Deal With Hormonal Acne? Here's Why You Should Try Cycling Skincare With Your Menstrual Cycle
For many of us, hormonal acne is a fact of life.
If you find yourself frequently breaking out a week or so before the start of your next period, you're far from alone—but have you ever considered changing your skincare routine throughout the month to account for these changes?
It's called skincare cycling, and it involves using different products at different points in your menstrual cycle to combat issues, target problems and prevent breakouts. We were curious about the practice, and we got the chance to learn all about it from Anna Mitsios, naturopath, nutritionist and founder of Edible Beauty Australia.
Sweety High: Hormonal acne is such a big problem for so many people. Why do you think it isn't already a given that we consider this in our skincare routines?
Anna Mitsios: There is so much mystery surrounding hormones and I do feel that there is a lack of understanding when it comes to what their impact is and how to effectively combat the skin changes they cause topically and internally.
SH: Can you quickly explain the types of hormonal changes that occur throughout the month that will affect our skin at each point? Is there a type of calendar that we can follow for this, or will it be different for each person?
AM: Hormone changes are very unique with everything from stress, genetics, food and medication affecting our general cycle. However, we can say that there are some fundamental changes that occur in our hormone levels during the month that can lead to noticeable changes in our complexion.
On the first day of your period and throughout the following five to six days, both estrogen and progesterone levels are low, so your skin may appear fairly dry and dull. From day six onwards, prior to ovulation, our estrogen levels are high and peak just prior to ovulation, normally around day 13. This surge in estrogen keeps skin looking plump, springy and hydrated—our skin is definitely in its prime and it is a fantastic opportunity to flaunt it (from an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense as we want to be attracting potential partners during this phase of our cycle)!
After ovulation and before the beginning of our next cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop and testosterone becomes a more dominant hormone. This signals our oil glands to produce excess oil, which may result in clogged pores and breakouts as well as general inflammation leading to puffy skin and eyes. It is natural to want to hibernate at this time!
SH: Before our periods what types of things should we do to combat this excess oil and prevent our pores from getting clogged?
AM: I recommend using water-based serums along with formulas containing anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory botanicals during this time. Salicylic acid can be helpful in refining pores and preventing bacterial build-up, but take care to not use anything which has more than 1% as this can be quite harsh on the skin. Botanicals like calendula and chamomile can help to calm skin and keep bacteria and clogged pores at bay (you will find these in our No.2 Citrus Rhapsody Toner Mist). Switch to dry oils like our Exotic Seed of Youth Oil, which is non-comedogenic and contains anti-inflammatory properties ensuring skin is hydrated without becoming congested. Increase exfoliation to two to three times a week and use a purifying mask to balance an oily T zone.
& Sleeping Beauty Purifying Mousse is a detoxifying sleep mask designed to address an oily T-zone that can result from hormonal imbalance. Use it two to three times weekly for maximum impact. Australian Pink Clay and Volcanic Zeolite draw out impurities and unclog pores. Alpha 5 Avocuta, derived from avocado oil penetrates to the deeper epidermis layers to stop the conversion of testosterone into DHT (one of the hormones responsible for overactive sebaceous glands), balance sebum production and reduce greasiness.
If pesky spots appear, use antimicrobial herbs such as turmeric found in our Turmeric Beauty Latte. This is the perfect overnight fix to acne that you just haven't been able to combat with your skincare cycling throughout the month. Internally, consider upping the ante on liver-supportive herbs. Turmeric, dandelion root and all bitter greens will help the liver in cleansing and shifting excess testosterone.
(via Edible Beauty)
SH: How does increased exfoliation help at this stage?
AM: Increasing exfoliation can help to reduce clogged pores and balance oil production. Whilst our skin has a self-exfoliating mechanism, using natural physical exfoliants with fruit-based alpha hydroxy acids and natural rice beads or walnut husks granules can help to refine pores and keep skin breakout-free. Take care not to over-exfoliate—two times a week works well. Over-exfoliating may lead to an overproduction of oil to compensate for the skin being stripped of its natural oil balance.
