You’re not imagining it my friend. Your skin changes during your menstrual cycle. It’s scientifically proven and when you know how your skin changes during your menstrual cycle (which is what you’re going to understand by the end of this 5-minute blog), you’ll have the power you need to start disciplining it back into behaving 😉
You can start reducing pre-menstrual spots and acne.
Predict and compensate for times your skin might look dull during your cycle.
Reduce oiliness and increase hydration – there’s a super-specific time in your cycle for both of these.
Ready to find out what sex ed class missed out? I’m so excited to share this with you, let’s get going shall we 🙂
How Does Menstrual Cycle Affect Skin?
Dear friend, your menstrual cycle is a love triangle relationship. There are 3 dominant personalities;
- Estrogen – aka the Elsie personality
- Progesterone – aka Pip
- Androgens – aka Andy
Your skin changes during your menstrual cycle because levels of these hormones aka Elsie, Pip and Andy change.
Some decide it’s their time for attention 😉 they step up and get loud, they become dominant and this causes skin changes.
This is why your skin health can change before your period – you might see changes like pigmentation, dry flaky patches, fine lines, wrinkles and signs of ageing becoming exaggerated, pore size changing and even skin sensitivity spiking.
And when you understand the timing of these skin changes you can use skincare to help compensate for them – wahoo. It’s exactly why we’re here now.
Dry, Dehydrated Skin Changes During Menstrual Cycle
Elise did it (!) She did it.
When it comes to period skin, most people get that skin becomes oilier at certain times. But what’s almost completely overlooked is this fact – your skin hydration levels can change massively.
And when your skin hydration levels plummet it leads to;
- Flaky patches of skin
- Oily but also dry/dehydrated feeling skin
- Signs of your skin age becoming exaggerated – psst – if you want to get an extra step ahead of these be sure to download your free copy of my 5 Best Anti-Ageing Actives cheatsheet here
Your skin’s hydration levels are changing when Elsie decides her job is done. She did it. She got your attention and now she’s decided it’s sleepy time.
Gimme my bed now. Zzzz.
Take a peek at this science factoid;
Oestrogen is associated with collagen synthesis, increased skin thickness and dermal water content (through hyaluronic acid production), and improved barrier function and wound healing.Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Mar;40(2):111-5
Did you see it?
I bet you’ve already connected the dots on how your skin’s hydration levels change during your menstrual cycle eh. You’re so savvy.
See Elsie boosts your skin’s natural hyaluronic acid production. Hyaluronic acid is a molecule that magnetises water to itself and as it does this your skin plumps. Wahoo.
When Elsie’s around your skin looks;
- Pores can look smaller
- Fine lines and wrinkles are reduced
- Skin feels balanced
When Elsie goes to bed a well-adjusted skincare routine can help compensate for those skin changes during menstrual cycle.
So how do you know when Elise Is sleeping? You note the day of your menstrual cycle. What day are you on now?
Keep your number in mind as you look at this flow graph from HelloClue;
Elsie aka estrogen is that green line that raises first just before ovulation. Do you see it?
My partner Rich, he has this super annoying morning habit 🙂 and Elsie’s doing it right here.
Me – I’m a must drag myself out of bed as soon as that alarm goes off kinda gal. Gotta get out before I decide my bed’s way too cosy to leave.
Rich – he’s an Olympian alarm snoozer.
Elise’s doing that right here. She gets the alarm bells just before ovulation, wakes up then doesn’t get out of bed and goes for a second sneaky snooze.
Do you see it?
And can you therefore guess how your skin’s hydration levels change during your menstrual cycle?
Your skin’s going to be most plump and hydrated halfway through your cycle when Elsie’s awakening.
This is when your pores will also look smaller because plump skin minimises your pore size. It’s also when your skin’s going to look youngest as signs of skin ageing like fines lines and wrinkles get plumped away. Yay.
How to change your skincare routine with your cycle – just before and during your period focus hard on hydration. That’s going to look something like cycle days 25 to 7.
Skin Pigmentation During Periods
There’s one hormone you have that’s hyperlinked with skin pigmentation and uneven skin tone.
Take a guess now at which one can be naughty 😉
- Is it Elsie aka estrogen?
