Acne flare-ups are irritating on regular days, so when it happens just as you start showing signs of PMS, irritation can hit the roof. Dealing with painful, redness, pus-filled bumps on the skin even as you navigate through PMS induced cramps, aches and mood swings can be quite trying.
You are not alone out there dealing with this; you’ll find it comforting to know that nearly 50 percent of women in the age group of 20 and 52 get premenstrual acne flare up. It is also common for women over 33 years of age to experience acne flare-ups compared to women younger than that.
What is interesting to note is that most acne flare-ups subside as soon as your periods start.
It’s all in the hormones
For most the menstrual cycle is between 25 to 28 days, and throughout this cycle the body hormones behave differently leading to changing body chemistry almost daily. So during the first half of your cycle, oestrogen is the dominant hormone which impacts your body differently. Progesterone is the dominant one in the second half of the cycle. Both these dip as you near the actual date of the periods.
In all this, there’s also the male hormone testosterone, which is present in the female body in small doses. This hormone remains constant throughout the cycle, so when you are menstruating testosterone levels are higher than your female hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
How hormones affect your skin
The hormonal shifts throughout your menstrual cycle play havoc with your skin’s natural oil balance. As the progesterone levels rise in the second half of your cycle, the sebum – skin’s natural lubricant – production increases. This is also the time when skin swells up and the pores get compressed.
If you are prone to dry skin, this is the phase when your skin glows due to minimised pores and layer of sebum on the skin. But those who have acne-prone skin start to get excessively oily skin.
As you near your actual menstruation, the testosterone levels become higher, which further activate the sebaceous glands leading to more sebum production. So as the oil pushes through your pores, it creates a fertile ground for the bacteria P. acnes. These infect the pores and cause inflammations which in turn lead to pustules and acne breakout.
However, this condition soon disappears as your period ends – which is the first week of your cycle. As you enter the second week of your period cycle, the oestrogen levels increase, and your skin starts to clear up. Your skin looks the best during the week two till ovulation, which takes place in the week three of your cycle. It is in this week that your skin goes through maximum transformation as oestrogen drops and progesterone increases. By the time you hit week four, pimples flare up takes place. By the time your bleeding starts, considered the week one of the cycle – you skin starts to get into the reparative mode. Thus the cycle continues.
Treat your skin right
If you are prone to excessive flare-ups as you near your periods, you have to keep an oil-control face wash handy. You can also use gentle exfoliating face wash to keep your pores clean. Even if your skin feels greasy, do not ditch the moisturiser. Use a gel-based moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated and protected. Use a calming face mask to remove excess sebum and deep cleanse your skin, once a week.
However, if the flare-ups are out of control, the best bet is to see a dermatologist who can help you topical treatments and more professional skin therapies.