Oh, how fabulous it is to be a person who menstruates. We can enjoy not only acne during our period, but often skin issues throughout our WHOLE cycle.
The hormonal rollercoaster of the different phases of our cycle can have our skin going from dry and flaky, to oily and acne-ridden within a matter of a week, and no number of sheet masks can help.
But a new concept that’s gaining steam on TikTok — ‘cycle syncing’ — is helping some of us learn how to ‘hack’ our bodies to provide optimal support to our hormones, like by seed cycling, and using the best skincare to support our skin’s needs during the most important times of our cycle.
THE MENSTRUAL PHASE: DAYS 1-5
Probably the best known of all the phases, this is your period. The first day in your cycle, when you’re menstruating, and hormones are at their lowest, which can leave you feeling tired and sluggish.
With low levels of oestrogen and progesterone, your skin might be producing less sebum. Consultant dermatologist Dr Mary Sommerland highlights that: “Prostaglandins, which are involved in inflammation, are raised during this time contributing to muscles feeling more aches. This, and lower hormone levels can lead to skin feeling drier and potentially more sensitive.”
During this phase, it’s key to keep moisture levels up to help readjust your skin to the lack of sebum being produced.
Including vitamin-E based products in your routine will help rehydrate your skin — its antioxidant properties help protect cells throughout the body and help your skin lock in moisture
THE FOLLICULAR PHASE: DAYS 6-12
This is the stage when the follicles in the ovary mature. During this phase, “oestrogen and progesterone levels are lower than at any other time in the cycle but start to rise gradually”, says Dr Sommerlad.
Many people start to see improvements in their skin at this stage as collagen production restarts, making it look bouncier and feel firmer, but some women may also experience more sensitive skin.
At this stage, your attention should be on renewal, with gentle exfoliation to help your skin feel refreshed.
OVULATION: DAYS 13-18
Ovulation occurs about two weeks before your period arrives, and it’s when the ovum leaves the ovary and makes its way to the uterus via the fallopian tube, making your oestrogen levels peak.
Collagen production also gets a boost at this stage. Despite increased collagen helping your skin look bouncier and clearer, Dr Sommerlad highlights that raised oestrogen can also trigger excess in pigmentation.
She states: “If you are pigmentation prone, focus on sunscreens that block visible light and ramp up products that contain antioxidants such as vitamin C, which can help tackle excess pigmentation.”
To support your skin during this phase, stock up on products boasting vitamin C as their star ingredient. Not only does it help to decrease pigmentation, but it can also support collagen production, leaving you with a fresh and healthy glow!
THE LUTEAL PHASE: DAYS 19-28
The luteal phase happens after ovulation and is the phase when most will feel symptoms of PMS — such as irritability, anxiety and mood swings. During this phase, the uterus is beginning preparation for pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining.
“During the luteal phase, the levels of oestrogen remain high, and progesterone and androgens continue to rise”, Dr Sommerlad explains.
“There’s more sebum production in this phase, which can give some women a lovely glow, however for others, the rise in sebum, testosterone, and progesterone can drive pre-menstrual breakouts.”
The surge of these hormones can lead to clogged pores and blemishes, especially around the chin and jawbone.
Skincare during your luteal phase should be focused on balancing the skin, by tending to the excess oils and sebum responsible for hormonal blemishes, and you can use ingredients like tea tree to help combat this.
So go forth and enjoy your cycle — this time, with your best skin ever!