If you’re a lady, odds are you’ve noticed that the appearance of your skin varies throughout your cycle. Just when you feel like your skin may be clearing up, a breakout happens. Or maybe your acne doesn’t vary as much, but you notice other changes.
I’m constantly trying to help women realize it’s futile to strive for perfect skin. It doesn’t exist. Biologically, your skin is not going to look or act the same every day – even if you are doing everything “right”. Overall, you want to aim for good nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise and stress management, but even the healthiest woman among us will look better on some days and not so glowing on others. Even with all the best products. No matter how good your skin gets overall, biology is going to give you good days and bad days. Period. (Pun intended.)
I say that so you can let yourself off the hook. Sometimes Aunt Flo is going to have her way with your skin no matter what you have to say or do about it. Not only does that include period breakouts, but skin tone and possibly flakiness as well.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it each month. By understanding what happens to your skin during your cycle, you can treat your skin with the appropriate care. Below I explain the basics of what happens to skin during the course of a monthly cycle, including those pesky breakouts, and how to work with Flo.
Day 1 – 6: This is the time of your period. Your hormones have dropped and less blood is circulating to the surface of your skin. You’re likely to look paler and skin may appear blotchy. Oil production drops and skin may become dry. On the plus side, your pre-period breakouts will begin to subside.
Be particularly kind to your skin on these days. Skin isn’t retaining as much moisture, so be sure to use products made for hydration. If possible, avoid piling on makeup in order to hide skin. It’s particularly sensitive during these days and can be ‘over stimulated’, causing irritation and more breakouts.
Day 7 – 11: You’re getting over the “everyone just leave me alone” feelings of the dropped hormones, but your skin is still not as effective at circulating water and nutrients as it can be. Always drink plenty of water, but particularly during this phase. The good news is that your skin is starting to retain more of that water, and so it will begin to appear a bit more youthful.
This would be a good time to use more stimulating products that increase circulation, like AHA or clay masks.
Day 12 – 16: This is about the time most women are ovulating. Circulation is at its peak, hormones are at optimal levels, pores appear their smallest and oil production is juuuust right. Skin is likely to be clearest during this time.
Your skin can handle slightly more aggressive exfoliation at this time (though remember, overall always be kind to your skin). To help keep the glow going as long as possible, consider using a manual exfoliant (something with a “gritty” texture). However if you still have a lot of active acne, always opt for mild exfoliation.
Day 17 – 21: Hormones begin dropping during these days and your body is spending more energy trying to regulate body temperature. In particular the nerves in your skin start becoming more sensitive and you may find your skin tone changing quickly in relation to warm and cold.
Use gentle ingredients on these days and a more mild exfoliant.
Day 22 – 28: The week before your period starts is when you’re likely to look your not so greatest. (Hey there chin zits, bags, uneven skin tone…) Oil production spikes due to a drop in estrogen. The change in hormones also often means testosterone becomes more dominant and likely to cause that pre period break out.
This is the time to use a gentle salicylic product to keep pores from clogging and perhaps treatment masks to help balance and heal skin.
The above is based on the average 28 day cycle, but of course we don’t all fall in that range. Some women’s cycles are shorter, some longer. Also, some women ovulate earlier in their cycle, some later. Take this guideline and apply it to what you know about your own body – or use this as a reason to get in tune with your cycle.
And remember – sometimes your skin is just going to do what it’s going to do. Let go of the idea that you have to control it all the time, or that it’s your fault if you have a flare up. Also let go of the idea that the condition of your skin is permanent, whether you’re having a good day or a bad day. It will fluctuate, and that’s ok.
And now I’d like to hear from you. Is there anything you do that you find helps deal with hormonal skin? Please share below.
Until next time,