Dear Doctor: Whenever I have my periods, there is an annoying pimple which comes up on my face. I have taken various drugs to fight it but they do not help. Are there other drugs I can take for this? Frida Atengo
Dear Atengo: Many women, especially seven to 10 days before their period starts, may develop a pimple or many. Sometimes, the pimples come in the same spots. Both men and women have male as well as female hormones. In men, the male hormones are more and for women the female hormones dominate. Before periods, the female hormones reduce, leading to a relative increase of male hormones.
Male hormones are responsible for swelling and blocking the pores of the skin’s oil glands apart from increased gland oil production. With the blocking and accumulation of oil in the glands, skin bacteria will have a field day infecting the gland, causing more swelling and pain. The swelling of the oil glands is responsible for what is seen as pimples. Water retention in pimple areas due to the said hormonal changes can also bring on the pimples.
Although menstrual-related acne is not a matter of hygiene, it is important to maximise skin hygiene and to avoid smoking, and also manage obesity which may worsen menstrual related acne. Vitamin A skin creams, a mild antibiotic, a combined pill, anti- male hormone drugs have always been used in cases where lifestyle changes cannot help control the acne. These, however, need a doctor’s diagnosis and prescription.