beauty

'Period skincare': Yes, you can hack your skincare to match your menstrual cycle.

Did you know you now need period skincare?

We’re not talking vaginal moisturisers or anything to do with your bits down below. But according to a piece in The Guardian by Ellie Violet Bramley, there’s an opening in the beauty market for skincare products dedicated to managing the friendly skin issues that come with your menstrual cycle.

Although period skincare hasn’t reached Aussie shores (yet), US brands like Amreeta offer different cleansers, serums and skincare bundles based on whether you’re ovulating or bleeding. For a neat sum of around AU$150, plus shipping.

Is this cyclical approach to skincare the next big thing we should all be doing, or a load of crock?

Mamamia spoke to two dermatologists to find out.

Side note – before we get into it, check out this hilarious reenactment of what your period would be like if she was a person. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

How do your hormones (i.e. your period) affect your skin?

Let’s start with some facts.

Fact: the cycle of hormones travelling through women’s bodies can prompt changes in our skin. You’re probably most familiar with the stubborn family of pimples that pop up around your chin, jawline or hairline at roughly the same time every month. For some, it’s more of a colony of cystic acne than a family.

Dr Jo-Ann See, Australasian College of Dermatologists fellow and founder of All About Acne, said this is completely normal and “it’s not that there’s something wrong with you.”

“We know this cycle of the hormones [throughout the menstrual cycle] is a true thing, but it’s highly individual and it doesn’t mean every patient’s skin will be affected in the same way,” Dr See told Mamamia.

That said, there are two common hormone-related skin issues some women may recognise.

1. ‘Period acne’ or pimples before your period.

Not everyone gets hormonal acne, but as mentioned above, the most common hormonal skin change women experience is the delightful monthly pimple or acne flare.

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According to Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan, a private practice dermatologist with Sinclair Dermatology and Fairfield Dermatology, you could have otherwise perfect skin and still get a punctual acne flare, simply because you’re prone to them. We’re lucky like that.

“If you get the odd pimple before your period, it’s not something to worry about, but if you’re finding there’s that cycle to your acne, it’s something worth managing because there are ways to improve that flare. But, it’s something you won’t grow out of, regardless of age” she told Mamamia.

Both experts explained hormonal acne can flare at one of two times during your cycle – one week before your period (premenstrual) or during ovulation (mid-cycle).

menstrual cycle hormones
Here's an exciting graph that depicts your menstrual cyclic hormone activity. Image: Instagram/@clueapp.

During ovulation, the hormone oestrogen drops after the release of an egg from the ovary mid-cycle. Similarly, in the premenstrual phase between when your ovary spits out an egg and when you start bleeding, oestrogen levels are low in comparison to progesterone, which rises along with androgens (male hormones). As Dr See explained, progesterone and testosterone get your oil glands pumping and wham, up come the pimples.

As a bonus, the same oil glands will get triggered by these hormone changes every month, which explains why you'll have pimples in one area that, just as they've started to die, return angier than ever.

2. Dry, sensitive skin.

Another fun thing some women may experience throughout their cycle is dry, sensitive skin.

Dr Gunatheesan said, "When oestrogen is low, your skin is a bit more sensitive and dry because oestrogen is a good plumper of collagen and hydrates the skin."

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Our skin can also be more sensitive because of the inflammation caused by those nasty pimples.

So, do you need 'period skincare'?

 

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If we're talking about period skincare being a 'cyclical skincare routine' marketed and purchased specifically for use depending on the different phases of your cycle, Dr See is adamant the answer is... no.

"I've been a dermatologist for 25 years and it's my job to look at the science behind new trends. Period tracking apps are one thing, but what 'period skincare' is trying to do is spin an entrepreneurial trend so you don't use just one lot of skincare, but a whole lot of different skincare routines," she said.

"I think it's a bit over the top because there's no scientific link to suggest a skincare routine can improve what your hormones are doing through the weeks."

What about period skincare tips?

OK, so we've established you don't need to shell out money on new skincare products specifically for your period (woohoo!). But you still can hack your skincare to match the issues you experience during your menstrual cycle.

Both Dr Gunatheesan and Dr See advised making practical tweaks to your routine by changing the way you use products you already own (i.e. the ones gathering dust at the back of your bathroom cabinet) or trying a few new things that can help manage any problems with as little fuss as possible.

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1. Track your cycle.

A lot of women are already tracking their periods either with an app or a good old fashioned calendar. Both experts recommended paying specific attention to whether you're a 'period flarer' or an 'ovulation flarer', and at what point in your cycle you experience any other skin dryness or sensitivity so you can plan for and around it.

Dr Gunatheesan added, "If you're getting a consistent flare, just be aware of that vulnerable period. Little things like being extra vigilant with removing your makeup can help."

2. Consistent skincare throughout the month.

More important than any extra strength pimple-nuking product you could add into your routine is being consistent with your skincare. Yep, that means doing all the things on all of the days.

