Fresh-faced and naturally flawless? Well, for most of us, that all hinges on the time of the month. “Depending on where you’re at in your cycle, your skin’s needs will vary, in direct response to your hormonal balance fluctuating,” explains skin mindset guide and founder of wellness practice Project Ajna Giselle La Pompe-Moore. She suggests tracking your cycle using an app and writing down how your skin looks and feels during the different phases. Cosmetic doctor and skin guru Dr Sebagh agrees: “Every person’s skin alters throughout a given month depending on the weather, what one eats, stress, sleep or lack of it, menstrual cycle and various other reasons. It is impossible to treat your skin efficiently with the same cream day in and day out all year round.” Working with, rather than against, your menstrual cycle then, is crucial and this includes switching up your regular skincare.
Phase 1: Menstruation
Skin is dull and lifeless with any lines seeming to appear more prominent. As the body releases prostaglandins, your skin may feel sensitive and irritated. Your oestrogen and progesterone (the hormones responsible for cellular hydration and barrier function) are also at their lowest. “This is a time to focus on hydrating, soothing products with ingredients like aloe and hyaluronic acid, avoiding active ingredients or extraction-focused treatments,” suggests Becky Symes, skin wellness coach and founder of HOLISTICA. Think hydrating serums and cooling mists like Dr Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster and Kora Organics Energizing Citrus Mist.
Phase 2: Pre-Ovulation
Also called the follicular phase (day 6-12). Mood-wise, your energy and creativity are picking up. You may notice your complexion looking increasingly luminous and even. Skin feels hydrated and is at its most absorbent. “During this phase choose products that target specific skincare concerns and encourage brightening by looking for ingredients like glycolic acid, ferulic acid, retinol and vitamin C,” advises Symes. As Dr Sebagh says “Skin, like many things in life, needs care and work to be the best it can be.”
Phase 3: Ovulation
Oestrogen and testosterone peak and skin looks at its best; dewy and hydrated but not oily. “Barrier function is at its highest during ovulation with the acid mantle protected and oil levels naturally balanced,” says Symes. Keep your skincare simple with nourishing products and don’t forget the daytime SPF. Kiehl’s’ bestselling Ultra Facial Moisturiser SPF30 is super lightweight and suits every skin type. And physical sunscreen, Drunk Elephant Umbra SPF30, combines antioxidants with zinc oxide to protect the skin and provide hydration too.
Phase 4: Luteal
Days 19-28 are when many of us experience breakouts. This is thanks to the drop in oestrogen and rise of testosterone, which encourages the oil glands to produce more sebum. We may also feel irritable and bloated. “Take care of yourself by doing things that feel nourishing as your energy wanes,” suggests La Pompe-Moore. “Explore any emotions that come up around your skin, appearance and self-worth through tools like journalling.” When it comes to products, double-down on chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAS), plus clay cleansers and masks. Symes also recommends protecting the skin’s barrier with ingredients like niacinamide.