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Skin vs. Menstrual Cycle: A Modern Day Tale of Fear, Loathing & Hormones

How periods can affect your skin



In spite of what we have been primed to believe growing up, our skin isn’t purely aesthetic.

Coming in at an average of  21 sq ft and taking up 15% of our body weight, our skin is our body’s largest organ!

Among its many functions, skin provides a protective barrier, regulates body temperature and excretes excess sweat and oil.

In contrast to what the beauty industry tells us, there is no such thing as a “normal state” for our skin. Everybody's skin goes through constant change as we pass through various stages of our lives and even throughout one single menstrual cycle. 

Hormones produced during each stage of our menstrual cycle can have a big impact on the appearance of our skin. Some of the most common skin issues that can occur from changing hormone levels include; acne, dehydration, redness & sensitivity. 

Not only can these issues be frustrating to manage, but they can also, unfortunately, have an impact on our confidence.


Liz Earle Skincare Quote


In 2016, skin queen, Liz Earle conducted research on 2,000 women for her upcoming book “Skin”. It was found that:


  • On average, the women surveyed would spend 11 minutes every day thinking about how best to conceal their blemishes!
  • ½ of the women surveyed said they dreaded special occasions due to worry about how their skin would look on the day!


By equipping ourselves with some knowledge of our menstrual cycle, it allows us to better understand what is going on with our skin at each stage and adapt our skincare regime accordingly.


Hormones & The Menstrual Cycle 

The three main hormones at play for women during their menstrual cycle are estrogen, testosterone and progesterone.

How hormonal imbalance affects skin


  • Estrogen is the main female sex hormone. It is primarily produced in the ovaries and controls the growth of the uterus lining in the first stage of the cycle. 
  • Testosterone is a male sex hormone also found in females in smaller quantities. Its main function for women is to regulate sex drive, preserve muscle mass and promote an overall sense of wellbeing.
  • Progesterone is a sex hormone found in females and males and plays a big part in the later stages of our menstrual cycle, keeping the uterus lining thick.


According to Donna, Vitropics Co-Founder, “these three hormones support not only your mood, but your metabolism, and to some degree, your immunity.”

While these hormones have their essential roles to play in a healthy menstrual cycle, it’s the changes, fluctuations and imbalances that occur between them that creates havoc on our faces.


The Skin Nerd Skincare Quote


Skin During The Three Menstrual Cycle Phases

Within a 28-day cycle our complexion can change drastically; from crystal clear one minute to breakouts the next, super dry and flaky to oily and shiny. We just can’t win.


However, by understanding your hormones and how they change throughout your cycle, you can use this knowledge to build a skincare plan to achieve glowing skin on a 365-day loop!



Menstrual Cycle Hormone Graph



Menstrual Phase: Days 1-5

Britney Spears Yawning GIF









Hormone Activity: Estrogen and progesterone levels are low in the first few days of your cycle.

Your Skin: You may experience a lot of dryness during this phase and as a result, lines or wrinkles may appear more obvious and skin can have a “dull” appearance.


  • Up your water intake. At least 8 glasses
  • Use hydrating and moisturising products 
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks as they have a dehydrating effect


Pre-Ovulatory Phase: Days 6-15

Beyonce Glow GIF








Hormone Activity: As estrogen and testosterone levels begin to rise, you will start to feel your best self.

Your Skin: Along with the extra spring in your step, your skin will be bringing its “A- Game”. Increased estrogen means increased collagen, giving your skin that plump glowy look.


  • Don’t neglect your skin regime 
  • This is the best time to carry out any hair removal as your skin is less sensitive


Post Ovulatory Phase: Days 16-30 

Anne Hathaway GIF








Hormone Activity: Estrogen and testosterone levels dip and progesterone swoops in to take charge. Progesterone stimulates the production of sebum, a natural lubricant for our skin. 

Your Skin: Welcome to breakout city! Overproduction of sebum can cause clogged pores and spots. Your skin might also feel congested and puffy during this phase. 


  • Pay extra special attention to your skincare regime.
  • Use gentle exfoliation techniques to unclog pores.
  • This is the best time to use purifying and detoxifying products.


Menstrual Cycle Skincare Tips


Skin by SiSi Quote


Whether you have to contend with painful acne, sensitivity or the odd blinder of a chin spot, it’s important to understand how your skin responds to hormonal changes and implement skin-healthy rituals into your daily routine. 

But where to start?!

For healthy skin throughout your cycle, Skin Nerd, recommends the following in her book;

  • 7 hours of sleep every night
  • 8 glasses of water
  • Avoid processed foods & high sugar intake
  • Eat lots of veg, protein and good fats
  • Reduce caffeine
  • No smoking
  • Exercise
  • Daily Supplements 


If you’d like to read more about the effects of hormones during your menstrual cycle, check out our blog post and subscribe to our mailing list via the sign-up box below. 
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