How Hormones Affect Your Skin & What You Can Do About It

Understanding the science behind your period can be intimidating. Nevertheless, being informed and understanding how your cycle impacts your mood, your skin, and other aspects of your wellbeing is imperative to maintaining your body’s overall health. 

While it’s no secret that your period can affect your skin, finding resources to guide your understanding can be difficult. Hence, we’ve put together this guide to understanding how periods and birth control affect your skin.

How Your Period Affects Your Skin

What happens to your skin during your period? 

During your cycle, your body experiences an influx and outflux of hormones that cause mood swings, bloating, and breakouts. In regards to your skin, these hormonal fluctuations lead to an increase in oil production and irritation that results in an increase of bacterial buildup. 

As progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone circulate during your cycle, your body’s sebum levels are resultantly increased. Sebum is an oil secretion that is released onto your face. The overproduction of sebum that occurs during your period leads to an excessive amount of oil that leads to clogged pores and acne development.

As mentioned, your hormonal shifts often correlate to mood shifts. These mood changes are another factor that lead to an increase in hormonal “period” breakouts. Acne is caused by a buildup of toxins and irritants, which are increased in times of stress, making your cycle an appropriate culprit when it comes to period acne. 

Does birth control play a role? 

Yes. As you know, birth control comes in a variety of options, including, but not limited to, contraceptive pills and IUD or implants. When it comes to your skin, contraceptive pills can also be helpful for improving skin quality by decreasing hormonal breakouts. Here’s why:

Types of hormonal contraception include estrogen and progesterone pills, which help to regulate high doses of androgen. Androgen contains testosterone, which produces sebum; as discussed, sebum is an oil secretion that can lead to excess oil and increased breakouts. By regulating androgen levels, estrogen and progesterone birth control pills help to regulate hormonal shifts and maintain facial-oil levels, thereby decreasing the likelihood of hormonal acne. 

Hormonal contraceptive pills, however, are of course not guaranteed to treat acne. For some, you could be finding that your prescribed acne-treating birth control is making your skin worse. In this case, you should consult your doctor to assess the causes and appropriate next steps. That being said, it’s important to remember that it usually takes around 2-3 cycles for the hormones to kick in; thus, a visible improvement in acne typically takes 3-6 months.

The How Why What of Hormonal Acne

What Steps Can I Take To Clear My Skin? 

Clear skin during a hormonal breakout is not always an easy feat, but is achievable. Hormonal breakouts can be particularly tricky to treat, as hormonal changes are inherent and ever-shifting. Nevertheless, there are a number of steps you can take to treat and help prevent hormonal breakouts一 as well as breakouts caused by other irritants. Following these tips takes you one step closer to clear skin while on (and off) your period:

Up your skincare routine: If you notice acne as a precursor to your menstrual cycle, be proactive and up your routine the week before. Reach for an exfoliating mask, a salicylic cleanser, or topical retinol to kill bacteria, unclog pores and eliminate excess oils.

Spot treatments: Blemish patches are an ideal way to treat pesky breakouts, as they work to flatten and heal blemishes overnight. Hence, they’re perfect for treating pimples that pop up during the phases of your cycle. Another underestimated benefit is that they prevent you from picking at your skin in a way you’ll later regret. 

Eat healthy: Acne can be an inflammatory response to food allergies or sensitivities, meaning that birth control does not impact diet-based acne. Take advantage of diet guides and make sure to treat your skin from the inside out. Stock-up on healthy sweets to snack on during your period (such as berries). 

Stay hydrated: Water consumption helps your body release toxins. Thus, drinking sufficient amounts of water is a proactive way to combat hormonal acne and treat dehydrated skin

Do a lymphatic drainage massage: Did you know that the lymphatic drainage system requires manual stimulation to release toxins? Use clean hands or a face roller tool to help relax and drain toxins from your skin. 

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