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5 Skincare Ingredients for Avoiding Pesky Period Pimples

Renee Yang 

Image source @parkstreetunsplash

Is there anything more disheartening than witnessing the monthly return of our period pimples? It seems that even as we stride deeper into adulthood, outbreaks during our time of the month is a constant that we just can’t get rid of.

Trust me - the frustration is not only understandable but 100% relatable.

But don’t worry, there is hope. By understanding how our skin works and why period outbreaks are common, we can tackle this problem from the inside out. So first things first, let’s dig deep into the science behind it all.

Where do pimples come from?

Simply put, acne is formed by 4 components: sebum (oil) production, clogged hair follicles (which are our pores), a bacteria called P. acnes and inflammation.

Our skin regularly produces oil and sheds dead skin cells to keep itself healthy and moisturized. But when there is an excess of oil and skin buildup, this mixture can combine with the hair within our pores to become a clump. This clogs our pores to become pimples, which then creates an airless environment where P. acnes thrives. This bacteria that already lives within our hair follicles then pushes our pimples to become bigger and even more inflamed.

So in a nutshell, pimples are clogged hair follicles that worsen with bacteria and inflammation.

Why do we tend to get period pimples during our cycle?

While it’s possible that stress and diet changes (donuts anyone?) during our periods may cause acne outbreaks, there’s one primary contributor that stands out. Yes, you guessed it - It’s our hormones.

Hormonal imbalance is one of the most common causes of acne. After all, it is the main culprit in teenage as well as menopausal acne. But even in between those two periods of our lives, we are constantly going through changes in our hormonal levels. Studies have shown that it is normal for women to experience hormonal changes during their regular cycles, particularly their androgen levels which peaks around mid-cycle.

This is important because changes in our androgen levels can change how much oil our skin produces. Androgens are considered male sex hormones, the most well-known of which is testosterone. And these hormones are the ones that most directly affect the level of oil production on our skin. As our skin secretes more oil during this time, our pores are more likely to get blocked and grow into pimples

(scroll down to read more)

So how do we prevent hormonal acne?

Our skin possesses a delicate and self-regulating environment that depends on a balanced ecosystem. So preventing acne is not just about making sure our skin doesn’t produce too much oil. It’s also about building up the health of our skin so that it can balance itself and support its own needs when those pesky period pimples do show up.

The best way to approach this is multifaceted: prevent excess build-up of dead skin cells, discourage the multiplication of P. acnes, and build a healthy skin barrier that can support your skin functions. Not sure where to begin? Check out these 5 superstar ingredients for preventing hormonal acne.

Top 5 Ingredients for Preventing Period Pimples

Salicylic Acid

This is a super popular ingredient in acne spot treatments and face washes, and for good reason. Salicylic acid works by dissolving the bonds between our skin cells, which prevents them from accumulating and clumping. As a result, our hair follicles are less likely to get clogged and form pimples.

Because it’s oil-soluble, it can also cleanse deeper into our pores than alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). And as a precursor to aspirin, it comes with some anti-inflammatory benefits as well, which is important for acne-prone skin.

Pro Tip: Though leave-on salicylic acid products are popular, they can leave your skin dry and flaky. Use a salicylic acid cleanser instead to make introducing this ingredient easier on your skin. *Fun fact: salicylic acid is a great solution for fighting blackheads too - it really works.


If you’re into skincare at all, you’ve probably heard of retinoids (like tretinoin and adapalene) and all the wonders of this super-ingredient. In addition to its ability to fight and defeat wrinkles, it is also a powerful adversary to hormonal acne.

Studies have shown that retinoids can decrease the appearance of acne by up to 70 percent! It works like SA in that it increases the rate of cell turnover and helps shed dead skin. But it has the added benefit of being an insanely powerful anti-aging product too.

Pro Tip: Like acids, retinoids can be sensitizing if it’s not introduced to your skin correctly. If you’re just starting out, try mixing your retinoids into your moisturizer at low concentrations so that your skin can acclimate itself to this new ingredient slowly.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Though benzoyl peroxide is also a mild exfoliant, this ingredient works slightly differently. It treats acne by focusing on the bacteria P. acnes. This is the stuff that gets our period pimples to become inflamed, and benzoyl peroxide has been shown to be one of its biggest enemies.

Studies have shown that benzoyl peroxide can effectively reduce P. acnes on our skin. Since P. acnes thrives in an oxygen-free environment, benzoyl peroxide works by bringing oxygen into our pores and targeting the proliferation of this bacteria. Which means, it’s great at preventing inflammatory acne.

Pro Tip: Benzoyl peroxide is also a bleaching agent, so it can bleach your pillow or sheets if you’re using a leave-on product. It doesn’t bleach your skin though. Just remember to give your skin a lot of hydration because it can be drying.


Studies have shown a direct correlation between acne and compromised skin barriers, which is then directly related to the level of ceramides in our skin. This is because ceramides actually make up a big part of our skin barrier, so we should definitely not skimp on it.

By replenishing our skin’s supply of ceramides, we can help our skin regulate its own barrier function. With this, our skin can better retain moisture and will be less likely to over-produce oil. Plus, it’ll be able to better combat and heal from acne if that does occur.

Pro Tip: Because ceramides are so skin-loving, you can feel free to slather it all over your face. Combine it with other emollient and moisturizing products to give even a stronger boost to your skin barrier.


If you’re not using niacinamide yet, you will be after reading this. Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is both powerful and calming, and it has been shown to boost ceramide production as well.

The reason niacinamide is amazing is because it is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and can regulate our skin’s oil production. As a result, it can effectively battle acne while remaining gentle on our skin. Studies have shown that 4% niacinamide can be just as effective as other popular treatments for acne, while having almost no side effects.

Pro Tip: A study showed that using a skincare routine containing both niacinamide and salicylic acid can be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide in treating acne. But because it’s so kind to the skin, it leaves it more hydrated and smooth. So this may be something to try out if you regularly experience dry skin from acne treatments.


NannoPad® may not be able to help with your pimples, but it's definitely a must-have for a healthier period. Super thin and absorbent, NannoPad is developed to help with your menstrual discomfort in a holistic and effective way. See reviews here. 

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