Acne During Ovulation? Why It Happens & How to Fix It
Ever notice the odd pimple or even a full-fledged breakout in the middle of your cycle? You may be experiencing ovulation acne. The good news is that you’re not alone and this common condition affects nearly 54% of the female population.
Ovulation acne all comes down to hormonal fluctuations and not everyone experiences these breakouts in the same way. It’s no mystery though, your hormones follow a predictable path during your cycle and anyone who’s been a teenager knows all too well how hormones can wreak havoc on your skin.
In this post we’ll look into why ovulation acne occurs and what you can do about it. We’ll discuss some of the common treatments available as well as natural methods used to treat it. And then we’ll wrap it all up with some commonly asked questions about acne during ovulation.
Read on for more information and how to identify and remedy breakouts during ovulation!
Can ovulation cause acne?
In a word – yes. But don’t panic, that doesn’t mean everyone who ovulates will experience ovulation acne and it certainly isn’t a death sentence for your skin. For some women, the hormonal fluctuations that occur during your cycle can also cause acne flare ups. Specifically, as the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone change relative to one another, the breeding grounds are ripe for a breakout.
Hormones and acne – how are they related?
Your skin is your largest organ and aside from providing a protective barrier and regulating your temperature, it allows your body to eliminate certain fluids like sweat and oils. The skin changes in response to hormones so as your body goes through the different phases of the menstrual cycle, your skin can also change.
In certain phases of your cycle, when estrogen and progesterone levels are lower, the effects of testosterone on the skin are much more pronounced. Namely, testosterone controls the production of sebum – the oily substance produced by sebaceous glands on the skin to lubricate and protect it. When testosterone levels are up (relative to other hormones), there’s a surge in sebum production, which can clog pores and then lead to breakouts.
During ovulation, estrogen and testosterone rise until they peak and this is a crucial point in your cycle for breakouts. Your skin is in a vulnerable position and your body’s ability to process and eliminate excess hormones will help determine any breakouts during ovulation. When progesterone levels are on the rise, it encourages the production and secretion of sebum which can lead to breakouts during ovulation, the same way testosterone affects the sebaceous glands.
Sebaceous glands are influenced by sex hormones and especially affected by testosterone. More testosterone equals more sebum production leading to noticeably oiler skin and even acne. Period related breakouts are very common and many women report acne related to their menstrual cycle.
Our hormones are like fingerprints and hormone levels during your menstrual cycle differ hugely from person to person and cycle to cycle. A hormone tracking device like the Mira Fertility Tracker can help you get a complete, personalized picture of your unique patterns and give you insights into your cycle.
What does hormonal acne look like?
Hormonal acne can present in many different ways. Breakouts often pop up along the lower half of the face, especially the chin and jawline, and show up at regular intervals. The white heads and black heads that form with hormonal acne are also the perfect breeding ground for bacteria like P. acnes, the bacteria involved in inflammatory acne lesions or zits. If you’re dealing with painful cysts or deeper bumps you just can’t get to, you are almost always dealing with hormonal acne.
Hormonal acne tends to present on the lower part of your face, but may also show up between the brows. For some, these breakouts are mild and occur closer to your period, but for others they can be severe and persist throughout the month. If you’re noticing breakouts that happen along the lower third of your face and they get worse before your period, you can be fairly certain you’re dealing with hormonal acne. Painful cysts or deeper bumps may need the help of a dermatologist since they are cystic and inflammatory in nature and may require a more clinical approach than over the counter remedies can provide.
Can acne increase during ovulation?
The hormonal changes that occur around the time of ovulation can lead to an increase in acne during this time. As testosterone spikes, it increases sebum production which provides a ripe environment for clogged pores and bacteria growth. While some women experience a glow with the increased oil production during ovulation, others experience pimples and breakouts thanks to the excess oil and clogged pores.
Causes of increased acne during ovulation
Acne during ovulation is usually a result of increased sebum production in your pores. Testosterone begins to climb and binds to receptors on sebaceous glands in the skin. This results in more sebum being produced and secreted which then combines with dead skin cells to block the pore and trap the sebum. This leaves the skin primed for potential breakouts and often manifests as acne. Rising progesterone can also increase sebum production leading to the same result.
