How to utilise the power of your period and sync your skincare routine to your cycle

In partnership with Vichy

Power of periods
(Image credit: Future)

Ever wondered why you always break out in spots a couple of days before your period? Yes, that’s right, your hormones are to blame.

Like it or not, your period has a lot to do with how your skin looks during certain stages of the month thanks to the imbalance of hormones including progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone.

“As our hormones fluctuate throughout our menstrual cycle so do our skin and therefore skincare needs,” says Vichy consultant dermatologist Dr Mary Sommerlad. “For most women, the changes are subtle while for others the changes are striking. In general, when oestrogen is low, skin is drier and more sensitive and when progesterone levels peak, skin can appear shinier and in some, more markedly oily with breakouts.”

So, what can you do to help make every day of your period a good skin day? And how can you sync your skincare routine to your menstrual cycle?

How to utilise the power of your period – and the best skincare products to use

woman looking in mirror

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The follicular phase (first 10-16 days)

During the first couple of days of your cycle, levels of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone are low. “During the follicular phase, oestrogen and progesterone levels are lower than at any other time in the cycle,” explains Dr Sommerlad. “At this stage, skin can feel and look drier than at other stages. In some women, the skin may also be more sensitive.” But oestrogen levels do start to slowly rise, and as they do, you may notice a glow to your skin.

Best type of skincare products to use during the follicular phase

In the morning, Dr Sommerlad recommends using a very gentle cleanser to leave the skin hydrated. “This is a good time to focus on hydrating the skin – look for serums rich in hyaluronic acid and moisturises containing niacinamide, ceramides and softening ingredients such as shea butter and squalane,” she says. “Avoid skin peels and harsh liquid exfoliants. In the evening, use retinoids that are gentle on the skin.”

Ovulation (around day 14)

“Ovulation marks the peak of oestrogen,” says Dr Sommerlad. “Oestrogen boosts collagen production and can give a glow to the skin.” Your skin will likely appear clear and bright over the next five days until testosterone and oestrogen begin to decrease.

Best type of skincare products to use during ovulation

“If you are pigmentation prone, focus on sunscreens that block visible light and ramp up the anti-oxidant use such as vitamin C and azelaic acid, which can help tackle excess pigmentation,” she advises. “If you feel that the oestrogen glow makes your skin to greasy, look for mattifying moisturisers.”

The luteal phase (second half of your cycle)

The luteal phase is the phase right before you start your period. “During the luteal phase, the levels of oestrogen remain high and progesterone and androgens continue to rise,” she explains. The higher levels of progesterone are responsible for oilier-looking skin and the appearance of spots – “there is also more sebum production giving even more of a glow,” she adds.

Best type of skincare products to use during the luteal phase

To control the excess oil and sebum, Dr Sommerlad recommends using a decent cleanser and exfoliator. “As sebum helps to maintain the skin barrier, this is a good time to try new liquid exfoliators or more potent retinoids if you want to,” she says. “Retinoids and salicylic acid are very helpful ingredients to try in this stage if you are breakout prone.”

The menstruation phase 

“Menstruation is the first day of the period,” explains Dr Sommerlad. “Menstruation is part of the follicular phase therefore skin can be more sensitive and appear drier as the levels of progesterone and oestrogen fall to their lowest points. There is also a rise in prostaglandins which can further exacerbate sensitivity.”

Best type of skincare products to use during the menstruation phase

As the skin tends to be more sensitive and irritable during this part of the cycle, Dr Sommerlad recommends using mild, non-irritant products. “Keep things simple and gentle with a focus on hydration and soothing,” she says. “And avoid new skincare products that can irritate.”

Discover Vichy Neovadiol Skincare for Perimenopause & Menopause at Boots & your local pharmacy. For symptom guidance and support speak to your GP or pharmacist. 

Alice Barraclough
Alice is a contributing lifestyle journalist with over seven years of industry experience and has worked for the likes of The Telegraph, The Independent, Women's Health, Stylist, Glamour, Grazia, Glorious Sport and more. Specialising in health and fitness, Alice covers everything from the latest product launches to interviewing some of the most inspiring female sports stars of our time.