SH: During the first half of the cycle, when skin is usually looking fresh and hydrated, how can we maintain that glow?
AM: I recommend using water-based serums like our No.3 Exotic Goddess Ageless Serum along with a lightweight lotion like our No.4 Vanilla Silk Lotion to keep skin feeling smooth and hydrated. Skin will have less of a tendency to clog, so over-exfoliating is not required. Internally, it is a great time to up the ante on greens, fiber and anti-inflammatory foods as your digestion is working optimally and energy and mood levels are high. Doing so will set you up nicely to combat increased sebum production and promote liver clearance of excess hormones that can play havoc with your complexion later in your cycle.
SH: How can we combat dullness during the start of our periods? Are there any skincare products you think we should definitely avoid during this time?
AM: I recommend upping the ante on your ingestible wellness products like vegan collagen and greens powders. Increasing hydration internally and externally is key. Oils such as jojoba and antioxidant-rich oils, which reduce transepidermal water loss and mimic the natural wax esters of the skin (you will find these in our & Snowflower Illuminating Face Oil), can assist in boosting hydration whilst also brightening the skin. Use hydrating masks and formulas rich in fatty acids such as shea and cocoa butter to build skin moisture levels and improve skin resilience. Use our & Coco Bliss Intensive Repair as a hydrating mask if your skin is really feeling moisture-depleted. Avoid using active ingredients such as retinol, glycolic and lactic acid, as your skin may be hypersensitive to these ingredients during this time.
SH: Why do you think it's beneficial to use preventative treatment for skin, rather than just spot treating?
AM: Preventative treatments for skin address the underlying issue which triggers our breakouts. This ensures that we are accepting the messages our skin is providing us and working internally and externally to restore balance.
SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add on the subject?
AM: Targeted nutrition and drinking plenty of water are crucial to keeping your complexion in tip-top shape throughout your cycle. Below are my go-to recommendations for "inside" beauty.
Antioxidants: Eating foods rich in vitamins C and E can help to balance progesterone levels throughout the month. My favorite antioxidant-rich foods include maqui (in powder form, it's awesome in smoothies), berries, Australian Kakadu plum and sea buckthorn. You can find these in our Native Collagen Powder.
Healthy fats: Essential fatty acids are a key component of the skin's intercellular matrix but also help to keep inflammation in check, one of the keys to happy hormones. Incorporating omega-rich foods like avocados, flax and walnuts into your daily diet help to lock in moisture to keep your skin firm, plump and supple.
Liver health: Making sure the body is ridding itself of toxins and free radicals is the key to combating hormonal acne and stopping the breakdown of collagen. Load up on dandelion, cruciferous veggies, turmeric and lemons. Sipping on dandelion root tea or green tea is also a great support.
Protein: Adequate protein levels ensure you have building blocks for optimal collagen production, hormone creation and skin repair. Fill your plate with plant-based sources such as hemp seeds, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Drink more H20: Aim to guzzle at least two liters of water daily. Digestion, hormones and skin cells respond very well to extra hydration and you will be surprised at the increase in plumpness and skin luminosity you will see when your body is adequately hydrated. You can add lemon juice and chlorophyll to improve hydration. Non-caffeinated, herbal tea is another great option. Reduce your sodium intake to ensure that your body is being utilized most effectively.
Sleep: Getting enough sleep ensures that your cortisol production is kept in check and that insulin levels do not spike along with a rise in cortisol. Insulin spikes are associated with increased testosterone and oil production, which is why you may be more prone to experiencing breakouts when you are not getting enough sleep. Sleeping also ensures that your skin is given the time to repair and regenerate on a daily basis.
Want to see if the right vitamins and minerals can help with your acne? Click HERE to read our review of the Anti-Acne Club supplements.