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In my practice, I have come across many women tormented by monthly breakouts along with bloating, cravings, and the works.
Whether it’s one painful pimple on your chin or a whole batch of pimples (sometimes noticing for the first time in life), the first step to finding a root cause is to understand and work with your menstrual cycle, which is also called cycle syncing.
Anyone who menstruates experiences a 28-day cycle that keeps their hormones in flux.
During that time, our bodies go through different phases in which the symptoms shift and vary, and so does our skin. Instead of keeping the same skincare routine during that time, I suggest listening to your body and responding to its needs.
As a dermatologist, I’m always preaching the importance of catering your routine to your skin’s needs.
And while that usually means choosing the right products for changes in your skin basis the weather, cycle syncing is a much more profound way to get in tune with yourself.
If you pay attention to when you break out, you’ll probably notice that it happens in around the third week of the month, during the Luteal Phase.
This is when progesterone makes skin swell, pores get tight, and oil production increases due to the effect of testosterone.
The first step to stopping hormonal acne is to track your menstrual cycle.
Download an app.
This is better than keeping a mental track of the dates. There are so many free apps available to easily track your monthly cycle and all of its symptoms. Two of my favorites are FLO App and CLUE. Track your symptoms for the first 2-6 months and you will start to see patterns that are repeated consistently every cycle.
Understand the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle and plan your skincare routine around the effect of hormones in each phase:
This is how your skin feels in the 4 phases:
Week 1: Menstruation. Skin is at its most sensitive.
Week 2: Follicular Phase. Skin is at its most resistant.
Week 3: Ovulation. Hormone levels rise.
Week 4: The Luteal Phase. Skin is volatile.
During the period of blood flow, the estrogen and progesterone levels are lowest, and this can make skin feel dry and look dull or tired. There is a rise in prostaglandin hormone that can cause skin to feel more sensitive and inflamed.
Therefore, during this phase:
Avoid exfoliating (will make the skin more sensitive)
Avoid waxing and threading, especially the face.
Main aim should be hydration (water consumption and application of soothing moisturizers)
Use anti-inflammatory skin care products like niacinamide, Vit E, Squalane containing serums and creams to hydrate and calm any existing breakouts.
The estrogen by the 6/7th day starts to rise, this directly leads to boosting of collagen levels, the skin appears thicker and more elastic and supple, creating a natural ‘glow’.
This phase you should:
Use an anti-oxidant serum containing Vit E, Vit C, resveratrol to prolong your skin’s glow
Now is the time to try new products and return to your retinols and Bakuchiol serums and creams, since your skin is at its best and can absorb and rejuvenate the fastest.
Exfoliate with lactic acid or a quick curd facial at home to keep pores free from build-up.
During ovulation, estrogen and testosterone rise, high levels of luteinising hormone cause an egg to be released. This is the beginning of the development of adult acne. The pores become prominent by the increase in sebum secretion and the skin looks oiler than normal.
Start with a face wash that contains salicylic acid (BHA that is oil soluble and can therefore enter the pores) for deep cleaning of the pores before oil increases during Luteal Phase.
This is the right time to exfoliate, alternate days. This will keep the dead cells from building up and blocking the pores.
Continue with the antioxidant serums to protect the skin.
Luteal Phase (Days 17-28): Calm the skin & Oil control
In this phase the progesterone peaks which causes skin to swell and pores to tighten. An imbalance of testosterone can increase oil production, which gets trapped in tight pores, causing pimples to form. The bacteria have a field day growing in the trapped serum and can cause inflammatory acne and cystic acne.
Cleanse with a gentle foaming cleanser or oil cleanser, avoid harsh cleansers and exfoliation.
Use anti-inflammatory serums containing niacinamide (VitB3)
Use Squalane based serums to balance oil production and reduce inflammation
Calm skin and breakouts with cooling clay masks (multani mitti with rose water/glycerine), home made curd and honey masks and banana masks.
Change your skincare, food, and exercise routine—not to mention your mindset—and it’s possible to address the hormonal imbalances that are giving you trouble. First, it’s good to know what’s out of balance, and then you can address the issues.
Cycle syncing skin care throughout the month is an effective way to help counteract potential hormonal acne, but if this doesn't help, do seek the advice of an experienced Dermatologist. There are effective medications and treatments that can help prevent adult acne, and keep the hormones in control.
Tracking your cycle is the first step to stop the cycle of hormonal acne and finally feel in control again!
REDUCE BUT AMPLIFY: Embracing Skin Minimalism the GoSkin+ve way!March 20th, 2023
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