Period acne: here's why we breakout during our period.

July 13, 2021


We asked a Dermatologist why we break out during our period, and what we can do about it.

 

Don’t we just *love* all the fun, extra stuff that comes with getting our period? Like, hormonal acne? Ugh, what a mood kill.
 
But before you get to picking, popping and touching those newly unwelcomed guests (hint: all big no-no’s!), we spoke to Dermatologist Dr Sarah Hannam on what you should actually do about period breakouts and why you’re getting them.

First up, we just wanna say (and really, really loudly): LOVE THE SKIN YOU'RE IN! Breakouts, pimples, acne or not - you're still a fiercely fabulous Moxette, Moxette. Your skin doesn't define you.

But at the same time, we get that sometimes skin flares can get us down - if you're in that boat, you're not alone. And, there are ways to help treat your concerns.

Here are your most common period breakout questions, answered by Sydney-based Dermatologist, Dr Sarah Hannam.

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS ACNE?

Acne is an extremely common, often chronic condition, in which we often see a combination of blackheads and whiteheads (open and closed comedones) papules, nodules and cysts, usually on the face, chest or back, sometimes leading to scarring and hyperpigmentation, which can have a big impact on self-esteem and quality of life.

 

JUST HOW COMMON IS IT?

Acne affects up to 85% of the population at some stage in their life. Whilst we often think of acne as a problem in adolescence, 'adult' acne, defined as beginning or persisting >25 years of age is not uncommon, and can affect up to 15% of women. 

 

WHY DO WE GET SKIN BREAKOUTS, OR ACNE?

The underlying causes are numerous and often multi-factorial. Whilst our understanding is still evolving, key factors include hormones (androgens), which stimulate the sebaceous (oil) glands to produce sebum. For various reasons, these glands can become blocked, leading to bacterial colonization and inflammation.
Other factors that may be at play include genetics, stress, diet, smoking, medications, the immune system, occupation, and the use of cosmetic products. 

 

HOW DO WE KNOW IF OUR BREAKOUTS ARE HORMONAL/RELATED TO OUR PERIOD?

Some tell-tale signs include a history of 'cyclical' flares in which acne fluctuates at certain stages during your menstrual cycle (e.g. increased breakouts approximately 1 week before your period starts). 

Clinically, it's quite common to see 'hormonal' breakouts around the chin, cheeks, jawline and neck, but this is not universal. 

A condition affecting people who period that you may have heard of, that is also closely linked with acne, is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is where the body essentially overproduces androgens ('male' hormones). Aside from acne, people with PCOS may be experiencing menstrual irregularity, be overweight, have increased hair growth (known as 'hirsutism') on the face, chest and abdomen, skin tags in the armpits, groin, or under the breasts, and require further assessment by a specialist with blood tests, and an ultrasound to check for cysts on the ovaries.

 

HOW CAN WE TREAT BREAKOUTS?

There is an absolute excess of products available on the market for acne, which can be very confusing, and often leads to overuse and interruption of your natural skin flora - which can in fact exacerbate the issue and lead to irritation, along with over-washing and over-exfoliation.

As Dermatologists, we will often simplify your regime at home to a few basic and good quality products, which certainly don't need to break the bank.

The use of mineral-based, non-occlusive makeup is also recommended, which should be thoroughly removed before bed.

Be sure to change your pillow case frequently, drink lots of water and make sure you get adequate sleep.

 

DOES A POOR DIET EXACERBATE SKIN BREAKOUTS AND ACNE, OR IS THIS A MYTH?

I'm commonly asked about diet and acne, and the jury is still largely out; but there is some evidence that high glycaemic index foods and dairy products (especially skim milk) are linked with acne, but more definitive research needs to be done here - and so I generally suggest approaching diet in moderation, and encourage healthy lifestyle choices generally in terms of diet, exercise, and the avoidance of smoking.

 

WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND SOMEONE DO IF THEY'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR SKIN?

Ultimately, I strongly suggest consulting with your GP and considering a referral to a Dermatologist to discuss your acne, no matter how severe you think it is. There are a great deal of topical, systemic, and physical treatment modalities that we take great care in catering to the individual, after taking a history and examining you closely, to help you achieve your skin goals, and love the skin you're in. 

 

💕 For more self-care period-related breakout tips, head to The Moxie Periodic Table - your uncensored period guide. 💕

 

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About Dr Sarah Hannam - Dermatologist (MBBS, FACD). 

After graduating from The University of Adelaide in South Australia, Dr Hannam moved to Melbourne where she completed her dermatology training with a fellowship year at University College Hospital in London. She has been affiliated with The Royal Children's Hospital, The Skin Health Institute (formally known as the Skin and Cancer Foundation in Carlton), The Peter McCallum Cancer Institute, The Austin Hospital, The Alfred Hospital, St Vincents Hospital and has spent time in Fiji contributing to clinics, research and education.

Dr Hannam has extensive experience treating all skin conditions and has a special interest in both medical and surgical dermatology including diagnosis of skin cancer & melanoma and the treatment of such. Her other areas of special interest are acne, psoriasis and scar and pigmentation management.

Dr Hannam currently resides and practices in Sydney at Kingsway Dermatology and Aesthetics, and Complete Dermatology Bondi.



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