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June 14, 2022
We know how frustrating it can be to get (pre)menstrual breakouts. It’s like, you start getting breakouts one week prior to your period, then they take a week (or sometimes longer) to go away, the marks and redness they leave can take another week to fade, and that’s when the cycle starts all over again.
While not everyone gets (pre)menstrual breakouts, a 2014 study confirmed that around 65% of people do. If you are one of the unlucky ones, read on to find out what you can do to help prevent or at least limit these breakouts.
Most of you probably know that hormonal fluctuation is the main culprit of (pre)menstrual breakouts. The reality is, that is only part of the equation. Just before the start of your cycle, the body starts producing more progesterone. Progesterone can cause water retention, bloating, and slight swelling, which makes the skin puffier. This puts pressure on the pores and creates a narrower pore lining. Whilst, a spike in testosterone can cause the sebum produced by the skin to become thicker and at an increased level.
Now, when there is a lot of thicker sebum trying to get through a narrower opening, what happens? They get clogged and inflamed in the pores, resulting in large, hard, painful breakouts.
While there is no 100% cure (well, nothing in the world is 100% guaranteed, right?), there are indeed things you can do to help prevent them, or at least make them less severe and in lesser quantities. Let us break it down in 3 areas: supplements, skincare, and diet.
Diindolylmethane (DIM) and Indole-3-carbinol (I3C, a precursor to DIM) are phytonutrients derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It’s known to stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the gut and liver, and most importantly, it regulates estrogen and androgen, support healthy estrogen metabolism and balanced hormones. Because hormonal acne results from an imbalance of estrogens and testosterone, taking DIM or I3C may help to maintain this delicate balance, and block androgen pathways to decrease sebum production and acne. Do not take it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding though.
Some evidences suggested that Vitamin B6 can improve metabolic function and hormone metabolism, thereby easing premenstrual symptoms, including breakouts. The most recommended dosage is 50-100 mg per day, starting about a week before your period and continue until your period ends.
Prevention is always better than cure. Thus in order to prevent (pre)menstrual breakouts, the best way is to create an environment in your skin where breakouts are less likely to occur.
Your first instinct may be to use a cleansing brush, heavy-duty cleansers, and face scrubs. But the truth is, not only would overly cleansing and scrubbing the face will strip the skin of its natural oil, they will also slough away healthy skin cells besides removing dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin. It may also cause micro-tears, as well as wounds in existing acne, thereby creating an opening for bacteria to attack the skin. And guess what, scrubs are not oil-soluble and thus cannot get into the pores and unclog them anyway! Therefore we do not recommend physical scrubs of any kind.
Acids, on the other hand, work differently, and with the right formulation and concentration, can actually be used by all skin types, even sensitive, rosacea, and eczema prone skin. AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acid) and PHAs (polyhydroxy acid) can dissolve the bond between dead skin cells to exfoliate, allowing clogged sebum and bacteria to pass through easier, spots to fade faster and skincare products to penetrate better, while leaving healthy skin cells attached. Whereas BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), which is oil-soluble, can penetrate into and clear out pores, preventing acne and blackheads.
As mentioned, the main reason for (pre)menstrual breakouts is that a lot of thick serum gets clogged in the pores as the pore lining gets narrower due to swelling. So three times a week, use an acid-based treatment to exfoliate and clear pores.
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If you have sensitive skin, you may want to use a cleanser that contains a lower dose of acids and can be used daily. It would be good for acne-prone, and blackheads-prone skin too to use an acid-based cleanser on top of the aforementioned weekly treatments.
acid(wash) Lactic Acid Brightening Cleanser <- Click to shop
Smooth Operator Purifying Cleansing Gel <- Click to shop
As mentioned above, the key is to create an environment in your skin where breakouts are less likely to occur.
Topical probiotics, aka the “good” live bacteria cultures, work by secreting anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory substances that penetrate bad bacteria and kill them before they trigger an inflammation, whilst providing a protective shield to keep bad bacteria from reaching skin cells, inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and viruses, as well as calming parts of the skin cells that want to react to the bad bacteria, thus stopping them from sending an “attack” message to the skin’s immune system that leads to redness, swelling, patchy skin, or acne-like bumps.
However, treating inflammations is not the only skincare benefit probiotics can provide.
For example, probiotics use different mechanisms, such as by lowering pH, to preserve skin health and to inhibit the growth of pathogens——an acidic skin environment is very important as it discourages bacterial colonization and provides a moisture barrier.
Studies have also demonstrated that used on wounds, probiotics can exert an immunomodulatory effect by inducing “wound healing-promoting substances”, such as cytokines and growth factors, and produce certain bacteriocins that can sustain a wound-healing process. In other words, they will help acne to heal better and faster!
