If you experience an increase in breakouts before your period, you’re not alone. Much of what we know about pre-menstrual breakouts is anecdotal, but a 2014 study confirmed that around 65% of people get a flare-up in the week or so leading up to their period.
As frustrating as this can be, knowing it’s coming also means you have the opportunity to get out ahead of it. In this post, I’ll share my top lifestyle and skincare tips to help you avoid those dreaded breakouts before your period.
Why Do I Get Breakouts Before My Period?
Unsurprisingly, the hormonal fluctuations your body undergoes to prepare for menstruation are also what can cause an increase in breakouts. Just before the start of your cycle, your body starts to produce more progesterone. Progesterone can cause water retention and slight swelling, which often makes the skin appear puffier. (If you find yourself bloated and your pants get a little tight, then surely this will sound familiar.)
When this swelling occurs, it puts pressure on the pores and creates a narrower pore lining. To make matters worse, a spike in testosterone can make the oil your skin produces become thicker. When you have thicker oil trying to get through a narrower opening, this creates the ideal environment where breakouts can now begin.
How Can I Prevent Breakouts Before My Period?
As frustrating as period-related pimples may be, knowing they’re coming means you can prepare. This allows you to get out ahead of your blemishes so they’re less severe and there are fewer of them.
1. Start Taking Vitamin B6 a Week Before Your Period
There is some evidence that vitamin B6 can ease premenstrual symptoms, including breakouts, by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism. I’ve had clients do this in the past and some of them feel it works well to reduce hormonal breakouts. (Remember, nothing is going to “cure” your breakouts 100%, so it’s always important to have realistic expectations.)
Most recommend taking 50-100 mg of vitamin B6 per day, starting about a week before your period. Continue taking it until your period ends.
Of course, everyone’s body is different. You can’t really know if it will work for you until you try. The best thing you can do is to experiment and keep track of changes in your skin as well as other PMS symptoms to determine whether or not it’s helping. Vitamin B6 is considered safe for most people, but if you’re unsure, please check with your doctor.
2. Try Reducing Your Dairy Intake
If your blemishes are located mostly along the chin and jawline, consider cutting back on dairy during the week leading up to your period. Not everyone will be affected by dairy, and for some people, the type and amount of dairy products will make a difference. I encourage you to experiment a little and keep track of what does or doesn’t work for you.
If you experience chronic chin and jawline breakouts, here are 7 more tips for preventing them.
3. Modify Your Skincare Routine 4-7 Days Before Your Period
Of course, one of the best ways to prep when you know breakouts are in your future is to modify your skincare routine. The plan of attack I recommend to most of my clients is to incorporate 2-3 non-drying products with salicylic acid into their routine. The idea here is that you want to start creating an environment in your skin where breakouts are less likely to occur. Salicylic acid is famous for its ability to clear pores by dissolving blockages and fighting inflammation that can lead to breakouts.
About 4-7 days before your period starts, replace 2-3 products in your current regimen with ones that focus on clearing away bacteria. Here are the products I recommend:
AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser
I recommend using AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser just once a day, at night. Since bacteria and oil build up throughout the day, using this cleanser in the evening provides a beneficial anti-microbial cleansing.
Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum
Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum uses 1% salicylic acid which offers an anti-microbial effect as well as exfoliation without drying out the skin. The addition of glycolic and lactic acids helps keep cells turning over so pores stay clear. You should never exfoliate daily, so use this serum every 2-3 days leading up to your period. If you start to experience any irritation, pull back and use it less frequently. (If you already use another exfoliating acid toner or serum with salicylic acid and would prefer to stick with it, that’s fine too. Try just using it an extra day during the week leading up to your period.)
Rapid Response Detox Masque
The Rapid Response Detox Masque is my absolute favorite product for hormonal breakouts. In addition to salicylic acid, one of the key ingredients is lichochalcone, a molecule contained in licorice root extract, which offers many anti-blemish benefits. It helps starve P. acnes bacteria so they can’t breed, and it also helps control oil production. Lastly, it hydrates the skin and reduces hormonal-induced puffiness. (Keeping skin hydrated is so important for preventing blemishes, so I love that this mask delivers all that moisture while it fights breakouts.)
You’ll use this masque every night after cleansing for a minimum of five minutes to clear surface bacteria within the pores while keeping the skin’s moisture barrier intact.
4. Spot-Treat Affected Areas to Prevent Drying Out Skin
I notice that a lot of people overlook the importance of keeping skin hydrated when it comes to preventing blemishes. Hydration helps regulate healthy oil flow, which is key. This is why it’s so problematic when people dry their skin out everywhere in an effort to treat a few blemishes. For individual blemishes, the best approach is spot-treating the affected area based on the type of pimple you’re dealing with.
If your blemishes are hormonal in nature (which is pretty common in those who experience breakouts before their period), I recommend Anti Bump Solution. It’s non-drying and anti-inflammatory, and it works wonders on those deep, painful blemishes that never come to a head.
Learn how to get rid of any type of blemish fast without harming the rest of your skin.
5. Avoid Inflaming Your Skin
Acne is ultimately an inflammatory condition, so if you know you tend to break out before your period, avoid aggravating the skin in any way during this time. This can include things like using a sonic cleansing brush, using an abrasive scrub, or getting very active professional treatments such as microneedling.
6. Consider Consulting With Your Doctor
If you find the monthly breakouts you get before your period are really bothersome and none of the tips above help, consider consulting with a gynecologist. They have a better understanding of hormonal fluctuations and may check your hormone levels via a blood test. They can prescribe birth control pills to help balance them. Sometimes, a prescription oral medication called Spironolactone can help regulate hormonal imbalances as well.
Next, read about how an IUD caused this client’s hormonal breakouts and what we did to get rid of them.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”