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How to Treat Period Breakouts (Aka, Hormonal Acne) At Home

Audrey Noble

Oh, hormonal acne. Those painful red cysts that like to pop up at the worst possible moment are super common, especially in adults between the ages of 20 and 40. And they’re caused by—you guessed it—your hormones. 

New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach tells Joyja that the hormone testosterone causes oil production to increase in our oil glands, which leads to blocked pores and turn into acne. You might find hormonal acne around the jawline and lower cheek area and they usually appear close to or during our menstrual cycles. They go much deeper than a pimple or blackhead and require special treatment to heal. 

Dr. Rabach says the best way to treat hormonal acne is with oral birth control or spironolactone. Both of these, she says, will decrease testosterone levels which, in turn, decreases the amount of oil and sebum produced—which means clear pores! But if you’re not looking to take a contraceptive or don’t have access to getting birth control, there are a few things you can do at home to treat it. 

Stick to Acne-Fighting Ingredients

To treat any sort of skin concern, you must have a well-curated skincare routine with the right ingredients. Dr. Rabach says the three best ingredients to help treat hormonal acne at home are retinol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. Here’s a quick breakdown on how: 

Retinol: It not only firms skin and smooth out fine lines, but studies show that it also exfoliates skin to remove dirt, debris, and oil from pores, and stimulates collagen and elastin to prevent acne scars from occurring. 

Salicylic Acid: Clogged pores can lead to breakouts. Studies show that this beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA) helps exfoliate dead skin cells and help keep them clear. 

Benzoyl Peroxide: According to Healthline, benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria underneath the skin and can help the skin shed dead cells and excess oil. But it can be very drying, so use carefully if you’re also prone to dryness.  

Use Oil-Free Products

Oil-based products might exacerbate the problem. Instead, Dr. Rabach recommends looking for products that are oil-free (which will be indicated on the label, typically). You’ll also want to avoid ingredients like silicone and petrolatum, which are known to clog pores and cause breakouts. 

Wash Your Face Twice a Day

Of course, you should be doing this whether you’re dealing with acne or not. Washing your face with a good cleanser is the most effective way to remove dirt and debris. Dr. Rabach recommends cleansing at least twice a day to avoid clogged pores. 

Treat Your Body Right

Aka, drink lots of water and try to maintain a healthy diet the best you can. Unfortunately for those of us who love to pig out, certain foods are known to cause acne—milk products and refined carbohydrates like bread and sugar cane, to be exact, according to Dr. Rabach. And while those foods are perfectly fine in moderation, too much of them could wreak havoc on your complexion. 

Your best bet is to stick to anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as foods with omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics, and vitamins that promote healthy skin, such as vitamin A, D, E and zinc

Reduce Stress

This is obviously easier said than done. But since hormonal acne is triggered by our hormones, Dr. Rabach says that stress hormones, in particular, can also cause acne to flare up. According to studies, stress prolongs the healing process, too—so you could even be dealing with things like redness and inflammation, too. 

Try to find ways to relax, such as a meditation, taking a break from work, sleeping—whatever helps ease any sort of tension. It’ll be good for you and your skin.