep. Other acne treatments, such as creams and antibiotics, can help as well.

Even if you've been living for years with acne that pops up right before your period, now might be the time to actually do something about it.