"Consistent skincare throughout the month is the key thing. If you're taking your makeup off, using a gentle topical retinoid or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) one to two times a week, generally, you can change the way your dead skin is exfoliated and your sebum is produced," Dr Gunatheesan said.

"Often women come to me and they've tried too many harsh products and they've actually impaired their skin barrier.  I have a theory your body produces more 'cappy' sebum when your skin is dehydrated, so it's counter intuitive."

We discussed the beauty rumour about whether your skin can actually 'get used' to products on this episode of the You Beauty podcast below. Post continues after audio.

3. Switch up your cleansers.

Dr See suggested having two types of cleansers in your arsenal can be handy for tackling period skin issues as they (literally) pop up. For example, women who prefer using a creamy, gentle cleanser or a micellar water can have a targeted acne cleanser or one with an active ingredient like an AHA in their back pocket ready for the weeks you need a hand clearing the gunk out of congested areas of the face.

A chemical exfoliant applied directly to problem areas is an alternative for those worried about stripping their skin with stronger cleansers. Chemical exfoliants use acid to dissolve dead skin cells. They come as AHA liquids (think: glycolic acid, lactic acid) you can soak a cotton pad in to swipe on cleansed skin where needed, or in pre-soaked pads you can use in the same way. If you choose this option, be wary of doubling up on your acids - for example, using an AHA cleanser and a seperate chemical exfoliant may be a bit much depending on your skin type.

Another idea - try using different cleansers on different parts of your face. Hear us out.

If you know your skin doesn't enjoy active cleansers or anything too harsh, target your problem areas while keeping the rest of your face happy by doing an initial cleanse with your preferred product, and a second cleanse on only the areas where you get congested (chin, jawline, hairline, T zone) with a stronger product. It is more effort, but effective.

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Here are some cleanser and chemical exfoliant options we love:

Skinstitut L-Lactic Cleanser, $49.

Skinstitut L-Lactic Cleanser
Image: Adore Beauty.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Gel, $25.95.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Gel
Imahe: Chemist Warehouse.
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Dr. LeWinns Gentle Cream Cleanser, $24.95.

Dr. LeWinns Gentle Cream Cleanser
Image: Dr. LeWinns.

NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Gentle Pads 60 Pack, $34.99.

NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Gentle Pads 60 Pack
Image: Priceline.

Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys, $46.

Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys
Image: Go-To.
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4. Add a serum.

Now, serums. This is the fun bit.

If you aren't already using a serum in your skincare routine, Dr Gunatheesan suggested adding one with niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B.

"Vitamin B is very soothing, yet anti-inflammatory, which is great for blemishes, appearance of pore size and skin texture. Throwing a niacinamide into your routine is idiot proof, as it reduces acne while maintaining the skin's hydration. You can use morning or night depending on the other products you use. Unlike a retinol, you can use vitamin B in the morning as it doesn't make you sun sensitive."

Another serum option is a gentle retinoid/retinol product that works similarly to an AHA by chewing up dead skin cells for a less congested complexion. Dr Gunatheesan said over time, this kind of chemical exfoliation can help your sebaceous glands (the oil factories) get a bit smaller and better regulate your skin's oil needs.

Caveat: again, you don't want to double up on your chemical exfoliants, for example, using an AHA lotion or soaked pad listed above AND a retinoid at the same time. Pick one and use it at night on cleansed skin. And don't forget a facial sunscreen the next morning as using an chemical exfoliant (AHA or retinoid) increases your skin's sun sensitivity.

Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Serum Booster, $62.

Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Serum Booster
Image: Paula's Choice.
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The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, $9.90.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Image: The Ordinary.

Synergie Skin Vitamin B Serum, $115.

Synergie Skin Vitamin B Serum
Image: Synergie Skin.
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SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5%, $98.

SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5%
Image: Adore Beauty.

5. Don't forget to moisturise.

Finally, don't lay off the moisturiser in fear of making breakouts greasier. As mentioned above, skin can become dry and sensitive during your cycle.

Dr See's advice is: "Ideally, you just want one moisturiser in your routine for simplicity, however, some people will use two different types. For example, a lighter, oil-free moisturiser in the day time or at night on acne flare areas, and a more hydrating one where you need it."

Final thoughts on period skincare...

The good news is, you don't need to go out and buy a special skincare routine for when you're on your period. Even better, there are ways to manage any skin issues throughout your cycle, like blemishes, acne, dryness and sensitivity.

But both experts agreed it's important to note - these kinds of skin changes are completely normal. In other words, they're a fact of life.

Everyone's hormones and skin are different, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer. What you can do, though, is get acquainted with how your skin changes during your cycle to figure out the best way to manage them.

As they say, better the devil you know.

Do you experience changes in your skin throughout your cycle? Would you buy 'period skincare'? Tell us in the comments below!


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