The Connection between Hormonal Breakouts and Your Skin Microbiome

The Connection between Hormonal Breakouts and Your Skin Microbiome

Without a doubt, getting a period every month — and all of the unpleasant side-effects that go along with it — is one of the least fun things that many of us have to deal with. From bloating, to cramps, to wanting to eat everything in sight, that time of the month can make you want to curl up in a blanket with some ibuprofen and hot tea (or a big glass of wine) and hide from the world. Unfortunately, hibernating for 5–7 days every month is not an option for most (any) of us!

And as if all that isn’t enough, the majority of women, at some point in their lives, will also have to deal with the incredibly frustrating phenomenon known as hormonal breakouts. This refers to the increased appearance of painful pimples and cysts, particularly along the chin and jawline, at certain times in your cycle. Despite the outdated stereotype that only teenagers get acne, current research suggests that as many as 40–50% of women over the age of 25 experience these recurrent hormonal breakouts, which can also be incredibly difficult to treat. Part of the reason for this difficulty lies in the series of complex and interrelated factors that contribute to the development of hormonal breakouts. 

As the name would suggest, one of the most important of these factors is sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, which fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. During the first part of the cycle, starting on Day 1 of your period, levels of estrogen secreted from the ovaries sharply increase as they prepare for egg release. When estrogen levels are high enough, ovulation occurs; at this time, the follicle that released the egg also starts producing progesterone. Estrogen levels drop at ovulation and then begin to rise again. If the egg is not fertilized, part of the ovary that produces these hormones will break down, leading to sharp drop in both estrogen and progesterone and ultimately, menstruation. During this part of the cycle, from ovulation to menstruation (aka the luteal phase), all of these hormonal fluctuations cause symptoms such as bloating, moodiness, and hormonal breakouts.

When you have higher levels of estrogen (before ovulation), you might experience clearer skin because estrogen inhibits the growth and function of sebum (oil)-producing structures in our skin called sebaceous glands. It also blocks production of androgen hormones, such as testosterone. However, when estrogen levels drop, androgen levels concurrently increase. These androgens have the opposite effect on our skin, in that they stimulate sebaceous gland growth and oil production, particularly in the chin and jawline area, and increased progesterone may further contribute to breakouts.

Importantly, all of this increased oiliness promotes formation of breakouts and blemishes by 1) causing increased ‘stickiness’ of dead skin cells, leading to pore blockages, and 2) feeding skin bacteria called Cutibacterium acnes (or C. acnes). C. acnes bacteria break down complex fats in sebum to produce fatty acids that are highly pro-inflammatory, and they also contain molecules on their surface that directly induce inflammation. Making matters worse, they can secrete an array of tissue-damaging enzymes that break down structural molecules in your skin, leading to….more inflammation. All of the above results in the redness, swelling, and discomfort commonly observed during hormonal breakouts. C. acnes bacteria also exacerbate the problem by promoting hyperkeratinization — the increased proliferation of skin cells called keratinocytes, which further produces pore blockages. Even worse, this whole vicious cycle can be aggravated by stress, since stress hormones such as cortisol also promote increased oil production.

Unfortunately, hormonal breakouts can be particularly stubborn and difficult to eliminate. Current treatments include hormone therapies, such as spironolactone, which blocks androgen receptors on sebaceous glands, as well as oral antibiotics or isotretinoin (commonly known as Accutane). 

While these treatments may be effective, they might not always be the most beneficial to your overall health. Another key way of addressing hormonal breakouts is to directly target and kill the C. acnes bacteria that contribute to much of the inflammation associated with this condition. Topical and oral antibiotics can kill this microbe, but unfortunately, these drugs also kill a lot of other good, healthy bacteria on our skin (and in our gut, in the case of oral antibiotics). In contrast, Wild Resilience Active Phage Serum by Ellis Day Skin Science uses cutting-edge phage science to only target the inflammation and breakout-causing C. acnes, leaving other members of your microbiome unharmed. When used daily, this gentle, clean, and vegan serum helps to maintain a healthy and balanced skin microbiome and therefore, it can be a powerful weapon in the fight against hormonal breakouts*. 

And if calming your hormonal breakouts makes getting your period even a little less miserable, we would definitely call that a win!

As always, if you have any questions about Wild Resilience and hormonal breakouts, feel free to write to us at And please note: because hormonal breakouts can also occur as a result of other conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, it’s important to see your doctor if your breakouts are severe and persistent, or if you have any other health concerns. 



  1. Bagatin E, Freitas THP, Rivitti-Machado MC, et al. Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice [published correction appears in An Bras Dermatol. 2019 Mar-Apr;94(2):255. 
  2. Cong TX, Hao D, Wen X, Li XH, He G, Jiang X. From pathogenesis of acne vulgaris to anti-acne agents. Arch Dermatol Res. 2019 Jul;311(5):337-349. 
  3. Kanda N, Watanabe S. Regulatory roles of sex hormones in cutaneous biology and immunology. J Dermatol Sci. 2005 Apr;38(1):1-7. 
  4. Zeichner JA, Baldwin HE, Cook-Bolden FE, Eichenfield LF, Fallon-Friedlander S, Rodriguez DA. Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(1):37-46.


About Ellis Day Skin Science

We believe that modern skincare must be grounded in true microbiome science. We believe the answers are in the wild, natural world, which includes the surface of your skin. 

At Ellis Day Skin Science, we pioneer natural phage-based products that target and kill bad bacteria associated with inflammation, damage, and aging, and enable good bacteria to flourish. By doing so, we aim to reset your microbiome for optimal skin health.

We use cutting-edge science to leverage nature, creating products that are just as kind and conscientious as they are effective, so that all can feel empowered with balanced, clear, radiant, and resilient skin.

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