Why Do I Get Bad Acne When I Have My Period?

Acne is influenced by hormones. A recent study by dermatologist Alan Shalita, M.D., suggests that nearly half of all women experience acne flare-ups in the week right before their periods.


Acne is a term for plugged pores, pimples and lumps (cysts or nodules) that appear on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. It most often affects teenagers, with hormonal changes making the sebaceous glands secrete more of the skin's natural oil.

Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne typically begins in the early 20s, but is most prevalent in women over 30. Acne blemishes tend to be concentrated on the lower face, especially the chin and jaw lines. Hormonal acne is generally moderate, according to the Acne.com website, and limited to "inflammatory papules and small inflammatory nodules and occasional comedones."


During a woman's menstrual cycle, levels of the hormone estrogen peak in the middle of the cycle and then taper off. After she ovulates, the ovaries start to produce progesterone, another hormone, which stimulates the sebaceous glands and leads to oily skin--and acne. This is the phase before the menstrual period begins.

Symptoms of Hormonal Acne

Several symptoms can help a doctor diagnose hormonal acne, including acne flare-ups just before the menstrual period, increased facial oiliness, excessive hair growth, a history of irregular menstrual cycles and elevated androgen levels in the blood.

Treatment of Hormonal Acne

Treatment can be as simple as regulating a woman's menstrual cycle with oral contraceptives. A more complex treatment program may incorporate various topical or systemic acne treatments.