Skincare For Every Stage of Your Menstrual Cycle
It’s not just during your period that your skin is changing. What your skin is doing at every stage of your menstrual cycle and what your period skincare routine might look like.
This might seem a little TMI, but sometimes I really do feel as though my life revolves around my uterus. If I’m not enduring the pain of mittelschmerz, I’m stuffing my face with everything in sight. Then I get painful hormonal breakouts, snooze like Sleeping Beauty, and the Kraken tries to escape from its prison in my belly. It’s a nonstop party.
A while ago I saw a graphic about the different stages of the menstrual cycle and how we should be taking care of our skin during those times, and it got me thinking. Beyond the hormonal acne, I had never given serious thought to the effects my menses had on my skin. During my last cycle, I made sure to take notice of the ways my skin changed according to what phase I was experiencing, and the science seems legit.
Skincare during the follicular phase
Let’s begin with the follicular phase. It’s the time between the first day of your period and ovulation. During this phase, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone are released to stimulate the production of about 15 to 20 eggs in the ovaries. Each egg is covered in a shell of sorts, which is called a “follicle,” hence the way this phase is named.
The release of these hormones also triggers an increase in estrogen, which eventually shuts off the production of FSH as it rises. One follicle out of the many emerges triumphant as the dominant one and continues to grow, eventually being released during ovulation.
Thanks to the boost in estrogen and the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid, your skin starts to recover from the dry and irritated state it was in during your period. Whereas my skin couldn’t seem to perk up no matter how many serums I used or how aggressively I employed the 7-skin method while I was menstruating, during the follicular phase, hyaluronic acid products seemed to absorb better and some of the brightness started to return. The recommendation during this time is to stick to your regular routine. There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken.
Skincare during ovulation
Ovulation comes next and brings with it skin so plump and radiant you could bounce a quarter off it and help fishermen at sea find their way home safely. Estrogen production is at its peak, and you are most fertile at this time.
To encourage even more cell turnover, practice some exfoliation with your product of choice. It’s a good time for your monthly at-home peel or just a regular AHA or vitamin C serum if it isn’t something you use regularly.
Skincare during the luteal phase
The luteal phase comes right after so it’s also a good idea to start some preventative care in preparation for the decrease in estrogen and an increase in progesterone, which will trigger higher sebum production and make your skin oilier. This is when you get those fun hormonal breakouts that hurt like a mofo and refuse to be pacified by propolis ampoules and aloe sheet masks.
Oil control and vigilant moisturizing are key at this juncture to counter reduced barrier function and congestion. For that, I recommend some good ol’ COSRX Snail Essence, Klairs Supple Preparation Toner, and Midnight Blue Calming Cream, and perhaps some aloe vera gel. Lest I forget, there’s also water retention to contend with, so drink lots of water and cut down on the sodium and late-night treats.
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Skincare during your period
And finally, the big event that this whole production has been leading up to — Aunt Flo, the crimson tide, shark week, etc. If you’ve got the presence of mind to monitor your skin between all the mind-bending cramps and assorted symptoms, you’ll start to notice issues with moisture retention and perhaps more breakouts. While the level of progesterone has decreased and your skin isn’t producing as much sebum as it was in the luteal stage, estrogen levels are still low. So while you’re not as oily, your moisture situation isn’t that great either.
All that inflammation and dryness is an indication that your skin needs the nourishment and moisturizing power of products rich in ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids, and oils to shore up its moisture barrier. In the course of my last go-round on the crimson carousel, I found myself wishing I had a tube of the COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream on hand. Snail Squad members Tracy (of fanserviced-b) and Jude (of Fifty Shades of Snail) have accurately documented the very curious way that this cream only works its magic when your skin has hit rock bottom, and after trying a whole tube, I’m inclined to agree. As Jude mentioned in her review, it’s a good product to have on hand for those “in case of emergency break glass” moments. I’ll be including it in my next skincare haul for use in situations like these.
That was a bit of a rollercoaster ride wasn’t it? It sure feels like that every month.
How much attention do you pay to the way your hormones affect your skin? And do you have a special period skincare routine to go with your menstrual cycle?