Common ways to treat ovulation acne
Birth control pills are a common treatment option for acne during ovulation especially for women who also need contraception. Combination pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone work by regulating hormonal activity and decreasing sebum production that leads to clogged pores and acne. Many studies have found the pill to be an effective treatment for acne and some pills have even been approved specifically for treating the condition.
Retinoids are a family of compounds that come from vitamin A and are considered the gold standard to treat acne. They can help ovulation acne by exfoliating your skin and ridding it of excess dead skin cells, dirt, and oil. Spread on the skin, retinoids greatest benefit is that they effectively slough off dead skin cells to unclog pores and prevent future breakouts.
Hormone modulating drugs
Any medication that affects your hormones is considered hormone therapy and many are used to treat acne. In particular, a medication called spironolactone, works by blocking the androgen receptors that cause sebum-build up. Although traditionally used to treat high blood pressure or fluid retention, dermatologists have been prescribing it for many years to treat hormonal acne in women.
How to treat ovulation acne naturally
Tea tree oil
This essential oil extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia tree native to Australia has natural antiseptic properties that can help fight acne. Specifically, tea tree oil kills C. acnes, one of the bacterias associated with acne. It’s also been shown to reduce inflammation which can help with the redness around acne.
Green tea contains powerful antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Research has shown that for some women, it can improve oily skin and the lesions and redness associated with acne. It is especially rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a plant-based compound that has anti-androgenic properties. This works to break the cycle of androgen hormones like testosterone causing the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA)
AHA’s work to exfoliate the skin and remove excess dead skin cells and reduce inflammation. They do this by stripping the outermost layer of the skin of dead skin cells to reveal live epidermal tissue. These acids encourage cellular turnover and help inhibit excess sebum production and clear your pores. There are different types of AHAs and they are commonly used in many skincare products since they have so many benefits for your skin.
It’s no secret that stress can be detrimental to your health. When we are experiencing stress, our bodies release stress hormones in response and this can have an effect on multiple systems throughout our body. Stress doesn’t cause acne but it’s effects on the body can exacerbate any acne you have. Managing your stress is foundational to any healing plan.
Limit sugar and refined carb intake
Spikes in the hormone that regulates blood sugar, insulin, can cause inflammation throughout your body and also cause an increase in sebum production. Foods and beverages high in sugar and refined carbs raise your blood sugar quickly and contribute to the inflammation causing effects of insulin. Scientists believe that by reducing these insulin spikes through limiting sugar and refined carbs, you can reduce inflammation which may cause acne.
Dairy is known as a common trigger for acne and although there are many hypotheses, more research is needed in the area. If you are struggling with hormonal acne, dairy alternatives like goat or soy milk might be worth tryring.
Increase soluble fiber
Research shows that a high fiber diet can decrease blood testosterone – the androgen that triggers hormonal acne. Increasing soluble fiber helps optimize elimination pathways and keep the gut flora healthy to balance hormones and encourage a healthy metabolism.
Ovulation acne FAQs
Still have questions? Here we answer some of the most common questions about ovulation acne.
When should I consult a doctor about hormonal acne?
It can be tempting to treat acne as something you just have to deal with, but even if it’s not severe you may benefit from seeing a dermatologist. If your acne is severe, painful, itchy, or you just can’t seem to get rid of it, it’s time to consult a doctor.
If you have additional symptoms like excessive facial or body hair, weight gain, or irregular periods you should definitely consult a doctor. This can be a sign of something more serious going on like polycystic ovarian syndrome and you should consult a doctor.
What vitamins help with hormonal acne?
Both topical and oral vitamins have been used to treat acne. The most common acne-fighting ones include vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, Vitamin E, and vitex. Each works in different ways to reduce inflammation and the conditions that let acne thrive.
How do I know if my acne is hormonal or bacterial?
Hormonal acne can be diagnosed both by when and where it happens. Breakouts on the lower half of the face, along the chin and jaw lines, are a sign of hormonal acne. Your acne may start out as hormonal, but once the pores become clogged and infected, it can also become a bacterial issue. For a definitive diagnosis you may need to see a dermatologist.
Does cystic acne go away on its own?
Stubborn and painful cystic acne bumps don’t usually go away on their own. They may improve, but your best option is to see a dermatologist to help clear your skin.