If you’ve ever had a period, you know all of the annoyances that can come along with it. Cramps, irritability, and ruined underwear are just some of the issues you might deal with when managing your period. Drastic changes to your skin during your menstrual cycle might also be something you struggle with. Most people who get their period experience hormonal acne right before or during their period week, but your skin is constantly changing throughout your menstrual cycle.
Why do hormones affect my skin?
Right before or during your period you might notice your skin is more dry, oily, sensitive, and broken out than usual. These changes in your skin are due to your changing hormones during your menstrual cycle. During your cycle, your levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, and it just so happens that these two hormones greatly affect your skin.
Estrogen is basically responsible for all things radiant and lovely in your skin. Estrogen affects your skin’s hydration, collagen production, skin thickness, skin’s ability to heal, and the effectiveness of your skin as a barrier. Progesterone, which is the other dominant hormone during your menstrual cycle, is responsible for triggering breakouts. Progesterone closes up the skin’s pores and causes a build-up of sebum to be trapped under your skin. Sebum is an oily substance produced by your sebaceous glands, which start making oil during puberty.
What type of skin changes should I expect?
During the first week or so of your menstrual cycle, estrogen levels are fairly low. Because of estrogen’s effect on retaining moisture in the skin, your skin might feel a little dry or dull during this period. Other than that though, your skin shouldn’t be too irritated and should be looking and feeling pretty good. The next phase of your cycle, the follicular phase, occurs between days 10 and 16 in your cycle. During the follicular phase, estrogen and testosterone levels rise. Your skin will look its best during this phase because of the increased hormone levels. Your estrogen increases during this time because your body is preparing for ovulation. The next phase is ovulation, which occurs halfway through your menstrual cycle, which for most people is around day 14 of the cycle. During ovulation, your estrogen and testosterone levels begin to drop, and your skin will continue to look and feel healthy for a few days as your progesterone levels increase. The final phase of your cycle is the luteal phase, which is right before and during your period. During this phase, your progesterone levels are up, which, as we learned earlier, traps oil in your pores. Your skin will be at its oiliest and most broken out during this phase.
Some people also report having increased skin sensitivity right before and during a period. This sensitivity is due to prostaglandins, which are chemicals that are released as your uterine lining sheds. Prostaglandins cause inflammation throughout the body in general, which we can feel the effects of on our skin during this time.
What skincare tips should I follow?
So what are some things you can do to manage your ever-changing skin during your monthly cycle? Experts recommend always washing your face and not sleeping with makeup on. Wash your face twice a day and be sure to moisturize, especially during the beginning period of your cycle when your skin is clear but dry. As your skin gets more oily, avoid oil-based moisturizers, wear your hair back off your face more, change your pillowcase more frequently, and avoid touching your face. Experts also say to use a gentle cleanser on your skin during the times when it is most irritated. Exfoliating or using harsh face washes will only inflame your face more, so save those for the beginning of your cycle.
Maintaining a balanced diet can also help your skin stay clear. Every article I’ve read as research recommended limiting sugar and caffeine to help keep your skin clear, which can be so hard during your period when you are craving both of those things. Flo.com has a great article with specific skincare tips for each phase of your cycle.
Are there other options for treatment?
If your skin really suffers during your period, talk to your doctor. Hormonal birth control is often prescribed to treat hormonal acne, but there are other options as well. Hormonal birth control contains varying levels of estrogen and progesterone and shuts down ovulation, so the pills can help regulate your hormone levels and manage your acne.
Now that you know exactly what’s going on with your skin each month, you should be better prepared to combat breakouts and treat your skin well. Good luck!