Acne Begone: How to Reduce Acne During and After Your Period

Acne that happens before, during, or just after your period is due mostly to one thing: hormones. This is because estrogen and progesterone levels in our bodies change throughout the month, and these changes can lead to an increase in sebum production (the oil that clogs pores and causes acne) and other factors that cause breakouts. Fortunately, there are ways you can get hormonal acne under control naturally, without the use of invasive procedures or questionable topical products.

Let’s dive into the causes of period acne , and talk about which hormones affect acne breakouts throughout your menstrual cycle. Then you’ll have a few tools to calm an active acne breakout and avoid future breakouts by balancing hormones.

Would you love to get your hormones under control but aren’t sure where to start? Join the Superwoman Circle for realistic guidance for your daily life, plus the support of a community who gets it —all under one digital roof!

What causes acne during your period?

Acne during your period is usually caused by hormone fluctuations involving estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Changes in these hormones can cause an increase in sebum production, which is the oil that clogs pores and causes acne. This is why women tend to have more breakouts just prior to and during their menstrual cycle.

Diet, stress, an unhealthy gut, and slow detox pathways can also worsen inflammation that increases acne causing bacteria and the likelihood of everything from painful, cystic acne, to annoying whiteheads and blackheads.

Related: Common Hormone Problems That Actually Begin in Your Gut

Acne is most likely to happen just before and during your period

By now, you’ve probably noticed that your menstrual cycle affects your skin—but why does this happen?

What you may not know is that every day of your cycle (whether it’s 28 days, or slightly shorter or longer) is different in terms of hormone levels. During the first half of your cycle (just after your period ends to ovulation), your skin is likely the least problematic—it might even be great! This is because estrogen is higher during this time which temporarily calms sebaceous glands.

The appearance of acne is usually at its worst just after ovulation is over (and your body is finished making all those hormones to prepare for the possibility of making a baby).

Elevations in progesterone and testosterone during the second half of your cycle—and just before your period starts—result in clogged pores and increased oil production, which contribute to more whiteheads and more inflamed cysts. Ouch.

Watch: Avoid These Ingredients in Your Skincare for Better Looking Skin!

How can you reduce acne during your period?

The best way to reduce acne during your period is to balance the hormones in your body and decrease things that trigger inflammation—both in and out of your gut.

6 Tips to get rid of acne during & after your period

1. Eat your fruits & veggies

A healthy, balanced diet is one big key to preventing hormonal acne. Fruits and vegetables are great for keeping your skin clear, hydrated, and healthy.

Blueberries in particular are one of my favorites because they’re a great source of fiber for a healthy gut, antioxidants, and phytonutrients called anthocyanins which have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties (1). 

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, and Brussels sprouts really help to detoxify the liver. Generally, if you’re experiencing a lot of hormonal breakouts, especially premenstrual acne, the liver may not be working optimally. These foods help increase enzymes involved in liver detox.

But there’s one thing to keep in mind, a few days of a healthy diet aren’t going to make much of a difference for balancing hormone levels or reducing acne. You need to be consistent with a healthy diet to see results. It can take 3 or more cycles to really notice a difference in acne prone skin.

Related: Top 5 Anti-Aging & Antioxidant Foods for Glowing Skin

2. Avoid inflammatory foods

There are some foods that can trigger inflammation and make acne worse. These include sugar, dairy, ultra-processed foods, and refined vegetable oils like canola or soybean oil (2).

Refined sugars and processed carbohydrates are also notorious for spiking blood sugar levels, which can also make acne worse. This is because high blood sugar = inflammation and hormone imbalance. Regulating your blood sugar levels throughout the month can help minimize wild hormonal fluctuations that are to blame for hormonal acne (3).  

Watch: The First Step to Reduce Inflammation Naturally


3. Boost your gut microbiome

One study found that 54% of people with acne also had a gut imbalance in beneficial gut bacteria, compared to those who didn’t have acne (4).  

The overgrowth of a bacteria, called Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes formerly called Propionibacterium acnes) is commonly found in sebum-rich areas on the skin and is thought to aggravate acne symptoms. We also know that individuals with acne prone skin have different kinds of bacteria on their skin’s surface than acne-free individuals.

Acne has a close connection with the gut microbiome—and this is certainly also true for hormonal imbalance! An unhealthy gut microbiome leads to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which is the hidden root of many downstream health complaints.

Interestingly, emotions related to stress, depression, and anxiety have also been thought to aggravate acne by altering the gut microbiome and increasing intestinal permeability, potentially contributing to skin inflammation (5). 

You can support a healthy microbiome in so many ways—start with these 5 rules—and by adding a probiotic with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, as this strain has been shown to improve the appearance of acne (6). 

