“I’m 15 and about a week before my period starts I get big red pimples on my chin and they hurt to touch. Is there a way to prevent or lessen them without drying out my skin?”

Premenstrual acne flares are a common phenomenon, with almost one-half of females reporting that their acne gets worse prior to their menstrual period. These acne flares are generally attributable changing hormone levels during different stages of the menstrual cycle. At certain phases, levels of sebum (oil) on the skin increase, which also results in an increase in bacteria on the skin.

Bacteria and excess sebum both contribute to acne development as sebum can block follicles, leading to inflammation and the lesions that subsequently appear. Thus, it is important to control the amount of sebum on the skin in order to help prevent premenstrual acne flares.

This can be accomplished by washing the face twice daily, using a mild, soapless cleanser, rinsing with lukewarm water and applying a light, non-comedogenic moisturizer as excessive drying can cause flare-ups. As well, a topical, non-prescription product such as benzoyl peroxide may also be beneficial due to its antimicrobial effects. Other components of a good skin care routine include:

  • Washing hands prior to washing the face and using a clean face cloth at each washing 
  • Shampooing the hair at least every other day or on a daily basis
  • Avoiding contact with the forehead and hairline with hairstyling products

If you are already doing these things and are still experiencing flares, you may wish to consult a pharmacist in person who can gather additional information about your previous treatment experience and help you select an appropriate product. In addition, there are medications available on prescription which may be appropriate options for you and would require that you consult your physician for assessment.