You’ve probably been there—you’re sticking to your usual skincare routine (face wash, moisturizer, toner, acne gel), but still, right around your period, your face decides to go rogue and breakout. It’s annoying as hell; not only because now you have red bumps on your face, but also those face creams weren’t cheap!
And it doesn’t matter if you’re new to your period or thought that you’ve aged out of your acne phase, hormonal breakouts don’t discriminate. But let’s back up—what even causes period acne in the first place?
According to naturopathic doctor and skin care coach Stacey Shillington of Naturopathic Beauty, period breakouts happen where there’s too little of the hormone progesterone being produced in your body, creating an uneven ratio between low progesterone and higher estrogen..
This type of acne occurs either a few days before or after you start your period. It’s typically around your jawline and chin, and, Stacey adds, “it's usually deeper cystic acne, not as surface as some other acne can be.” And that means that face wash alone won’t get rid of it—it’s “much deeper than what you’re doing topically,” says Stacey. But because we can’t let the acne win, here are Stacey’s top tips for preventing hormonal breakouts:
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
While this sounds very, “ugh, Mom, why can you just let me liveeeee?”–eating well is actually a key way to prevent that dreaded hormonal acne. So really, heap those fruits and veggies onto your plate—for your skin’s sake!
Stacey specifically recommends blueberries (they help balance blood sugar which can help with progesterone levels) and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts because, she explains, “those foods really help to detoxify the liver. And generally when there's a lot of acne, especially premenstrual acne, the liver may not be working optimally. So these foods are often beneficial.”
Avoid Sugar and Dairy (Sorry!)
“The number one food to avoid is sugar in all its forms, and then cow dairy in all its forms,” says Stacey. Both sugar and cow dairy can increase insulin levels, which in turn can contribute to acne.
Also, if you want to keep your skin clear, you’re going to want to skip fresh-squeezed juice. Yeah, it sounds counter-intuitive (I know I just said to eat fruit), but Stacey says that juice will “send your insulin levels through the roof” because of all their sugars, which obviously isn’t a good thing!
Try to Eat Like This All Month Long
Eating one handful of blueberries one time isn’t going to really do anything for your skin—you’ve got to stick to these habits to see results. “What happens during your period is a result of how you've been treating your body for the entire month previously,” says Stacey.
But if you’re like me and the first thing that you thought was, “lol, there is literally no way that I’m giving up my sweets,” then a compromise could be focusing on a sugar and dairy-free diet specifically the week before and after ovulation (and that’s day 14 of your cycle). “What happens on day 14 is going to affect what happens right before your period—the damage is already done around five days before your period.” Though, again, for the best results, stick to the diet all month long.
Do Something Nice for Your Liver
Taking an herbal supplement like Milk Thistle or drinking lemon and water in the morning can really help your liver detoxify, and that’s good news for your period acne, because as Stacey explains, “it will help balance your hormones.” And balanced hormones = happy hormones.
Probiotics and Antimicrobials Can Help
Getting to the root of what’s causing and sustaining period acne also means looking beyond hormones. Stacey says that inflammation is a contributor, and fighting inflammation can even help your hormones “fall into place.” That’s where probiotics come in—they can work with your gut to fight inflammation. Stacey also recommends throwing the antimicrobial berberine into the mix because “it helps balance out the gut and sugar levels in addition to supporting the liver, so it’s a really great herb for acne.“
Don’t Go Crazy with the Skincare
While you’re working on combating hormonal acne from the inside out, you can still use your regular skincare routine. However, Stacey adds, “with acne less is always more. So if you're doing five different steps in the morning and at night, it’s too much. It’s going to be too aggravating for the skin. I’d suggest very, very gentle skin care. My personal favorite thing to use to cleanse is raw honey,” and you “want to start off with oil-free formulations for sure when you're first starting to heal acne.”
Just like every body is different, the different things suggested here might work amazingly well for some bodies and not at all for others—it depends on a variety of factors, including how long you’ve been experiencing the acne and the severity of the acne. Give it about three cycles to see results, and be kind to yourself—periods can be stressful enough (see: PMS, cramps, stains) without kicking yourself for slipping on a sugar-free diet. You’ll get there, and eventually, your skin will clear up.
While you're here, shop our 100% organic cotton period kit
Written by Alanna Greco