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Acne and Ovulation: What Causes Acne During Ovulation and How Can We Stop It?

Acne and Ovulation: What Causes Acne During Ovulation and How Can We Stop It?

Acne during ovulation is the highlight of the menstrual cycle of many women around the world and it has been so for generations now. So prevalent is this peculiar observation that one cannot help but wonder, does ovulation cause acne? Well, let's see.

The link between acne and ovulation has been studied extensively by scientists, medical experts and dermatologists alike. And although there is yet to be a common consensus on what exactly severe acne is during ovulation, they all agree that it is somehow related to the massive hormonal changes that occur around this time. Still, it is even harder to tell which one of the four different menstrual phases makes a woman most vulnerable to developing pits and zits.

Does Ovulation Cause Acne - How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects your Skin

In order to answer the question of, does ovulation cause acne? as comprehensively as possible, it is important to first of all understand how your menstrual cycles (particularly the exact phases of period cycle) impacts your skin. This way, you can draw a correlation between acne after ovulation and acne before ovulation and whether or not there exists any evidence that your period triggers hormonal acne.

As you may already know, the average menstrual cycle is around 28 days (give or take), and each of the days in your cycle are different hormonally. Speaking of which, the dominant hormone during the first 14 days of your cycle is estrogen, before progesterone takes over in the last 14 days or the second half of the month.  Each of these halves is further divided into two distinct parts (as we will see later) thereby giving rise to a total or about four different menstrual phases.

Now, dermatologist believe that estrogen actually improves the condition of your skin and is, infact, responsible for the glow that is normally associated with fertility, youthfulness and excellent health. Progesterone, on the other hand, is believed to worsen acne by increasing your skin's likelihood of producing excessive sebum. This is actually the science behind the myth of acne around ovulation. There is a also a notable spike of testosterone around this time, which further explains the increased sebum production that triggers acne on one side of face at ovulation. Combining the two hormones sets the stage for ovulation chin acne to explode. 

So, this begs the tentative question, "Is acne a sign of ovulation?" Let's attempt to break down the menstrual cycle to answer that question as comprehensively as possible.

1. The Follicular Phase

In this phase (during and after menstruation), estrogen is typically the most dominant hormone in your system. The phase, which lasts about 7 to 10 days, is technically considered the first of your four menstrual episodes and your skin will most probably look sensational thanks to the surge of estrogen.  The follicular phase, which occurs just before ovulation, often translates to high moisture levels in the epidermis, smaller pores and an unprecedented increase in elastin and collagen. The culmination of all of these often results in fantastic-looking skin.

In other words, it is during this phase that your skin often has peak radiance and clarity while looking the best it will ever be during the month.

2. The Ovulation Phase

The ovulation phase ushers in a gaggle of hormones but, fortunately, it often lasts not more than three to five days. Most of the ovulation symptoms acne can be traced back to this barrage of endocrine secretions. And this includes the following;

For starters, there's a significant increase in the levels of the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) followed closely by the rise of luteinizing hormone (LH) that triggers the release of the egg. Estrogen, on the other hand, whose rise began during the follicular phase keeps on peaking while the levels of testosterone starts to climb too. Lastly, the levels of progesterone begin their slow but sure ascent and typically continues to rise days even after ovulation is complete. This mid-cycle rise of progestesterone is responsible for the increased oiliness that is usually observed around when you are ovulating.

3. The Luteal Phase

It typically lasts between 10 and 14 days, and for women who are genetically susceptible to hormonal acne, it is probably the worst time of the month as far as the clarity of your complexion goes. Your body essentially reaches its melting point and the concoction of all skin-provoking hormones go on overdrive which often triggers bloating and an outbreak of angry-looking zits.

It is at this stage that estrogen levels take a nosedive while progesterone levels escalate sharply. What's more, your estrogen-to-testosterone ratio normally gets elevated at this stage of your cycle which often results in clogging of skin pores and a bumped up production of sebum. For most women, this is a classic recipe for swellings and whiteheads. Progesterone, which is the genesis of most of these skin problems, causes swelling of the skin which also riling up the skin pores to secrete sebum indiscriminately. And this, in addition to the slight rise of body temperatures, ignites a perfect  environment for acne-causing bacteria also known as p.acnes to flourish. The increased proliferation and activity of this bacteria is the reason for this nature of cyclic breakouts.

Apart from pimples, the luteal phase also ushers in more untold havoc in the form of splotchy and dull skin thanks to the absence of estrogen and the plummeting levels of progesterone towards the end of the stage. Estrogen, as a matter of fact, offers the barrier and hydrating support that is associated with an attractive looking skin. Prostaglandins are also quite elevated during this phase, so u may want to avoid tweezing or waxing at this time of the month.

4. The Menstrual Phase

The levels of most hormones will tank rapidly at this stage which often lasts not more than 7 days for most women. The simultaneous drop in most of these acne-causing hormones means that you can look forward to a remarkable improvement of your complexion after the untold havoc and chaotic skin from the luteal phase. Nonetheless, the skin can become dull and dry at the end of the menstrual stage right until the levels of estrogen start to pick up in the ensuing follicular phase.

So, can ovulation cause acne? Is there a way of telling whether or not the acne you're suffering from is hormonal?

One of the indications that you are suffering from hormonal acne is if you are experiencing the luteal-phase breakouts that we extrapolated earlier on. Another sure-fire indication is the exact location where the pimples tend to manifest. Hormonal adult acne caused by the menstrual cycle going on overdrive tends to form at the lower region of your face (think of the chin or cheeks rather than the forehead). Speaking of the jawline, chin acne during ovulation is so common that many women use it to track their fertility cycle in addition to conventional applications on their smartphones.

