Your Skin and Your Period Cycle Are Intertwined
As if being bloated, crampy, and grumpy wasn't enough, periods are also often accompanied by period acne. In fact, 65 percent of women say that their acne gets worse during their period cycle. To figure out why the skin goes through phases of dryness and oiliness throughout most women's menstrual periods, we have to look at hormones.
- Your period cycle has four stages that affect your skin differently.
- Progesterone, Estrogen and Testosterone are the 3 main hormones involved with hormonal acne, and they happen to fluctuate during your cycle.
- There are various treatments to combat hormonal acne.
The Big Three
The "big three" hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, are responsible for these varied skin states. Women constantly experience multiple levels of change, which alter how you appear and feel on a daily basis. Understanding why they vary and what we may do to control these variances is crucial.
While your period cycle might not follow peaks and troughs precisely, it is a good baseline in understanding the changes that your body goes through every month. Though it may be difficult to tell when you're in the middle of the cycles, your period has four distinct phases including the menstruation phase, follicular phase, ovulation phase, and luteal phase.
The first phase in the period cycle is menstruation. Typically, this stage lasts three to seven days. Otherwise known as the period, this is when the uterine lining is shed and bleeding occurs.
Progesterone and estrogen levels are low here. During this phase, the skin tends to be less oily, drier and more sensitive. Using gentle products and creamier moisturizers to rehydrate dry skin during this time is probably a good idea.
When your period ends, the pituitary gland releases a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (hence the name). This phase lasts between seven and ten days, in which FSH stimulates the follicles (which contain your eggs) in one of your ovaries, causing them to mature. During this time, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone slowly increase and peak, and more estrogen and collagen are also produced. The production of all of these hormones has a huge effect, including: boosted energy, better mood, and higher brain function.
These results are mirrored in our skin. During this phase, the skin is plumped and healthier looking. It is also less prone to damage, making it an ideal time to try out new products.
The shortest of the phases in the period cycle, typically lasting two to four days, is ovulation. This is when Luteinizing hormone (LH) is released, causing an egg to “ripen,” break out of its follicle, and descend into the uterus. In this window, some women glow and others may get pimples. During this time, the skin is prone to becoming oilier. A good time for a mask or exfoliating. Make sure to wash your face frequently, especially during the ovulation window.
The final phase is the luteal phase, which typically lasts 10-14 days. Progesterone peaks and drops during this time. Increased progesterone elevates your body temperature, causing you to sweat more. Estrogen and progesterone levels also drop, which can trigger your sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum, the oily substance that lubricates your skin. During this time, your pores are more prone to clogging and acne forming within them. The buildup of sebum beneath the skin's surface, coupled with sweat, debris, dead skin cells, and germs, causes acne outbreaks. As with ovulation, it is recommended that you wash your face twice a day to remove this buildup.
Hormonal shifts might still lead to acne during menopause. Acne is more common in menopausal women who have normal androgen levels but low estrogen levels. Sebum production rises as a result of this imbalance, and acne flares up.
Oral medications to balance hormone levels are recommended to clear skin because hormones and acne are so directly linked.
- Oral contraceptives can help clear acne by normalizing testosterone production. After reviewing the advantages and hazards, your health care physician may prescribe combination oral contraceptives if your acne is severe and other treatments are ineffective. Your health care practitioner will consider your hormone blood test results, age, menstrual cycle regularity, medical history, and other factors when deciding on the correct contraception and dose. Oral contraceptive self-medication can be harmful and is not advised.
- Anti-Androgen Drugs operate by lowering androgen levels. Although most individuals have natural amounts of androgen, too much of it can cause acne by increasing sebum production. Anti-androgen medicines prevent the body from creating too much androgen and maintain its levels.
- Retinoids lower testosterone and progesterone levels, some patients may require topical retinoids to treat minor hormonal acne. These vitamin A compounds are sold as gels, lotions, and creams over-the-counter. To keep your acne at bay, a dermatologist may recommend a prescription-strength medication. Use sunscreen every day while using topical retinoids, as they increase your risk of getting a sunburn.
Altering your skincare routine depending on where you’re at in your period cycle just makes sense. By combining the knowledge of when your cycle is and how your skin is behaving, you can be better able to combat blemishes. Eating well, staying hydrated, getting sufficient sleep, exercising and minimizing stress are all areas we must maintain, and our hormones are no different.
Written by Kiana St. Onge