Do you break out just before your period? Do pimples tend to pop up on your chin and around your jaw? And do they hurt when you touch them? If so, there’s a very good chance your breakouts are hormone-related.
Surprisingly it’s not estrogen — the female hormone — that’s the culprit. It’s testosterone, the “manly-man” one. “Both women and men make testosterone, which is the hormone that contributes to developing acne,” says Dr. Jonith Breadon, a dermatologist and the director of Aesthetic Dermatology and Laser Surgery in Chicago. “In part, what determines if a person gets acne is how much their oil glands respond to the influence of testosterone, which can cause an increase in the size of oil glands and an increase in the production of oil, which both contribute to developing acne.”
In the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels rise, blocking testosterone’s effects on the oil glands. Which often means fewer pimples — at least for half the month.
The bad news? Right before your period starts, levels of estrogen and the other female hormone, progesterone, both decrease, which is why women often experience acne flare-ups — in addition to all the other wonderful things about PMS.
Though teenagers are more likely to be affected by hormonal surges “we don’t stop making these hormones once we stop going through puberty,” says Dr. Breadon. “People will say, I thought only teenagers have acne. But that’s just when it starts. Women can experience acne up until menopause and even beyond.”
Fortunately, there are a number of weapons to combat hormonal acne:
Regulate Your Cycle
Hormones may be causing your breakouts, but they can also be the solution. “We commonly put women on pills that have a steady release of estrogen,” says Dr. Breadon. The pill contains estrogen, which blocks the effects of testosterone and helps minimize breakouts.
Go Skin Deep
Your favorite cleanser may not be getting the job done during that pesky time of the month. If you’re prone to hormonal breakouts, try switching to a cleanser designed for acne-prone skin. The editors at Acne.com love the DermaControl™ Oil-Control Foam Wash. The light foaming action leaves skin cleansed without stripping or drying. And the Zinc technology reduces surface oil and shine.
In January, women and men with acne will be able to purchase a prescription-strength topical retinoid, Differin® Gel 0.1%, over the counter. If you’re not seeing the results you want after three months it may be time to see a dermatologist and get a prescription like Epiduo® Forte (adapalene and benzoyl peroxide) Gel 0.3% /2.5%.
Important Safety Information
Indication: Epiduo® Forte (adapalene and benzoyl peroxide) Gel, 0.3%/2.5% is indicated for the topical treatment of acne vulgaris. Adverse Events: In the pivotal study, the most commonly reported adverse reactions (≥1%) in patients treated with Epiduo Forte Gel were skin irritation, eczema, atopic dermatitis and skin burning sensation. Warnings/Precautions: Patients using Epiduo Forte Gel should avoid exposure to sunlight and sunlamps and wear sunscreen when sun exposure cannot be avoided.
Erythema, scaling, dryness, stinging/burning, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis may occur with use of Epiduo Forte Gel and may necessitate discontinuation. When applying Epiduo Forte Gel, care should be taken to avoid the eyes, lips and mucous membranes.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1‐800‐FDA‐1088.
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