This Is Why You Get Zits Before Your Period

I like to say that I hit puberty like a brick wall in third grade. All of a sudden, my slim little girl hips busted out into full-sized baby carriers, I had these two aching bumps on my chest, hair was growing everywhere, and, worst of all, my face was covered in acne. Like, nasty acne that lasted into my 20s: a full decade of pizza face. Also, even grosser: I’m a compulsive picker, so my skin was usually a nasty mess of festering sores. Not a pretty picture, to be sure, but these days, far on the other side of puberty, I'm typically breaking out before my period. A sure sign that Aunt Flo is coming for a visit is the three or four little bastards who suddenly have turned my normally relatively smooth skin into the rolling mountain ranges of my home state of Vermont. Another sure sign? When I start sobbing uncontrollably over random shit on the internet.

But where do those little remnants of our awkward years actually come from? Why are we visited by the ghosts of puberty past once a month and thrown back into the tumult that is teenagehood, if only just a little a bit? Here's what you need to know about those evil skin afflictions.

Turns out, the answer is pretty simple: hormones.

Refinery29 reports that in the 14 to seven days before your period (so, basically, after ovulation), your levels of estradiol drop. Estradiol is a female sex hormone that’s produced by the ovaries. During that same time, the male sex hormone testosterone stays at the same levels and, eventually, overtakes the estradiol levels. It’s that hormone imbalance that contributes to oily skin and those dreaded monthly breakouts.

Also, because those higher testosterone levels lead to acne-prone skin, you’re also more likely to end up with clogged pores. That’s because acne-prone pores “about five times as many dead skin cells as healthy pores do.” Those dead skin cells can accumulate and clog up your pores and follicles, leading to nasty eruptions.

So what can you do to deal with the monthly face invasion?

You could take the Pill, which stops ovulation and therefore should stop the hormone swings that cause you to break out but if you’re looking for a more natural intervention, check out these awesome ancient skincare tips from Bustle writer Rose Black, including sea salt and rosewater. You should also be sure to drink a lot of water, pump your body full of antioxidant-rich foods (especially fruits and vegetables that are red or orange — they’re super good for your skin), and sweat it out with exercise! Also, don’t forget to treat yo’ self: high stress will increase the zit-causing hormones and cause you to break out even more.

Images: Giphy (2); Caitlin Regan/Flickr