Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It’s sensitive to not only your external environment, but your internal one too. So, of course it makes perfect sense that your skin has specific reactions to all the different hormones your body produces during your cycle. Acne outbreaks during your cycle are incredibly common. TLDR: you’re not alone.
Yes, pesky breakouts can be a drag, but they don’t have to pull you all the way under. Today we are breaking down your hormonal breakouts. And giving you the tools to fight back. 🧰
First, let’s start with the basics. There are three main hormones that impact your skin during your monthly cycle: Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle and that shift in hormone levels in your body is what causes changes in the look and feel of your skin. Let’s take a closer look:
Estrogen is the main hormone in the first half of your cycle. Estrogen stimulates the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid and leads to a significant impact in your skin’s structural integrity and moisture retention. When your estrogen levels are at their peak, your skin might look full, hydrated and wrinkle-free (yes, please).
In the second half of your cycle, progesterone levels will rise. Progesterone ramps up the production of sebum and makes your skin swell. In turn, your pores will compress which more often than not leads to a build-up of oil and, you guessed it, hormonal breakouts 😭.
Testosterone is a constant throughout your cycle and takes the lead when estrogen and progesterone dip during your period. Similar to progesterone, testosterone kicks the sebaceous glands into gear, triggering them to produce more oil. When that happens, you’ll also see clogged pores, both of which contribute to acne during your period.
If you want to dive even deeper into these hormones, read this breakdown from Dr. Danielle.
Now that you’ve learned your ABCs, let’s dive into what you can expect on the different days of your cycle and pro-tips to combat the acne that comes with your fluctuating hormones.
In the first six days of your cycle all of your hormones are at rock bottom. Sebum production decreases, and without the help of estrogen to boost your skin back up, it will likely have difficulty retaining moisture. During this time you might notice your skin looking dull and dry.
The first six days of your cycle will also coincide with the production of more prostaglandins. These compounds, with hormone-like effects, usually control inflammation. But when they’re off balance, like they are in the first six days of your cycle, they can also increase pain sensitivity. You’ll notice that your skin may feel raw and tender.
Lex embraces her dry skin and it could truly pass for a work of art. Photo: Sophie Harris Taylor
⚡️ Pro Tip: Stay away from painful procedures like waxing, plucking, or hardcore exfoliation. Your skin will be incredibly dry, so hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink lots of water, moisturize and rehydrate with a simple serum or moisturizer rich in hyaluronic acid.
Days seven through eleven will kick estrogen production back into gear. Estrogen stimulates collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid creation, which will lead to the growth of stronger and more elastic skin cells. These are your glory days—your complexion will start to feel more plump, bright and youthful.
Photographed by Peter DeVito, who celebrates every type of beauty in his photography: “I try to photograph all different types of models (models of all different races, models with skin conditions, models with features are deemed “unconventional” by society, etc.).” 💛. Photo: Peter DeVito
⚡️Pro Tip: Exfoliation is your friend. New skin cells are forming so it’s a perfect time to help the turnover process unfold. A good physical or chemical exfoliant will help remove dead cells from your skin’s surface and reveal the new healthy skin underneath.
These are the days directly ahead of ovulation. That means that estrogen is at its peak and your skin looks… freaking phenomenal. To put it plainly, you are serving looks!
@stormdove *is* serving looks! Photo: @stormdove
⚡️Pro Tip: Get ahead of what’s coming next! Work in parallel with your natural glow by investing in some collagen-focused products. Natural retinol alternatives and botanical peptides are also a great idea to keep your skin looking 🔥.
Right after you’ve peaked, estrogen levels start to plummet. Progesterone takes its place and begins to rise. This surge will activate sebum production and make your skin feel swollen and compressed. Your pores might look teeny, but oil will get caught in them, causing buildup and, you guessed it, breakouts.
Acne is totally normal. Photo: Peter DeVito
⚡️Pro Tip: A clay mask will handle that excess oil and draw out toxins and impurities from your pores. Now is a great time for spa night.
Time for PMS!!! In the last days of your cycle, progesterone and estrogen dip below the level of testosterone, which means bloating, puffiness and a whole lot of oil. Oils from your pores will probably mix with acne-causing bacteria and send you over to the home of hormonal breakouts. Your chin and jawline will be especially affected 😱.
No matter where you find yourself in your cycle, identifying the hormones at play is an important first step to unlocking the secrets behind what’s going on with your skin. With a little research and proactive thinking, you may just be able to win the war on hormonal breakouts.