How Your Period Changes Your Skin-Care Routine
Pimples that regularly appear once a month may be familiar to anyone who's ever experienced hormonal acne, but your menstrual cycle actually impacts your skin even when you're not on your period. And since skin-care lines are becoming increasingly tailored, going beyond skin type to address factors like pollution and temperature, we weren't all that surprised when we stumbled across one beauty brand that syncs its various products to your menstrual cycle.
"Our skin undergoes a series of changes over the 28-day cycle,” says Claire Zhao, founder of Amareta, which targets your skin’s needs based on where you are in your hormonal cycle. “Just like the body requires different nutrients during different phases of the cycle, your skin also calls for different treatments.” So instead of switching out your moisturizers and serums with the seasons, you might use a clarifying serum before your period, then swap it out for a formula that addresses dullness once you're actually on your period.
Your menstrual cycle can be divided into three different phases: the menstrual phase (your actual period, when your uterus sheds its lining), the follicular phase (starts on the last day of your period and ends when you start to ovulate), and the luteal phase (generally starts 10 days before your period and happens while you're ovulating).
"The skin is responsive to the hormones and most happy when the hormones are in balance," explains dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD. "When hormonal balance is in flux, our skin reflects those changes."
"It’s true that the hormonal changes throughout the month of your menstrual cycle affect all parts of our body, especially the skin,” agrees ob-gn Sherry Ross, MD. There are certain things that you should be doing no matter where you are in the cycle, like keeping skin hydrated, but “depending on where you are in the cycle will determine which products to grab out of the medicine cabinet,” she explains.
Here, the experts break down what you should be using if you want to sync your skin care to your period (if you have no idea where you are in your cycle, a period-tracking app like Clue can function as an easy way to figure it out).
The menstrual phase (day 1-5): If you're wondering why your skin might be looking dull during this time, there's a reason. “During your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels fall, so body temperature and blood circulation will be lower than usual,” explains Claire. "Skin will appear dull, and sebum production may decrease, leading to low moisture retention.” She suggests using products that are high in vitamin C and antioxidants (you can try Amareta’s Hormonal Dullness line or investigate the labels on your go-to products) to alleviate this dullness and revive your natural glow.
The follicular phase (day 5-13): Consider the time between the end of your period and the beginning of ovulation (so the second half of your follicular phase) as your skin’s time to shine. This is when it tends to be in its best condition. “The first phase of the cycle, also known as the follicular phase, is not as problematic as the last phase [for skin],” says Dr. Ross. Claire notes that it’s best to use products with functioning actives during this period, but it doesn’t require the same hormone targeting as the other cycle phases do. So this is the time to revert to your normal, everyday routine.
The luteal phase (day 15-28) : As we all know, the PMS phase is the one that causes the most visible changes to your skin. "The hormonal surges before a period make the oil glands of the face hyperactive, creating oilier skin, attracting bacteria and those monthly pimples,” says Dr. Ross. (Hello, pre-period acne.) The best way to combat this is by using a cleanser with salicylic acid (Neutrogena's $8 version does the trick) to get rid of excess oils, and a nourishing moisturizer (Weleda makes one of our favorites for sensitive skin) to rehydrate. Look for formulas containing ingredients to calm inflammation — and exfoliating properties to avoid buildup of dead skin cells.