Acne during ovulation causes may be mainly hormone-related but that does not mean that your menstrual cycle is to blame for all your complexion woes. Nevertheless, if your breakout often correlates with the various stages of your menstrual cycle and tends to include angry-looking and inflammatory lesions around the lower lip, upper nick, beared distribution and preauricular areas (in front of the ears), then it could most probably be hormonal acne.

Ovulation Acne Treatment

As much as we have very limited control over the mechanism of the inner workings that dictate our hormonal surges, it is always possible to strategically adapt our medication and skincare regimens to compensate for this deficiency.  There's no shortage of prescription options, topical applications and home-based care strategies designed to rein in menstrual breakouts and kick start ovulation acne treatment. The optimum treatment option will be chiefly dictated by the severity and intensity of the acne breakout, whether severe or moderate. And this includes;

1. Topical OTC Medications

Topical over the counter medications are typically the best place to start from if you are looking for how to stop ovulation acne from periodically ruining your complexion every other month. Hormonal breakouts, at the end of the day, are rarely more than skin deep unlike other types of flare ups.

Speaking of which, dermatologists will regularly prescribe topical but nature-based treatment options that contain common acne-fighting ingredients e.g tree tea oil and vitamin E. An excellent example of this is AENO's own  Acne Treatment Natural Cream. The cream is not formulated to regulate sebum production (the genesis of ovulation acne) but also trigger an effective healing process that will put right in the course of repairing the epidermal damage caused by the nasty severe lesions.

What's more, the best OTC topical medications in the game are known to unclog blocked pores and boost your skin cell turnover or regeneration rate. If not for anything else, this keeps the flare ups from growing from simple whiteheads to severe lesions that leave unsightly scars behind.

The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory property of topical medications tailored to control hormonal acne cannot also be overlooked. Hormonal acne during ovulation and period may be precipitated by the endocrine system but still require the presence of acne-causing bacteria or pathogens to complete the vicious cycle. Eliminating (or at least slowing down the proliferation) of p.acnes on the skin gives you a vantage position in keeping such flare ups in check.

2. Oral Pills and Medications

Topical meds may be fairly effective against moderate ovulation acne but rarely do the trick against far more intense or severe versions of the same. Part of the reason is because they are not usually targeting a specific or exact cause of your monthly flare ups hence the limited effectiveness or success. Fortunately, here's where oral acne meds come into the picture. The treatment strategy of these pills or capsules is usually to kick hormonal acne to the curb even before it has a chance to rear its ugly head.

Here, the miracle is shrouded in a cacophony of natural ingredients that does not just prevent zits from setting in but also stimulates the hydration and overall cell turnover of the skin. The presence of vitamin A (retinol), in particular, helps to counteract the inflammatory chain of reaction that hormonal acne will typically set off.

3. Birth Control

Birth control or contraceptive-based medications are a common treatment option against the persistent blemishes caused by the hormonal surges during ovulation. A good example is birth control capsules that contain either progestin norgestimate, drospirenone,  norethindrone acetate or ethinyl estradiol. Still, dermatologists will advise against contraceptive pills that are laden with androgenic progestins (i.e levonorgestrel and norgestrel) to tone down the risk of exacerbating flare ups and periodic breakouts.

Having said that, the pill is not the only contraceptive option that you have for keeping pustules or papules in check. Hormonal birth control options such as vaginal rings and transdermal patches that contain progesterone and estrogen can also come in handy in reducing the production of sebum and, ultimately, acne during ovulation.

4. Lifestyle Changes

More than a few women will be able to improve their cyclical acne by simply initiating a couple of lifestyle changes that makes having flawless skin easy. Here's a quick but detailed primer on that.

  • Modifying your diet: Your diet is one of those factors that you can control that has the biggest say on the state of your complexion. Limiting your consumption of daily products, for instance, makes acne less probable as milk is usually a melting pot of hormones that the body tends to convert to testosterone.  The same applies to cutting back on sugar which may help lessen the severity of your monthly cyclical pimples. Go for low glycemic index foods instead to avoid spiking your levels of insulin. Bear in mind that insulin surges will indirectly trigger an unwanted production of androgens.
  • Reducing stress: Periods are already a stressful time of the month for most women, so it's imperative to avoid emotionally or mentally strenuous events at this juncture to keep your skin from worsening. The last thing you want is battling stress-related hormones driving up your skin's sebum production in addition to the spiking reproduction-related hormones.
  • Skin hygiene: Maintaining excellent skin hygiene is key to stopping hormonal acne in its tracks. And this revolves around moisturizing, cleansing and gently exfoliating your skin on a regular basis.  Not only is this key to killing acne-causing bacteria but it also goes a long way in clearing out and preventing clogged pores from becoming part of the dermatological profile. Over the counter cleansers, in particular, that contain benzoyl peroxide are an awesome option for managing different levels of acne around ovulation.

The Takeaway

It's perfectly normal for pimples to pop up periodically around when you are ovulating. In fact, it's a signal that your body's inner reproductive workings are operating as they should. Unfortunately, the hormonal surges experienced at this juncture will sometimes exacerbate acne and nasty-looking flare ups in some women. The good thing is that by understanding the relationship between hormones and acne, it is possible to control and minimize these types of monthly flare-ups especially if you have a naturally acne-prone complexion.

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