The Menstrual Cycle: Tips to Keep Your Skin Clear & Balanced During Your Period

Let’s say your skin is, more or less, in a state of balance: It’s generally clear and suffers little to no breakouts, excessive oiliness or visible pores. But one week before your period, you discover extra oil on nose and chin along with pesky little blemishes on your face. You may even dread the painful cystic bumps along your chin.

Is it time to declare yourself acne-prone and start a whole new skincare routine?  You probably don’t have to give your skincare regimen a 180 every month, but even the smallest tweaks can mean big opportunities for prevention and healthy skin maintenance.

What’s the real reason for getting breakouts before my period?

The day before ovulation, a woman’s skin is in balance and less oily due to the high amounts of estrogen. Estrogen helps to suppress sebum (oil) production in the skin. Once the level of estrogen drops (usually one week before your period), progesterone levels increase and the oil glands become more active. Also, this increase of sebum during this part of the menstrual cycle allows for the growth of the bacterium called P. acnes—a condition that renders skin more sensitive to breakouts. 

Why does my skin get dry and dull-looking instead of oily before my period?

The decrease of estrogen causes the skin to lose more water and become more prone to irritation. Estrogen is also linked to the production of collagen and elastin. Right before ovulation, when the estrogen levels are high and estrogen is creating more collagen and elastin, most women notice their skin looks its healthiest.

The menstrual cycle also compromises the protective hydrolipid layer of the skin, which helps the skin retain a healthy moisture balance. When this layer is weakened, skin is much more susceptible to experiencing dryness.

Should I change my skincare routine before or during my period?

This varies by individual. While some women do not experience significant changes and can simply continue their daily regimen, others may need to add or substitute certain products depending on how their skin reacts to the hormonal shifts. You may even want to visit a skincare professional every month if the changes in your skin are drastic or especially bothersome.

For those who notice an increase in breakouts, consider swapping out your regular moisturizer with an oil-free version for day and night. You can also use a salicylic acid-based exfoliation treatment to help keep pores clear and keep oil at bay while preventing dead skin cell buildup. An acne spot treatment containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can be used as needed. Also, using a retinol or retinae product nightly to increase cell turnover will help keep your skin clear. But like with any acne-prevention skincare routine, you should always remember the key is to keep skin balanced—not to over dry it!

If you want a professional to help, consider a Clarifying Acne Silkpeel Microdermabrasion Treatment.  This treatment exfoliates skin, removes pore-clogging particulates and delivers anti-microbial active ingredients deep into the skin layers where blemishes are formed.

For those who experience more dryness during the menstrual period, use an extra-rich moisturizer at night or add in a hydrating serum before your daytime moisturizer. Use a lactic acid-based chemical exfoliator to slough off surface debris while maintaining balanced hydration levels.

You can also go to an esthetician for a Silkpeel Microdermabrasion treatment containing hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water to encourage deep epidermal hydration. Hyaluronic acid, a substance naturally produced by our bodies, has been hailed as the “fountain of youth” for its ability to repair tissue and stimulate fibroblasts, which promotes collagen production.

Regardless of your skin type at any time of the month, make sure you commit to a minimum daily routine of cleansing, toning, moisturizing and using an SPF to keep the pH of the skin consistent and protect from damaging UV rays.

Besides skin becoming acne prone or dry, what other changes can occur?

According to Los Angeles-based dermatologist Jessica Wu, there is scientific evidence supporting that awful feeling of “bloat” before and during your period.  The subcutaneous layer of fat is thinnest just after ovulation and thickest before and during the period. Dr. Wu states that based on ultrasound studies, the fat layer on the thighs is, on an average, 4% thicker and 7% thicker on the abdomen.

A rare and extreme skin condition called autoimmune progesterone dermatitis can occur as a response to the hormonal shifts before your period.  Once the progesterone levels increase, the body responds with its autoimmune response, creating skincare reactions including eczema-like papulovesicles, uticaria (hives) mouth erosions and itch (the most common complaint). These skin changes can occur approximately seven days before menstruation and can last one to three days after. If you experience this, you should consult a medical professional.