Is Premenstrual Acne Real?

Updated February 25, 2013.

Question: Is Premenstrual Acne Real?

It seems to happen every month, like clockwork. Your skin appears to be clearing up nicely when suddenly it begins erupting in breakouts again, just around the time of menstruation. A vast majority of female acne sufferers believe the menstrual cycle directly impacts their acne. Premenstrual acne, often dubbed “PMS acne” by unfortunate sufferers, is a consistent flare up or worsening of acne every month, coinciding with the menstrual cycle. But is premenstrual acne a real phenomenon?


Dr. Alan Shalita, co-author of one of the largest studies on the effects of the menstrual cycle on acne, is a believer. He states, “Acne has often been associated with hormones and a women’s monthly cycle. This study confirms that women do, indeed, have a premenstrual flare of their acne.”

Dr. Shalita’s study included four hundred female patients between the ages of 12 and 52. Forty four percent reported premenstrual acne breakouts. Interestingly enough, women aged 33 and older tended to suffer from breakouts around the time of their periods more often than did younger women. Ethnicity did not seem to be a factor in acne development.

And it seems the menstrual cycle impacts not only the amount of comedonal lesions present on the skin, but the amount of inflammation as well. Between day 22 and 28 of the monthly cycle, acne inflammation may increase 25%, with comedonal lesions increasing more than 20% (compared to days 1 to 7 of the monthly cycle). It is suggested that sebaceous duct size decreases between days 22 through 28, however more research needs to be done to verify this.

Premenstrual acne is a real occurrence, with some studies reporting it affecting up to 78% of adult female acne sufferers. Women do not seem to outgrow premenstrual acne, and it typically does not lessen on its own. But premenstrual acne needn’t be something you must suffer through. There are treatments that can help control your monthly breakouts. For example, hormonal contraceptives have long been used to reduce premenstrual breakouts, presumably because they help regulate hormonal fluctuations. So don’t curse your skin this month. Instead, see your doctor and look forward to clear, healthy skin all month long.


Stoll S., Shalita A., Webster G., Kaplan R., Danesh S., Penstein A., “The effect of the menstrual cycle on acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2001); 45 (6): 957-960.

Lucky AW. “Quantitative documentation of a premenstrual flare of facial acne in adult women.” Archive of Dermatology (2004); 140:423-424.

Poli F., Dreno B., Verschoore M. “An epidemiological study of acne in female adults: results of a survey conducted in France.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (2001); 15 (6): 541-545.