It can appear like clockwork, a huge cyst or a smattering of blemishes appearing like a constellation on your chin right before your monthly period. While it may seem like your skin is screaming that you’re about to shed your uterine lining, these hormonal breakouts may be prevented by tweaking your skincare regimen. “Not all women have noticeable fluctuations but some, especially the ones with hormonal acne, do benefit from adjusting their routine accordingly,” says N.Y.C. dermatologist Sejal Shah. Likewise, diet and environment can also play a role, “a lot factors go into your skin’s hydration and propensity for pimples, and the menstrual cycle is one,” says N.Y.C. dermatologist Cybelle Fishman. Here’s how to help your skin topically so you can prevent that monthly breakout.
“During your period, focus on hydrating, nourishing and calming the skin,” says Shah. While you’re menstruating, “progesterone goes down so your skin may not be as oily but estrogen is also low,” says Shah. Translation: your skin might feel dry and dull and look blotchy. Now is the time to load up on moisture! Shah suggests swapping in products with ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants to keep skin smooth. Apply a hydrating face mask every couples of days to keep skin supple and glowing. We love the Cremorlab Herb Tea Calming Mask which helps hydrate without clogging pores and also calms skin with a combination of black tea and chamomile. “During this time, inflammatory mediators are also high so your skin also tends to be more sensitive,” says Shah. Look for anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide to help quell bumps (try Aromatica Argan Intensive Hydrating Serum).
“Now, estrogen starts to increase and this is when your skin tends to look its best,” says Shah. Your complexion should look radiant, pores looks more refined and less prone to oil slicks. While it might be easy to feel like you can skip out on double cleansing and the rest of your regimen right now, don’t fall into the temptation. Properly cleansing and treating your complexion will help prevent breakouts that could be coming up down the line.
Week 3 and 4
The luteal phase is often the time when women often notice acne flareups, says Shah. “As progesterone levels increase, so does oil production.” Keep pores clean of buildup by dabbing a salicylic acid based toner daily. “Beta hydroxy acids penetrate into the hair follicle deeper and reduce pore clogging sebum,” says Fishman. This salicylic acid spiked toner (Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner) cuts through oil and helps unglue dead skin cells. Make sure to follow up with a hydrating serum or moisturizer as salicylic acid can have a drying effect. We also love this overnight sleep mask (Eco Your Skin Lavender Bedside Mask) which uses milk proteins, salicylic acid and lavender to help gently slough away dead skin cells in a moisturizing lightweight lotion. If beta hydroxy acids don’t jibe with your skin, “use a tea tree oil alcohol-free toner,” says Fishman. Try Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Toner for a gentle option, it contains 93% aloe vera to help mitigate flaking. If you tend to get oily, “make sure you are using oil-free moisturizers and makeup,” says Shah. If you have dry skin but are acne-prone, try Fishman’s DIY approach. “I use and love Frankincense oil which has anti-bacterial properties.” Apply a drop of frankincense oil with a couple of drops of a carrier oil like jojoba and spot treat blemishes.
With all that said, understand that no two menstrual cycles are the same and hormones can get a bit complicated. It’s always best to check with your doctor and have comprehensive bloodwork done to see if there are any underlying imbalances if you have persistent breakouts.