Why Does My Skin Break Out When I’m on My Period?

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Twice a month, Yahoo Health’s Hormone Whisperer Alisa Vitti, HHC, is answering the most common questions about hormones and how they relate to weight, sex, acne, bad moods, low energy, and everything in between. Read her introductory column to learn more about Alisa’s approach to stopping hormonal chaos and getting into hormonal flow.

THE QUESTION: I break out like a teenager during my period. How can I clear things up?

ALISA’S ANSWER: I so totally understand your frustration! For years, I suffered from painful cystic acne, and no amount of wonder potions and lotions would help. I had acne ALL over my face, chest, and back, and had to spend up to a half-hour “spackling” my face with concealer so I could leave the house without being totally ashamed of how I looked. I tried everything to clear this up. I subjected my body to retin-A creams, antibiotics, as-seen-on TV products — NOTHING worked until I figured out how to clear up my skin from the inside out by balancing my hormones.

This is such a painful subject for us. Our period can be symptomatic enough without dealing with monthly breakouts. Just when we think we’re clear of teenage acne, then the adult-onset acne kicks in just in time for perimenopause to start (that’s at 35 years old, in case you were curious). Plus, we might experience eczema, rosacea and premature aging of the skin. We feel like we have to spend and spend on expensive treatments and products to get some level of improvement with our skin. But the way our skin actually works, we have to look at what controls skin health on the inside.

Related: Beat Breakouts Naturally + 3 Essential Micronutrients for Clear Skin

The FLO Science: What really makes us break out?

The state of your hormonal health is intricately linked to your skin. Balanced hormones are the ultimate beauty secret. For example, did you know that during ovulation, the estrogen surge causes a woman’s lips and cheeks to become naturally colored with a blush-like pink as blood flow increases under the skin? Fascinating, right? Treating skin issues only on the surface completely misses what’s causing the acne in the first place.   

The key to beautiful skin and hair doesn’t come in a bottle. It’s all about what’s going on in the inside. In my experience, it often has to do with the liver — when it’s not breaking down hormones as it should, then conditions like acne, eczema, oily, or dry skin will show up on the skin.  

So if you’re eating a ton of processed, packaged foods, you’re consuming lots of chemicals that your liver has to work hard to break down. You could have sensitivity to gluten and/or dairy and that could be causing inflammation in the gut and on the skin. You could be on the Pill and it’s robbing you of skin-clearing B vitamins. Or you could be a chronic dieter and eliminate various foods to achieve a particular weight. In any scenario, you’re not getting the micronutrients and antioxidants your liver needs.

Related: How to Quit the Pill Without Getting Your Symptoms Back

Couple this with two moments during the cycle where estrogen and testosterone peaks (ovulation and the luteal phase), and you’re ripe for hormonal breakouts. Your liver has a hard time metabolizing all of this estrogen without all of the vitamins and antioxidants from your diet that it needs to do this. Women typically see this kind of acne along the jawline, but it can also present along the forehead, temples, cheeks, and chin.  

The FLO Fix: The path to clear skin has three steps

Feed your body right: Try my Clear Skin Juice recipe, which includes a half-cup of cilantro, half a green apple, two stalks of celery, half a cucumber, four leaves of romaine lettuce, four frozen or fresh strawberries, and the juice of half a lemon. Add up to a half-cup coconut juice if needed.

Grow some new bacteria: I often recommend to the women I work with to take a probiotic. After all, the bacteria living in our guts affects our hormones. There’s a set of gut bacteria (or bacterial genes, more specifically) that produce an enzyme that helps to metabolize estrogen — called the “estrobolome.”

Related: Do You Have This Bacteria? Hormones and the Microbiome

Change up your skin and beauty products: Take a break from your typical beauty routine and go organic with your skincare and makeup. There are so many amazing options to choose from that perform equal to your department store and “as seen on TV’ options. Throw out anything containing endocrine-disrupting phthalates (look for the acronyms DBP and DEHP); sodium lauryl sulfates and ether sulfates (SLS and SLES); parabens (including methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl); anolamines (DEA, TEA, MEA); and petrolatum or petroleum jelly.

For those of you who want to learn more, join me on my upcoming webinar “Get Clear Skin Naturally.”

Related: Flo Living’s 5 Step Countdown to Boosting Your Beauty in Just 5 Days!

Good things come in threes: I want to hear from you in the comments!

First, are you struggling with breakouts? What suggestion are you going to try?

Second, what are your top health questions for me, your trusty Hormone Whisperer? Your question could be featured in my column!

Third, everyone you know is hormonal: Spread a little good ovary karma and share this article with your friends on social media, and be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest, and Instagram.

Need more Hormone Help? If you’re ready to get to the root of your issues, it’s time you started dealing with your hormones. Get out of symptom chaos so you can get back into hormonal FLO. Sign up here for a free download of my 4-Day Hormone Detox from my book WomanCode.

ABOUT ALISA: Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, creator of the WomanCode System, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She’s also presented at TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit.