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You wake up in the morning, go into the bathroom and see dismaying signs of an impending break-out happening on your face. You look at the calendar and count – yup, it’s that time of the month when PMS comes to make your life difficult again. What is making your skin so angry every time you PMS, and is there anything you can do to prevent these monthly flare-ups? We’re here to help you understand your body better, and suggest tips on how to avoid that acne.

Why is this happening to me?

Always remember that you are not alone in this! The menstrual cycle is a complex melody of hormones, synchronised to give you the rise and fall of different symptoms throughout the month, every month. The three main players in the average menstrual cycle are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and the last two are the main culprits behind your dreaded PMS acne.

This is a simplified chart showing the fluctuating hormone levels in your body during your menstrual cycle, where Day 1 is the first day of your period:

When your period is just over, your estrogen level rises – this is a treat for your skin! Your pore size is reduced, your skin tends to be less oily and you have fewer, or no, break-outs. Appreciate this phase while it lasts.

In the middle of your cycle, about two weeks after the start of your period, estrogen suddenly drops off and progesterone becomes the dominant hormone in the scene. Things start changing up! Your skin produces more sebum (what we know as facial oil), and your pores seem to swell.

The swelling traps the sebum within the pores and clogs them up. All that trapped sebum is like a free buffet for acne-causing bacteria that are already present on our skin surface. They overgrow and the clogged pore becomes infected, forming a painful pimple.

When your period is just around the corner, your estrogen and progesterone levels both sink and they stay low until your period is over. Unfortunately, there’s still testosterone to deal with. Testosterone also causes your skin to produce more sebum, which may continue to feed your break-out after your period begins.

Near the end of your period, the bacteria pimple party is finally broken up as your estrogen level rises and takes over. The mayhem ceases and your break-outs go away – at least until your next PMS. C’est la vie!

Click next to break free from the vicious cycle!