4. Clear up candida

Now that you know there is a clear link between gut issues and skin problems, let’s focus on one of the offenders: Candida overgrowth

Candida is a type of yeast that normally resides harmlessly in small amounts both inside and outside your body. However, when conditions are just right it can over-multiply which results in something called Candida overgrowth.

Candida overgrowth can be triggered by:

  • Some prescription medications, including oral antibiotics 
  • Antibiotics you might take to initially treat acne
  • A diet high in sugar, processed foods
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Oral contraceptives 
  • Stress

An overgrowth of candida is a common acne trigger due to its inflammatory nature, which makes skin prone to breakouts and extends their duration.

Candida overgrowth also leads to increased intestinal permeability, because it’s a form of dysbiosis in your microbiome. Then can then cause systemic and local inflammation that manifest as acne breakouts.

Read: Do You Have a White Coating on Your Tongue? 9 Signs You Have Candida Overgrowth

5. Reduce toxic load from hormone disruptors

Endocrine (hormone) disrupting toxins can be one of the leading causes of acne and skin problems in general. These types of toxins can affect us both internally (from things we eat and drink) and externally (from chemicals found in personal care products and make up). They overburden your liver and contribute to oxidative and cellular stress which slows down your body’s natural detox pathways and ramps up inflammation.

The first step to reducing your toxic load is to reduce or eliminate potential sources of toxins from your diet and lifestyle. This includes things like:

  • Refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and processed foods
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Chemical-based beauty products (replacing these with natural options)
  • Excess medications and supplements 

The next step is to focus on eating a clean, whole foods diet that is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralize toxins, which can help improve the appearance of your skin. Additionally, they can help reduce inflammation and protect against cell damage.

Finally, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to flush out toxins and keep your body hydrated.

Learn more: How to Hormone Detox + 6 Steps for Your Liver + Digestive System

6. Consider inositol

Inositol (or myo-inositol) helps reduce hormonal acne, especially if you have PCOS. Acne is common with PCOS because of the excess androgen production that leads to inflammation and hormonal imbalances. Myo-inositol can help by reducing androgen production (thereby reducing sebum production), increasing insulin sensitivity, and even supporting thyroid hormones.

Shop Hormone Helper

Myo-inositol is a nutrient related to the B-vitamins. It’s found in small amounts in many foods like fruits, grains, beans, and nuts, but supplementation is usually necessary to see benefits for hormone balance or to improve hormonal acne.

In one study, individuals experienced reduced androgens and improved insulin after 3 months of myo-inositol supplementation, and improvement in acne and excess body hair after 6 months of use (7).

Hormone Helper contains 1,500 mg of inositol, plus saw palmetto and choline to support balanced hormones and a healthy cycle. It’s the easiest (and tastiest) decision you’ll make for your hormone balance all year!

Is it hormonal acne or something else?

Not surprisingly, there’s more than one cause of acne breakouts. So to narrow down whether or not hormones are the culprit behind your breakouts, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Track when your acne is the worst. This may take a few weeks, or about the duration of one cycle. Try noting when, exactly, your breakouts tend to occur relative to the phases of your 28-day cycle.

Notice where on your face acne tends to manifest. Hormonal acne typically forms on the lower part of the face. This includes the bottom of the cheeks and around the jawline. Hormonal acne can include blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts,

If in addition to hormonal acne you have symptoms like excessive facial or body hair, weight gain, or irregular or infrequent periods, you should speak with a holistic physician about the possibility of PCOS.

Yes, you can still get breakouts even if you’re on The Pill

Even though many women begin hormonal contraception to get rid of acne breakouts, for others it can actually worsen them or cause new ones. Oral contraceptives (‘the pill’) works by suppressing androgens, the male hormones linked to acne, which is why it can help reduce breakouts in some women (8). 

Androgens can cause the body to release sebum, the oil that gets trapped in pores and results in a buildup of acne-causing bacteria. By suppressing androgens, oil production decreases and acne clears up…for some people.

Unfortunately, the birth control pill is also associated with an increased risk of Candida overgrowth, leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, and worsening hormone balance if and when you come off the pill (9,10). 

Clearing hormonal acne with holistic medicine

Hormonal acne is a real pain—literally. You can start to get a handle on yours by making dietary changes, avoiding inflammatory foods, and supporting your body’s natural detox pathways. Taking these steps helps balance your microbiome and reduce inflammation, setting the stage for healthy hormone production. Have you tried any of these tips to combat hormonal acne? What worked (and what didn’t)?


Dr. Taz Bhatia M.D.