Why Your Skin Changes Around Menstruation

Skin

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and often outwardly reflects what’s going on inside.  This is true when it comes to menstruation.  If you ask any woman, no doubt she will agree that her monthly hormonal changes are often coupled with breakouts, especially around the chin area.  But why does this happen, and since menstrual cycles are predictable, can we prepare for and/or prevent hormonal acne?

Acne flares up during menstruation because of hormonal fluctuations – specifically estrogen and progesterone levels drop, while the testosterone level remains the same. This increased level of testosterone relative to other hormones, stimulates the production of sebum, a thick, oil-like substance found on your skin. In other words, testosterone causes your skin to produce more oil.  These changes also may cause swelling, which can tighten your pores. Although tightened pores sound like a good thing, in fact, more oil, combined with tighter pores, can actually cause blockages leading to acne.

While we may not be able to avoid hormonal acne completely, there are a few dietary suggestions, along with regular skin cleansing habits, that can help keep breakouts at bay.  For example, even though it may sound counter-intuitive to eat oils to reduce acne, consuming foods rich in omega-3 oils, whether in food or supplement form, can actually have an anti-inflammatory effect, which may reduce breakouts. Two other promising nutrients are vitamin A and vitamin E.  Research shows that low levels of these vitamins may aggravate acne.  Vitamin A can be found in dark orange/red vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers.  Vitamin E can be found mostly in nuts and seeds.  Both vitamins A and E can be consumed in nutritional supplement form as well.

Although you cannot avoid regular hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation, choosing certain nutrient rich foods and/or supplements may improve your chances of healthy, clear skin during your period.

References:

(1) El-Akawi, Z et al. (2006).  Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition?  Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 31(3): 430-4.

(2) Khayef, G. et al. (2012). Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne. Lipids in health and Disease, 11: 165.

(3) Kurcharska, Al. et al. (2016). Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, 33(2): 81-86

(4) Saint-Jean, M. et al. (2017). Characteristics of premenstrual acne flare-up and benefits of a dermocosmetic treatment: a double-blind randomized trial. European Journal of Dermatology, 27(2): 144-9.