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Your skincare priorities should change throughout the month

If your skin changes like the weather, it may be down to see-sawing hormones courtesy of your menstrual cycle

Ever noticed that your skin changes a lot during the course of the month? One week, it’s oily and breaking out left, right and centre; the next, it’s dry and dehydrated. Then, you’re maintaining a plump and glowy complexion for a while, before being back to breaking out.
At last, the culprit has been revealed: your menstrual cycle. Just like our hormones and emotions change throughout our cycle, so does our skin.
We hear from Chemical Engineer, Skincare Expert, and Founder of Skin Masterclass®, Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz, for the lowdown on how our cycle affects our skin, and what we should be prioritising during each phase.

Does our cycle really affect our skin?

“Absolutely! Your menstrual cycle affects your skin more than you think. While it will affect everyone slightly differently, the standard 30-day cycle follows a rather strict change in hormones leading up to ovulation and then in the luteal and menstrual phase afterwards.

"While it’s a common misconception that one hormone in particular causes excess oil and breakouts, it’s actually a hormone imbalance! Imbalances of progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone all have an affect on your skin; either causing it to become extremely dry, or excessively oily.
"It’s important to understand how all of these hormonal changes and phases can affect your skin, and what the best products and ingredients are to use to help combat any changes you might face.”

How exactly does skin change throughout our cycle?

Note: the following is approximate, and is based on a 30-day cycle

The Menstrual Phase/Day 1-6: "During the first phase, there is a low level of both progesterone and oestrogen. Low progesterone means a low oil production, while low oestrogen means a low skin-barrier function. During this phase, you may experience ‘cramps’ or contractions. These are caused by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which trigger the muscles in your uterus to contract. Because prostaglandins are at a high level during this time, your skin is very much prone to inflammation, dryness, and dehydration during this phase. I recommend focusing on increasing skin water content, using hydrating and moisturising products and ingredients like hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid, and urea. You’ll also want to give your skin barrier some love, using ceramides and panthenol, and avoid going overboard with exfoliating, as this will damage your (already weak) skin barrier.”
The Follicular Phase/Day 7-14: "The next stage in your cycle is essentially your body preparing for the next phase; ovulation. Oestrogen levels will increase (as will your skin barrier function!), and your skin becomes rebalanced. Hyaluronic acid and collagen synthesis also increases at this time, so your skin is on its way to looking and feeling the best. I advise that you maintain skin hydration by using hyaluronic acid or polyglutamic acid-rich products, as well as encouraging collagen synthesis by incorporating creams or serums with peptides.”
The Ovulation Phase/Day 14-16: "We’re halfway through the month now, and your skin is glowing. Oestrogen levels are at their peak, so your skin barrier is strong, your skin is hydrated and plump. Progesterone levels are low, so oil production is too. Use this time to increase cell-turnover, reduce the appearance of signs of ageing and maintain a healthy glow. Try to incorporate ingredients like retinol, PHA (poly hydroxy acids), and glycolic or lactic acid – but not all in the same routine – into your regimen."
The Luteal Phase/Day 16-30: "The final two weeks of your cycle might cause some complexion chaos. This phase is where progesterone levels increase, which in turn means that your skin is producing a high level of oil. You’ll be most prone to breakouts during this phase, so it’s important to focus on oil control and preventing acne flare-ups. For controlling sebum production, niacinamide is your best friend, and the best part is that you can use it alongside a wide range of other ingredients, including BHA’s, AHA’s, retinoids and vitamin C. To help clear out any oil and dirt build up in the pores, thus preventing breakouts, use a salicylic acid in your routine.”

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