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
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Now, most people, as soon as they see a zit pop up, would apply an acne treatment in an attempt to dry it out. Here is the thing. If you apply a drying treatment before the whitehead / pus is on the surface, it will simply dry out the surface of the skin, which would then keep the infection trapped underneath for longer, and prevent the whitehead / pus from easily being released through the skin’s surface. The longer the infection stays within the skin, the more it stretches out the surrounding tissue, and the longer the zit will stay, and ultimately leading to scarring and pigmentation.
Thus, instead of trying to dry out the acne, continue using the above acid-based treatments, probiotic mask, and kaolin-based mask. You may want to also add a retinol serum and moisturizer to your routine.
Retinol works in a few ways. Firstly, it help to regulate skin cell turnover, which is incredibly important in treating acne, as the tiny molecules can penetrate deep into the cells and bind to nuclear receptors, which oversee skin functions like cellular metabolism, proliferation, inflammation, and cell death. Secondly, it exfoliates to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and oil from pores, which helps prevent the formation of acne. Thirdly, it can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin at the dermis level, thereby reducing the appearance of pores and acne scarring over time.
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When you have successfully created an environment that is less likely for acne to occur, you will have less spots to treat anyway. Also, you may want to ice your acne.
Icing your acne has a few effects. First of all, it helps reduce inflammation. By reducing the inflammation within the skin, the size of the acne will also start to shrink. Secondly, ice can help constrict the blood vessels, which can bring down the swelling, as well as redness. Thirdly, it will encourage the clogged debris to rise to the surface of the skin, so it can be removed.
Start with cleansing your face first. Then, wrap a piece of ice in a thin cloth or paper towel. Do NOT directly put the ice on the skin. Hold it against the acne for 1-2 minutes max, then continue with your skincare routine, using products with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Avoid heavy moisturizers. You can do it morning and night.
And remember, do NOT squeeze!
We know everyone loves hydrating masks, but hydration masks are not going to help get rid of your acne. Instead, opt for a kaolin-based mask.
Unlike some clays out there that can dry out the skin and result in sensitivity and increased oil production, kaolin clay is considered to be the most gentle clay. Not only is kaolin clay high in silica dioxide from kaolinite, an excellent absorbing agent, it is also neutral in pH, and has moisturising, detoxing, soothing, anti-acne and anti-aging properties, making it suitable for all skin types, including sensitive, acne-prone, inflamed, oily, and dry skin, as well as clogged pores.
Kaolin clay absorbs extra oil from the skin’s surface, thereby keeping the pores unclogged. What’s exceptional about kaolin clay, say compared to bentonite clay, is that it does not strip the skin of its natural oils, the skin thus stays moisturized, and oil production is not stimulated. Over time, it also helps to balance the skin’s overall oil production.
Thanks to its high adsorption and absorption capacities, as well as extremely fine particle size, kaolin clay can cling to impurities, dirt, pollution, grime, and bacteria in the pores and remove them from the skin. The pores are thus unclogged without stripping or causing trauma to the skin.
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Dairy products, including milk, cheese, cream, butter, yoghurt, and ice cream, is perhaps the number one food group that we often tell people to avoid.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, our body breaks down the lactose in milk with enzymes called lactase, and about 65 per cent of people loses these enzymes when they pass infancy. When we get older, our body may even develop an intolerance, or worse, allergy, to lactose, which triggers an inflammatory response in the body. Note that babies can also be lactose intolerant, and lactose is found in breast milk as well as baby formula.
Secondly, they contain casein and whey protein that can raise levels of insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1, a hormone that is linked with increased production of sebum and acne. And thirdly, they could raise insulin levels, making our body more susceptible to inflammations. When the body is inflamed, it will subsequently and surely impact the skin, causing acne, eczema, rosacea, and other forms of skin issues. It will also lead to a breakdown of collagen, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles and sagging.
When we consume sugar, insulin is released from the pancreas to absorb the sugar and transfer it to our liver. However, the pancreas can only process so much sugar, and if there is excess sugar, it can cause inflammation. It also weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight off bacteria. Acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea are all conditions that can be triggered by this.
And guess what, insulin may also cause hormonal imbalance in females by increasing testosterone. This stimulates oil production, which not only makes the skin oilier, but can also clog pores and cause acne.
There is a lot of evidence that proves soy affects androgen levels, which are related to hormonal acne. Soy, which is found in soy sauce, tofu, miso, soy milk, and probably every single Chinese dish, is loaded with isoflavonoids and phytoestrogens that is similar to our own estrogen. Consuming soy can thus alter our hormonal balance by replacing our biologically-produced estrogen and up the androgen——and the overproduction of androgen, is one of the worst culprits when it comes to acne by causing our glands to produce more oil. Also, with this extra estrogen soy, our livers would become taxed and no longer able to perform its detoxing duties, resulting in hormonal acne breakouts and skin inflammations.
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