- Pip aka progesterone
- Or Andy aka androgens
Did you take a guess? Ready to find out if you’ve got it right?
Take a peeky at this science study quote;
Oestrogen also stimulates melanogenesis… and this can result in premenstrual hyperpigmentation.Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Mar;40(2):111-5
It’s Elsie again.
Elsie the estrogen boss – she can also cause your skin to make more pigmentation aka skin colour aka melanin. And when levels are high you might start to see uneven skin pigmentation. The type you see as dark marks and uneven skin tone.
Psst – contraceptive pills based on estrogen can cause skin pigmentation changes too.
But your skin also needs another stimulant to make this happen – UV light.
And so there are some super simple ways to help protect your skin against pigmentation during your period.
How to change your skincare routine with your cycle – if your skin’s prone to pigmentation and uneven skin tone you want to be wearing a high SPF sunscreen every day during times Elsie is high. It’s also best to avoid skincare with essential oils as it can make your skin extra sensitive to sunlight.
Psst – I’m here if you need my help to get healthy, happy skin you feel freakin’ fab in every day of your month 🙂
Acne Breakouts During Menstrual Cycle
This is the most common ‘period skin’ to see. Spots, breakouts and acne severity going boom.
Mild facial acne is reported by up to 70% of women during the premenstrual period, often accompanied by excessive greasiness of the scalp.Clin Dermatol. Jan-Feb 1997;15(1):31-4
Up to 70% of us will get more spots, acne and breakouts before our periods – unless you know how to discipline your skin back into behaving 🙂
Like when I tell Rich to stop trying out for Olympian alarm snoozer 😉
Remember that flow graph I shared from HelloClue?
Well, imagine a third, straight-line on it called Andy.
Andy is the simplest hormone to understand because in your love triangle relationship Andy is slow and steady, always there, he’s the never changing hormone. Being in a relationship with Andy is like taking a doughnut ring down a lazy river.
This is versus estrogen and progesterone which go from trickle to tidal wave.
Andy hormones aka androgens whisper to your skin – make more oil (!)
And guess what – if you get more oil when your skin’s microbiome aka bacteria planet is unbalanced it causes breakouts and acne flares.
Now while Andy doesn’t wake up and go to bed like Elsie and Pip do – Andy does get heard more when Elsie and Pip have gone to bed.
Andy becomes relatively more dominant.
This means your skin can hear that whisper of – make more oil (!) which leads to skin changes during menstrual cycle, specifically acne and breakout flares just before and during your period.
And there’s this other fact that’s so underknown when it comes to understanding your period skin;
Skin barrier permeability is greater just prior to menstruation.Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Mar;40(2):111-5
Your skin becomes a bit sieve-like just before your period, it lets stuff in it usually wouldn’t. For skincare, this can be great because if your skin’s more permeable your skincare’s going to be absorbing deeper. Wahoo.
However, there’s also a heck load of other stuff your skin’s in contact with every day. Bits and bobs like;
- Pollution particles
- Bacteria (including the kinds which live naturally on your skin – if your skin’s bacteria balance is upset – this can cause an infection – psst – acne and breakouts are an infection of your pores)
Your skin’s extra vulnerable to these bits and bobs just before your period which knocks off this domino train;
Skin sensitivity = skin becomes prone to inflammation – (as acne is an inflammatory skin condition – you guessed it, this leads to) = red and angry acne flares.
So what can you do about acne skin changes during menstruation?
How to change skincare with your cycle – here are some key tips – focus on foods that decrease oil gland stimulation (I’m walking you through this 1-2-1 in the Acne Clinic), use oil absorbing skincare and makeup just before your period, focus on actives that help turn down your oil glands.
And that’s an Elsie, Pip and Andy wrap my friend 😉 I hope today I’ve been able to give you a great starting point for understanding skin changes during your menstrual cycle plus how to help adjust your skincare to compensate for them. Which one change will you be making to your routine? Come tell me in the comments below.
Oh and if you have a friend you know is wondering why her skin health’s constantly changing so much – will you be an awesome human and use that big green sharing button to pass on this blog with love from us both? Thank you 🙂
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.