As if bleeding from our vaginas wasn't already enough to have to deal with, we also have to worry about hormonal acne, too??
Seriously though, it's no surprise to us women the changes that our bodies go through during the month, ranging from food cravings to mood swings to fatigue, then to top it off, skin changes!
Honestly, the female body is truly amazing - our bodies are incredibly resilient. Our menstrual cycle and pregnancy are uniquely outfitted to our gender. However, as a certain superhero movie once put it: "with great power, comes great responsibility" - to be able to adapt to our bodies during times of change, we must first understand what's happening under the surface.
In this blog, we will review what the heck the menstrual cycle is, explain how hormones can affect our skin, and what we can do to relieve some of these changes.
What is the Menstrual Cycle?
The purpose of our menstrual cycle is to prepare our bodies for pregnancy. Each month, an ovary will release a mature egg which then enters the fallopian tube and begins the journey to the uterus. When the egg reaches the uterus, potential sperm will fertilize it, thus beginning the process of pregnancy. During this phase, your body prepares the uterus with a thickened cushion of tissue, called the endometrial lining, in preparation for implantation of the egg.
If the mature egg doesn't become fertilized or doesn't implant to the uterus, your body will break down and release the thickened lining of the uterus, the unfertilized egg, and some blood (this phase is called "the period").
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals secreted from the endocrine system that deliver messages to certain parts of our bodies to keep our systems running smoothly. The ovaries are the endocrine glands that secrete the specific hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle, which are the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
How Do Hormones Affect Your Skin?
Our hormones fluctuate throughout the month, and sometimes we can see these changes reflected in the condition of our skin. Mostly, it rears its head as a form of hormonal acne - any acne breakout related to the rise and fall of hormones during the month.
1. While You're On Your Period, The "Reset"
Your menstrual cycle officially begins on the first day of your period - this is called the menstrual phase, or the "reset" of the cycle and this "period" (see what I did there!) of bleeding typically lasts between 5 - 7 days. At this time, your skin may be recovering from a pre - period / PMS breakout, but theoretically, due to the low levels of estrogen and progesterone, your acne should be at its lowest.
Skin Tips for Menstrual Phase
The reduced levels may cause your skin to be dry, dull, and sensitive, so try using a hyaluronic acid serum or a moisturizer to help plump everything back up. Drink more water to naturally replenish elasticity and hydration in your skin, while avoiding caffeine, as this can temporarily dehydrate your skin.
2. Post - Period
During the ovulatory phase (around day 14 or about two weeks from the first day you started bleeding), your body releases the next mature egg, and this process may only last 1 - 5 days, and it occurs about 14 days prior to your next period. During this time, the levels of estrogen peak and increase the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, which may show as more radiant looking skin and reduced pore size.
Around day 17, estrogen levels begin to decline, while progesterone levels rise, thus starting the Luteal Phase. These hormone shifts cause an increase in sebum production, which may lead to clogged pores, oily skin, and bacterial - related acne breakouts.
Skin Tips for Ovulatory Phase
This would be a good time to let your natural radiance shine through, and wear less makeup, and continue with your skincare routine. Be sure to wear SPF outside, and consider using a facial oil to enhance your natural glow while you go makeup - free.
Skin Tips for Luteal Phase
During this phase, your primary focus should be controlling oil production and preventing acne flare ups. Be sure to use non - comedogenic products that do not clog pores. It would be helpful to use antibacterial products, especially a good face cleanser, blemish - reducing ingredients, like a niacinamide serum, and a face toner to balance skin pH.
3. Pre - Period / PMS
Right before our periods, progesterone levels are at their peak, along with cortisol and testosterone. This timeframe is meant for your body to prepare for pregnancy, and so, progesterone increases appetite and encourages your body to rest. You may experience bloating and lowered mood, and these mild stressors can also indirectly cause breakouts.
Skin Tips for PMS
Your skin may be more sensitive during this phase, and harsh skin treatments or abrasive exfoliations should be avoided. Make sure to remove makeup before bed, ideally with a gentle cleansing oil, to prevent bacteria buildup and clogged pores. Since you might be more tired during this phase, consider adding a face mask to your skincare routine and schedule in some time to relax. Consider avoiding highly processed foods and sugar as these may cause inflammation which can lead to further acne breakouts. Learn more in our blog on 8 Foods to Eat for Healthy Skin.
What Else Can You Do?
Use a period tracker app on your phone to keep track of when your period is so you have a better idea of what phase you are in and you can adjust your skincare routine accordingly. Monitoring your symptoms would be beneficial as well, to understand whether your acne is hormonal, bacterial, or stress - related.
This article was meant to break down the phases of the menstrual cycle and how they can affect your skin. If you found it helpful, share the link with a friend! For further questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!