How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Skin
A number of different hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone, drive the female menstrual cycle. They also exert a significant influence on the skin. Read on to discover what’s likely to happen and when – and which skincare products can enhance/counter these effects.
Does “Period Skin” Really Exist?
Lots of things can affect the way our skin looks and feels. Some of these factors – such as sun exposure and pollution – are external. Others, such as the food we choose to eat and how much alcohol we consume, exert an influence from the inside out. Then there are our hormones. These chemical messengers use our bloodstream to travel throughout our body. They control a wide range of functions and processes, including growth, development and mood. For women, they also regulate the menstrual cycle, which in turn can have a significant impact on their skin. Monthly breakouts, often known as “period skin”, are perhaps the most obvious effect. But with different hormones fluctuating throughout the average 28-day cycle, there’s often a lot more going on than just a few unwelcome spots.
Should I Sync My Skincare To My Menstrual Cycle?
Broadly speaking, there are four key phases within the menstrual cycle: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. It’s quite common for your skin to behave differently during each of them. So it makes perfect sense to use a range of skincare products that are designed to address these different issues, at specific times of the month.
Does Your Skin Change During Your Period?
As you’d expect, your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period, which usually lasts for four to five days. This is typically when levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone are low. Interestingly, body temperature is often lower too during this phase, and blood circulation can be slower. As a result, during this phase skin can look and feel dull and dehydrated. However it may also be dealing with the aftermath of any spots from the week before. If so, use a gentle but thorough cleanser, complemented by products that hydrate, exfoliate and brighten.
An excellent multi-tasking option for this particular time of the month is Emma Hardie’s Exfoliating Brightening Tonic. This gentle formulation features pomegranate enzymes to loosen dead skin. Tego Cosmo C250 (a natural amino acid derivative) builds brightness and glow, while aloe vera soothes and hydrates. Bakuchiol – a vegan alternative to Retinol – delivers a range of anti-ageing benefits, without the irritation that’s sometimes associated with vitamin A, making this tonic suitable for all skins, even sensitive.
When In My Cycle Does My Skin Look Its Best?
The follicular phase usually accounts for the first half of your menstrual cycle, and lasts until ovulation occurs. As the name suggests, this is when the pituitary gland releases the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which prompts the ovary to produce a number of tiny follicles, each of which houses an immature egg. Typically, around day 10, one of the eggs matures. In this phase oestrogen levels start to rise, to help the womb lining start to grow. All this is generally good news for your skin, which should start to become clearer and less oily. Day eight to 14 of your cycle is usually when your complexion is at its best, with a natural healthy glow.
During this phase, choose products that will maximise your radiance: vitamin C formulations are an excellent option. We recommend The Organic Pharmacy’s Antioxidant Face Serum. This silky, vitamin-rich formula incorporates rose hip, carrot and MSM, to deliver intense rejuvenation, tone and plump skin, and boost luminosity.
What Happens To My Skin During Ovulation?
The skin-friendly follicular phase ends when ovulation (the release of a mature egg) takes place. This usually happens two weeks before menstruation starts again. Oestrogen levels peak, and luteinising hormone (LH) levels also rise rapidly. From now on, it’s common for skin to become oily again, and pores may appear more noticeable. Cleanse thoroughly, twice a day, to keep them clear. Mask treatments are also worth considering during this time of the month.
We like SkinCeuticals’ Clarifying Clay Masque – a deep-cleansing but non-drying formulation that uses a combination of Kaolin and Bentonite clays to draw out impurities, unblock pores and remove excess oil. Ideal for oily and combination skin, it doesn’t ‘set’ hard the way some clay masks do, and is easily removed with warm water to leave skin soft, clean and clear.
Why Do I Get Spots Before My Period?
The final phase of the menstrual cycle is the luteal phase. After ovulation, the egg travels towards the womb. This is when the body produces more progesterone, to thicken the womb lining. However, elevated levels of progesterone can also lead to higher levels of sebum, which in turn can block pores and create the ideal environmental for bacteria to thrive. Oily skin, inflammation and acne breakouts are a common consequence, and often last until progesterone levels drop again, and your period begins.
Products containing salicylic and glycolic acid are your go-to ingredients during this phase, as they help to control excess oil levels and keep skin clear. Look out for them in all sorts of cleansers and other resurfacing formulations. Specialist spot treatments can also offer a swift, targeted solution for breakout-prone skin: try Medik8’s Blemish SOS. Featuring salicyclic acid and niacinamide, this dual-action gel clears pores and calms inflammation to visibly reduce breakouts in just 24 hours. It’s quick-drying, invisible, and can be used on its own or underneath makeup.
If your monthly breakouts are severe and/or do not improve throughout your cycle, there are a variety of in-clinic treatments that could help, including Chemical Peels, HydraFacial or Isolaz. For the best results, always choose a reputable clinic, and book a consultation with a specialist nurse or dermatologist before embarking on any treatment programme.