It seems unfair that adolescents have to deal with so many awkward rites of passage — growth spurts, hair growth, body odor, and of course, acne. But girls have the added annoyance of periods and the premenstrual pimples that amplify their teenage turmoil and even add to their adult angst.
If you notice that you get acne flare-ups just before your period, or your existing acne gets even worse during this time, you’re not alone. Nearly half of all women say their skin breaks out the week prior to their period. But you don’t have to suffer through it.
At Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics in Salt Lake City, Utah, our team of expert dermatologists, led by Dr. Robert Topham, treats your specific type of acne with techniques and products that can clear your skin and stop those embarrassing eruptions. Here’s what you should know.
Learn your blemish types
People tend to use the term acne as a catch-all description of all blemishes, but there’s a difference in each eruption.
Knowing how to identify the type that’s affecting your skin, recognizing patterns that relate to diet and hormones, and monitoring the effectiveness of various products can help you (and us) develop the most effective treatment plan.
Here are the types of acne blemishes you might see pop up:
- Blackheads: Clogged pores that remain open on the surface, but the black dirt is visible
- Whiteheads: A clogged pore that’s closed and forms a white bump
- Papules: Pink bumps
- Pustules: Inflamed bumps that are red at the bottom with a white head
- Nodules: Painful bumps that form in the deep layers of your skin
- Cysts: Pus-filled and painful
Regardless of what type of acne you have, it may get worse for a couple weeks out of every month.
The connection between periods and pimples
Acne occurs when dirt, oil, and dead skin cells get trapped in your pores. The constant battle against acne involves staying one step ahead of those three culprits, keeping your skin clean and pores open.
But just before your period starts, your body goes through hormonal changes. Your estrogen level drops, while your testosterone (yes, women have testosterone, too) level stays the same.
That means the testosterone in your body during the week before your period is relatively higher in comparison to your lower estrogen level. And because testosterone triggers your glands to produce more oil, you’re suddenly at a disadvantage in the anti-acne battle.
The good news is that when your hormones level out again, your skin should begin clearing up.
What you can do to manage and treat premenstrual acne
If you have ongoing acne and use products to calm down flare-ups, those same products are likely to help prevent premenstrual pimples as well. The same rules apply: Keep your skin clean using gentle cleansers, kill bacteria with tea tree oil, clear away dead skin cells with glycolic acid pads, clean out pores with salicylic acid, and use benzoyl peroxide to treat spots.
If you don’t see any improvement after three menstrual cycles, you may need a little extra help. That’s when it’s time to come in and see our team to discuss some stronger treatments.
We may suggest prescription-strength topical treatments or even oral medications or antibiotics. Birth control pills are another option, as they help control your hormones, and therefore your acne.
When you have a deep, painful cyst that doesn’t respond to medication, we can neutralize it by draining and extracting it here in our office. This stops the pain and also reduces the chance of scarring.
We also offer light-based therapies and laser treatments to rid you of your recurring acne. But whichever product or procedure we use, you can rest assured that we’ve taken into account your skin type, your medical history, and your overall health.
If your menstrual symptoms are compounded by before-your-period acne, give our office in Holladay, Utah, a call and schedule an appointment with our team.