As women we all experience varying degrees of cramps, grumpiness, and sugar cravings each month, but some of us wake up to a face full of pimples too. Hormonal acne can be frustrating and embarrassing, and it definitely doesn't make you feel your best. We spoke with California-based dermatologist and Director of Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery at the California Health and Longevity Institute Ron Moy, M.D., to find out what really causes hormonal acne and what you can do to prevent it.
"The idea that hormones are a major cause of acne is a bit of a misconception," says Dr. Moy. "Hormones are the third most common cause of acne, but it is the side effects from your period that cause most of the acne. Increased stress levels, sugar consumption, and lack of exercise are bigger causes than hormones, which can only be treated with drugs. By recognizing that you’ll have these symptoms during your period and adjusting to them accordingly will result in less acne. By reducing your sugar intake, increasing how much you exercise, and cutting out stress, you should see less acne during that time."
So what are the main causes of acne, and what can you do to reduce it? "Clogged pores and deep bacteria are the most common cause of acne, and they need to be treated during the entire month, not just when you get your period," says Dr. Moy. "If you're seeing more pimples during your period and only start your regimen (or increase it) during that time, then it's not going to make a real difference. You need to use a face wash with salicylic acid or a cream containing benzoyl peroxide every day in order to make a change, and you shouldn’t expect to see any difference for about 10 weeks."
If you're doing all these things and nothing changes, then you could have cystic acne or may need to see a physician about your hormones. "If the acne is very bad and nothing you're doing is making a difference, then see a dermatologist," says Dr. Moy. "If it is hormonal, the doctor may prescribe birth control pills or heavier drugs." So, Beauties, wash your face morning and night, be sure to remove your makeup properly, keep your pillow and face towel bacteria-free, cut back on the sugary foods, and get your daily dose of exercise.
Learn more about what causes pimples and how you can treat them.