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What causes acne during your period (& how to get rid of it).

Last Updated: November 16, 2021

Naturopathic doctor and skincare coach Stacey Shillington of Naturopathic Beauty told us her top tips for preventing hormonal breakouts and what causes them in the first place. Have a look!

You’ve probably been there—you’re sticking to your usual skincare routine (face wash, moisturizer, toner, oils), but still, right around your period, your face decides to go rogue and breakout. So, what causes period acne in the first place?

According to naturopathic doctor and skincare 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.”

That means that face wash alone won’t get rid of it—it’s “much deeper than what you’re doing topically,” says Stacey.

Don’t worry, we wouldn’t leave you hanging there … we gathered Stacey’s top tips for preventing hormonal breakouts below.

5 tips for getting rid of hormonal acne breakouts

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1. Eat your fruits and veggies

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.”

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.

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2. 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, but Stacey says that juice will “send your insulin levels through the roof” because of all its sugars!

Focusing on a sugar and dairy-free diet specifically the week before and after ovulation (and that’s day 14 of your cycle) works best. “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.”

For the best results though, you should stick to the diet all month long.

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3. Detox 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.

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4. 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.“

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5. Don’t go overboard with the skincare products

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 skincare. 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.

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