How Period Affects Our Skin

Some argue women are the “weaker” sex and to that, we say whatever. The fact we deal with our periods month in and month out for decades (DECADES) should put an end to such nonsense.

Thank you for letting us get this out of our system. Period does affect our skin, but the thing is our skin doesn’t just go haywire when our period starts. During the whole month, our skin is affected by our hormonal cycle.

That said, this is a general guide ONLY as we all experience our periods and change in the hormones differently. Various medical conditions and birth control also play a part, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best you can do is to pay attention to your body and its natural rhythms to get in sync with your skin.

The stages of the hormonal cycle

The menstrual phase – the first stage of the menstrual cycle and when your period starts.
The follicular phase – begins on the first day of the period and ends with ovulation.
Ovulation – if your menstrual cycle is 28 days, ovulation will happen on the 14th day. If your menstrual cycle is shorter or longer, ovulation will happen in the middle of the cycle.
The luteal phase – begins post-ovulation and lasts until the end of the period.

What happens to our skin during the hormonal cycle?

When we get our period, both estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels. The body temperature drops and so does the circulation. Your skin might appear dull, lacklustre, dehydrated and dry (even if you are an oily skin type).

The time between the end of the period and the beginning of ovulation (the follicular phase) is typically when our skin is at its best. Levels of estrogen are high and since estrogen affects the collagen production, it protects the epidermis, thickens the skin and minimises the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

However, after ovulation, progesterone levels keep going up until about the week before the period. It is at this time that breakouts and spots appear. Skin will get oily or oilier because of the glands being overproductive (due to the surge in progesterone).

Some women experience increased sensitivity of the skin (due to the surge in estrogen). If you ever plucked your eyebrows before your period, you will know it can hurt like hell. Likewise, women who have dry skin might experience excessive dryness. It all depends on where your hormone levels are at any given time.

How to keep your skin in check

The follicular phase of our cycle is the least problematic. Stick to your normal skincare routine and you should be golden.

After ovulation and during the luteal phase, the progesterone levels start to increase. Your skin might get oilier and break out. Now is not the time to skip your regular cleansing routine. If your skin is oily, opt for lighter, hydrating layers. Spot treat breakouts. For sensitive and reactive skin, use products that tackle inflammation.

Once your period starts and depending on the state of your skin, you can go for a number of options. If your skin feels dry, opt for serums with Hyaluronic acid. Vitamin C serum is a good option if your skin looks dull and lacklustre.

Some conventional wisdom

It is common sense to avoid sugar, salt, and junk food, particularly prior to your period. However, as many of us know, when the cravings start it can be a losing battle. Try eating as healthily as possible (plenty of fruits and vegs, lots of water). But if you can’t resist that ice cream/crisps/chocolate, don’t beat up yourself about it.

Exercise can help with bloating and cramps. If you can’t face the gym, go for a walk. Any type of physical activity is good.

Tell us about your period – how does it affect you? How does it affect your skin? What are some of the ways you adapt your skincare routine?

Roberta Striga