Knowing what we know about hormones and the effect they have on our bodies, it should've occurred to me before now that changing your skin routine as the month progresses would make great sense. But wasn't until I was chatting about skin in general recently to Nausheen Qureshi, the bioengineer behind Elequra, the newest skincare brand to launch into Arnotts, that I realised how vital it is.
She told me: "The female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and their relation to testosterone levels, are responsible for our menstrual cycle. But their production of their levels in our bodies also influence the delicate balance of vitamins and minerals in our bloodstream, and cause our skin to change every few days of the cycle. I am constantly asked for the ideal skincare routine by clients, and I always start by explaining that it depends on lifestyle (diet, environment and exercise), genetics and paying attention to your body over the menstrual month. As a guide, I’ve put together a skin diary for your menstrual cycle and recommended product types you should use at each point in the cycle to ensure the best and most accurate skincare routine."
So, here are some guidelines that might be helpful to follow - I've started to notice my skin around different points in my cycle more, when I'm oily, when I'm parched, when I need more vitamin C, etc. and it really does help to adapt slightly.
Days 1-6 (approx): Menstruation
All sex hormones are at a low level during your period. This is why skin mimics menopausal skin during these days because there is no oestrogen to control the levels of sebum production on the skin. Skin will be sensitive and at its driest. It may also look dull, and dark circles may look more intense.
Products to use:
- Facial oils - massage of the oils into the skin is especially important to promote circulation.
- Facial balms - for the driest of skin types.
- Intense moisturisers - especially those with additional ceramides and added high levels of vitamin C to help compensate the dry skin and provide antioxidants.
- Products containing lightening and brightening ingredients to help alleviate dark circles AND an extra amazing eye cream.
Days 7-15: The Rise and Peak of Oestrogen leading to Ovulation
As oestrogen levels begin to rise, the hormones attaches to cell receptors in the skin and promotes the production of glycosaminoglycans like hyaluronic acid in the skin, which allows the skin to keep hydrated by attracting water molecules and upholds the skin structure. Oestrogen also ensures the sebum remains thin, lightly lubricating your skin. Skin will usually look its best at this time of the month.
Products to use:
- Whatever you like or nothing
- Vitamin C serums
- Nourishing moisturisers and fluids
- Foaming cleansers twice daily
Days 16-28: The Rise and Peak of Progesterone leading to Menstruation
Oestrogen levels fall after ovulation and progesterone levels start to rise and peak. Progesterone leads to a number of factors contributing to acne-prone skin: these include the skin having a higher than normal bacterial cell count, the skin’s pores are compressed, there is more sebum produced but it is not thinned and so can block the pores and also feeds the bacteria. The skin is irritable so it needs to be protected but not overwhelmed with products.
Products to use:
- Acne anti-bacterial sprays - these lower the bacterial count and stop the pores from becoming congested and inflamed.
- Fruit enzyme peels, BHAs and AHAs - to help unclog pores and resurface any toxins within the skin.
- Very light moisturisers or fluids, and use plenty of SPF fluids since your skin is at its weakest.
- Products containing retinoids, Vitamin A or its various forms.
A good idea to get an idea of your cycle if you don't already monitor it is to download an app. I love one called Flo, it's free and it monitors everything from ovulation dates to sleep patterns and exercise.