Acne is a skin condition that can cause pimples, whiteheads or blackheads. Although it has a number of causes--including trapped oil due to insufficient washing--fluctuating hormones also can affect the skin, causing breakouts. If you are a menstrual acne sufferer, there are preventive and post-acne treatments that can help you experience clearer skin.
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Hormone-related acne can begin in a young woman's adolescent years when the adrenal glands begin to produce the androgen hormone, dihydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). Most androgens are associated with male hormones, such as testosterone, and are necessary for body functions. However, androgens also contribute to stimulating the oil glands in the face to create more oil. Teenage hormones are often constantly fluctuating, which is why acne and breakouts are associated with teenagers. However, not all women "outgrow" acne that is related to fluctuating hormones.
Hormonal acne, as it extends beyond a woman's teenage years, occurs as a part of the hormonal fluctuations that naturally occur during a woman's menstrual cycle. During the menstrual cycle, which, on the average, lasts about four weeks, estrogen levels increase immediately after a woman finishes her period, and peak around the 14-day mark. As estrogen levels decrease, another hormone, progesterone, begins to increase. This hormone is responsible for stimulating a greater production of oil, which can clog the pores and cause breakouts.
Women who suffer from menstrual-related acne will notice flare-ups anywhere from two to seven days before beginning their period. These breakouts typically subside as they start their period, when progesterone decreases and estrogen increases. Some women may stop experiencing menstrual acne following puberty, while others may experience menstrual acne well into their 30s, when hormone levels drop on the whole.
One way to help prevent hormonal acne from occurring is to take birth control pills, according to WomensHealth.gov. Birth control pills help to regulate a woman's hormones, meaning they can prevent excessive fluctuations of progesterone, which equals less oil production for the face. When a woman begins taking birth control pills, it may take several months for their acne-fighting properties to take effect.
If a woman experiences menstrual acne, her best treatment options are to wash the skin with a mild cleanser twice daily to prevent oil buildup. She also should use products that do not contain oil or those that are designed not to clog the skin--these often are labeled "non-comedogenic," according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. She also may wish to use a spot treatment containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which helps to draw oil out of the pores and dry the pimple, blackhead or whitehead.