Day in and day out, we routinely use the same skin care products to take care of our skin. However, no day is the same. That also applies to your skin, suddenly you have dry, irritated skin, then it’s back to normal and another moment Pimples. Even though your diet has remained the same and you have no other explanations for this.
A totally different take is timing your skincare based on your menstrual cycle. There are more indications that your skin reacts differently before and during menstruation.
Menstrual cycle overview
First the basics, menstruation, aka menstruation, is a cyclic process in which the lining of the uterus is shed in response to hormones. Most menstrual cycles range between 25 and 30 days, with the average cycle lasting 28 days. In a lifetime there are on average 400-450 menstrual cycles.
The normal menstrual cycle can be divided into four phases:
The menstrual phase, the first day of your period and lasts 4–6 days. Your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest.
The follicular phase, lasts 7-14 days until ovulation. Both your estrogen and testosterone increase, your energy level is also increased, and your mood is good.
The ovulation phase, also called ovulation, is where the estrogen and testosterone values are highest. This phase is in the middle of the menstrual cycle on day 14 and can last 3–4 days.
The luteal phase, in the first week of the luteal phase, progesterone, and estrogen levels rise before decreasing towards the end of the luteal phase. The drop in estrogen and progesterone levels results in menstruation and the cycle starts again
The effects of estrogen and progesterone on your skin
Estrogen is key for normal skin function. It is associated with collagen production, hyaluronic acid, increased skin thickness, improved skin barrier function, maintenance of skin hydration and sebaceous gland activity. There are 3 estrogens: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) (also found in men) and estriol (E3). In menopause, estrone (E1) takes the upper hand, this imbalance can cause complaints. Excess estradiol (E2) can cause acne. So estrogen does a lot and is quite complex.
The other hormone is progesterone. The effect of progesterone on the skin is less clear. It is believed that progesterone plays a role in skin elasticity, sebum production and, like estrogen, also in skin pigmentation. In addition, progesterone has an effect on skin blood flow.
The relationship between skin and menstrual cycle
During the menstrual phase, estrogen, and progesterone blood levels are at their lowest. Lower estrogen levels can disrupt skin barrier function and reduce skin hydration. Reduction of progesterone leads to less sebaceous gland activity, less oil production and greasiness of the skin. All in all, this can result in dry and dehydrated skin. Certain skin conditions, such as acne, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and psoriasis can worsen just before or during your period.
To limit this, it makes sense to focus skin care in this phase on skin hydration.
In the follicular and ovulatory phases, estrogen begins to rise and peaks in the ovulatory phase. This leads to improvements in the skin barrier function, skin hydration and the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid starts. Progesterone is still low in both of these phases, which means sebaceous gland activity is still low. The skin is usually a lot calmer during the follicular phase and at its best around ovulation.
Due to the higher estrogen levels, the skin barrier function is highest during these phases and may be more tolerant to active skin care ingredients and treatments such as skin peelings and laser.
During the luteal phase, progesterone begins to rise, leading to increased sebaceous gland activity and oilier skin. One study showed that about 70% of women experience mild acne during this phase, which is usually associated with oily scalp and hair. Teenagers suffer more from perioral dermatitis, pustules around the mouth and eyes. Read more on perioral dermatitis
The rise in progesterone can make the skin and hair oilier and cause more acne flare-ups. Oil and sebum control in this menstrual phase is the focus point Towards the end of the luteal phase, the skin is more prone to irritation and sensitizing and active skin care ingredients should be avoided.
Timing your skincare regimen can help your skin. By understanding how these hormonal fluctuations affect our skin, we can adjust our skincare routines to reduce skin discomfort.
The menstrual cycle can also have an effect on your mood, but that’s another story.
Falcone D, Richters RJ, Uzunbajakava NE, Van Erp PE, Van De Kerkhof PC. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. Eur J Dermatol. 2017 Feb 1;27(1):42-48.
While you are here
Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycle. It is a natural biological process. During menopause, lower estrogen levels have a major impact on your skin. Less estrogen makes you prone to drier skin, more skin sagging and wrinkles. Fortunately, you can reduce skin-related effects of aging by using more specific skin care products. With the goal of growing old radiantly.
Do you want to read another blog article? Check out Iconic Elements’ article about Maskne.