Your cycle has a lot to do with the appearance of your skin. On certain days of the month, your complexion glows; other days, you find yourself fighting a bad case of hormonal acne as your skin experiences different periods of dryness and oiliness. Three hormones impact your skin during your monthly cycle: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. They fluctuate through the duration of your cycle, and their shifting ratio is what causes changes in the look and feel of your skin.
Days 1-6 (Menstrual phase)
On the first day of bleeding (Cycle day 1 or CD1), both progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest so in theory, acne should be lowest in the first 14 days of the cycle. The lower hormone levels also mean your skin may be dry and appear dull.
Days 7-11 (Follicular phase)
As estrogen production begins to increase, you should notice a general improvement in your skin. This hormone has been shown to increase collagen, elastin, thus impacting your skin’s structural integrity and moisture retention. At its peak, estrogen helps your skin look and feel hydrated.
Days 12-16 (Ovulation)
Estrogen is at its peak and you are radiant with hydrated skin, smaller-looking pores and plenty of collagen and elastin. It’s time for some #nofilter selfies! This also happens to be the time when you will ovulate and can become pregnant. Coincidence? 😉 We think not.
Days 17-28 (Luteal phase)
We don’t like to say it’s all downhill from here, but when it comes to your skin, it basically is. As estrogen decreases and progesterone increases, your skin boosts sebum (oil) production. You’ll likely get acne a few days before your period starts when progesterone is at its highest. Testosterone coming from both the ovaries and the adrenal glands tends to peak at ovulation to increase libido and then the residual effects come a bit later on the oil glands. So, testosterone and progesterone tend to impact acne in the second half of the cycle which explains premenstrual acne.
What Can You Do?
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to address troublesome skin issues during your menstrual cycle. As skin barrier function and hydration are low during the menstrual phase of your cycle, skincare should focus on increasing the water content of the skin. Regularly moisturizing with soothing and nourishing skincare ingredients will help avoid dehydrated skin during this time. If you have particularly sensitive skin, you should avoid using too many active ingredients or harsh cleaners during this phase.
Fight Acne with a Good Diet
Don’t forget your skin is your largest organ so you can impact the quality of your skin by practicing good nutrition. Some of the best ways to improve your skin are:
Drink lots of water!
Eat plenty of leafy greens such as spinach, spring mix and kale
Get your dose of Omega 3s Ex - Walnuts, pumpkin seeds and salmon
Include healthy fats in your diet such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil
Foods rich in ‘zinc’ fight breakouts! Ex - sunflower seeds, shellfish and chicken