What Causes Acne Before Your Period + How to Deal With It

Premenstrual acne is a pretty common phenomenon, but it's not unsolvable. Here's why you get acne before your period and what you can do to prevent it.

December 2, 2021 5 minutes read
Young woman with acne on the chin and lower cheeks

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Premenstrual syndrome is no joke – moodiness, cramps, and bloating are usually accompanied by acne flare-ups, swollen and painful, only further spoiling the mood. According to research, about 65% of adult women aged 18 to 49 reported worsening of their acne symptoms seven days before their period.

In this article, we'll explore what the research says about the possible causes of premenstrual acne breakouts and how you can treat and prevent them.

What Causes Premenstrual Acne?

pms symptoms infographic

Acne is a widespread skin condition that is usually associated with adolescence. However, recent studies show that acne becomes more and more prevalent among adults and affects mostly women older than 33 years due to the underlying hormonal fluctuations.

The AAD (American Academy of Dermatology Association) states that adult-onset acne in women is often the result of hormonal imbalances due to their periods, stress, pregnancy, menopause, or starting or discontinuing oral contraceptive pills.

So, without any doubt, hormones are to blame. But what exactly happens with them before period, and why is the outcome stubborn and painful acne?

Well, although extensively investigated, the link between acne and hormonal disbalance is still unclear. However, some research suggests that during the week leading up to the period, progesterone and estrogen levels drop while androgens (male sex hormones, like testosterone) rise or stay the same, leaving them predominant. Excess amounts of androgens stimulate androgen receptors in our sebaceous glands, leading to the overproduction of pore-clogging sebum and providing a favorable environment for the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

In addition, these PMS acne flare-ups are a whole other beast than your regular breakouts. They usually occur as red and deep-seated papules and pustules located in the lower part of your face, including the lower cheeks, chin, jawline, and neck. Some women report them getting worse 7 to 10 days leading up to or during their periods, with the overall skin condition improving when their periods are ending or after they are over.

Still, more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism and effect of the menstrual cycle on acne and the skin condition in general.

How to Treat Premenstrual Acne

woman holding birth control pills

As we already said, PMS acne can be pretty stubborn and painful, but luckily, they are treatable. There are certain medications, skincare, and tricks that are proven effective in this fight:

How to Prepare Your Skin For the Next Period

woman taking care of her skin and touching her face

There are steps you can take to help your skin in the long run. With a couple of tweaks in lifestyle habits, you can cut the problem in its bud and treat causes rather than deal with consequences later on. Here are some tips on healthy lifestyle changes you can try to help your skin better deal with PMS:

Some Parting Words of Advice...

Acne before or during the period is a phenomenon that affects a huge number of women, primarily due to a stressful and hectic lifestyle, with unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. Some women are more prone to cycle-related pimples than others, but fortunately, they can be treated.

All in all, if you suffer from hormonal acne, it would be best to consult with your dermatologist or health care provider. They will best assess your skin condition and give you adequate treatment. Or they might recommend you to see your endocrinologist (hormone specialist) or gynecologist (female reproductive system specialist) for further analyses.


How do I prevent breakouts before my period?

Regular exercise and a diet rich in foods with a low glycemic index can help your skin better deal with hormonal acne. In addition, proper skincare can be of tremendous help - cleanse your face twice a day and after workouts, apply moisturizer and sunscreen regularly, and exfoliate once a week.

What does period acne look like?

Period acne, also called hormonal or adult acne, usually occurs in the lower face area, including lower cheeks, chin, neck, and jawline. They are often inflamed, painful, and red pustules and papules, sitting deep under the skin.

What part of menstrual cycle causes acne?

Hormonal acne usually occurs during the second half of a menstrual cycle. This is about seven to ten days before the period when estrogen and progesterone levels become lower.

Why am I getting hormonal acne all of a sudden?

There are many potential causes of hormonal acne. Dermatologists claim that many women get it due to stress, pregnancy, hormonal imbalances due to the menstrual cycle, or menopause. In addition, you may notice inflamed and painful acne breakouts right when you're beginning to take or discontinuing contraceptive pills.

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