Period Acne: Symptoms, Topical & Oral Remedies, & Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Usha Kiran, FRCOG (UK)
By Ramona Sinha, Certified Skin Care Coach

Period acne mostly coincides with your menstrual cycle and is not uncommon. A study found that about 65% of participants experienced acne around their menstruation (1). Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle trigger menstrual acne or period acne. But, when exactly during the cycle may women experience acne? Is it before the bleeding starts or after it is over? Or does it occur anywhere around the ovulation? This article answers all your doubts on how the menstrual cycle may affect the hormone and cause acne. Read on.

How The Menstrual Cycle Affects Acne: The Science Behind It

The hormonal changes and fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and increased androgen (testosterone) levels trigger breakouts (1), (2).

The average menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days, and the hormone levels can differ significantly during this period. During the first half of the menstrual cycle (before ovulation), estrogen production is high and peaks a day before ovulation.

Ovulation results in the formation of the corpus luteum (a temporary endocrine structure involved in ovulation and early pregnancy), which produces progesterone in the second half (3). However, the progesterone and estrogen levels fall significantly as the bleeding time approaches (later half of the luteal phase).

Only the testosterone levels (produced in small amounts by the ovaries) remain constant during the menstrual cycle. This means that before, during, and right after menstruation, the testosterone (one of the androgens) levels are relatively higher than estrogen and progesterone levels.

A majority of the women reported acne and flare-ups in the week preceding menstrual bleeding (1). Also, high testosterone levels trigger excess sebum production, which may contribute to acne and flare-ups.

Period acne is different from other types of acne. It usually occurs on the lower half of the face – on the cheeks and the jawline. Here are a few symptoms to look for.

Common Premenstrual Acne Symptoms

Period acne may appear like red and inflamed bumps (papules). They are tender to touch and may be painful. However, they rarely develop into pustules (pus-filled papules).

If you have existing acne, you may notice flare-ups and increase in inflammation and redness. You can consult a doctor and use the following remedies.

Treating Period Acne: Topical And Oral Remedies

  1. Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide has comedolytic effects and can reduce mild to moderate acne when used in concentrations of 2% to 5%. It exfoliates the skin to clear dead skin cells, bacteria, and impurities and minimize acne (4).
  2. Salicylic Acid: It is a desmolytic agent that promotes the natural exfoliation process of the skin, helping to break down and clear dirt, dead skin, and bacteria from the pores and minimize acne (5).
  3. Retinoids: This vitamin A derivative promotes cell proliferation and removes dead skin cells to minimize acne (5). You can buy OTC products containing retinol. However, for retinoids, you may need a doctor’s prescription.

The doctor may also prescribe oral medications along with topical treatments for minimizing period acne.

Oral Medication For Period Acne

  1. Oral Contraceptives: There are different types of oral contraceptives available for treating acne. However, avoid pills that contain androgenic progestins (like levonorgestrel and norgestrel) as they may worsen the acne. Consult a doctor before taking oral contraceptives.
  2. Anti-Androgens: Anti-androgen medicines like flutamide, spironolactone, and cyproterone regulate and reduce androgen levels in the body. This can lower excess sebum production and acne (6).

Next up, we have some practical home remedies that you can use to manage period acne.

Home Remedies For Period Acne

1. Turmeric:

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help to minimize acne lesions (7).

You Will Need

  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric paste or powder
  • ½ teaspoon of water

Method

  1. Mix the two ingredients to form a paste.
  2. Apply it as a spot treatment.
  3. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and wash off.

2. Cinnamon And Honey

Both cinnamon and honey have antibacterial properties and can minimize acne. (2)

You Will Need

  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

Method

  1. Mix the two ingredients to form a paste.
  2. Apply it to the acne lesions as spot treatment.
  3. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Wash it off with water.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is used in traditional remedies to maintain the skin pH and soothe inflammation.

You Will Need

  • 1 tablespoon of ACV
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • Cotton ball

Method

  1. Mix both ingredients.
  2. Apply it with the cotton ball.
  3. Leave it overnight or wash it off after 30 minutes.

4. Aloe Vera Gel

The hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties of aloe vera aid in reducing acne (8).

You Will Need

  • A tablespoon of fresh aloe vera gel

Method

  1. Massage the acne lesion with the aloe vera gel.
  2. Leave it overnight or wash it after 30 minutes.

Taking care of your skin during the periods is equally important to control the breakouts. Here are a few tips to follow.

Lifestyle Tips To Minimize Period Acne

1. Follow A Basic Skin Care Routine:

Pay special attention to your skin care routine and practice good skin hygiene. Wash your face with a mild cleanser to keep the dirt and sebum away. Use topical serums containing retinol, niacinamide, and tea tree oil to control and minimize breakouts. Also, avoid touching your face as it can introduce unwanted dirt and bacteria.

2. Stay Hydrate

Drink plenty of water as the spike in testosterone and dip in estrogen can leave your skin dehydrated and oily at the same time. Staying hydrated keeps the skin tissues nourished and healthy.

3. Follow A Healthy Diet

Focus on your food intake. Make sure to eat your greens, limit processed foods, and cut back on sugar and whole dairy products. Avoid consuming alcohol and smoking to prevent breakouts and skin damage.

Period acne is a common issue. You may notice breakouts or acne flare-ups around your menses. However, they subside once your periods are over. You can follow the tips mentioned in the article to take care of your skin during this period. Use acne-fighting ingredients and follow a proper skin care routine to manage period acne. Also, drink plenty of water, consume healthy food, and sleep well, as this will help keep the skin tissues nourished and healthy. However, if you have severe acne and notice a flare-up around the time of menses, consult a dermatologist and use prescription medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods get rid of hormonal acne?

• Healthy fats
• Green vegetables
• Probiotics
• Foods rich in zinc
• Omega 3 foods
• Foods rich in antioxidants

How do I know if my acne is hormonal or bacterial?

To determine whether the acne is hormonal or bacterial, assess its intensity, whether flare-ups occur during hormonal fluctuations, and whether topical therapies or systemic drugs are required.

Key Takeaways

  • Period acne is a common occurrence for many women around the time of their menstruation cycle every month.
  • It usually differs from other acne in appearing in the lower part of the face, around the cheeks, and jawline.
  • Few lifestyle changes and home remedies with turmeric, honey, aloe vera gel, etc. can help you manage period acne better.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Perimenstrual Flare of Adult Acne
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4142818/
  2. ACNE-CAUSES AND AMAZING REMEDIAL MEASURES FOR ACNE
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340874478_ACNE-CAUSES_AND_AMAZING_REMEDIAL_MEASURES_FOR_ACNE
  3. The menstrual cycle and the skin
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ced.12588
  4. Topical benzoyl peroxide for acne
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/278309731_Topical_benzoyl_peroxide_for_acne
  5. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
  6. Hormonal Treatment of Acne in Women
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923944/
  7. In India Turmeric Used For Beautiful Skin By Sudipta Roy
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285923505_In_India_Turmeric_Used_For_Beautiful_Skin_By_Sudipta_Roy
  8. Aloe Vera: A Short Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/
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author
Ramona is an editor at StyleCraze. Prior to that, she authored over 200 articles on skin and hair care. She... more

Dr. Usha Kiran

(FRCOG (UK) )
Dr. Usha Kiran is a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at the Prime Hospital, Dubai, specializing in level 3 advanced minimal... more

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