Can it be a good idea to sync a skincare routine to your menstrual cycle? We find out

Have you ever noticed how at certain times of the month your skin positively glows, while at others you just can’t seem to get it to play ball? Turns out, your menstrual cycle could be influencing everything from dryness to excess sebum and skin texture.

Blame your hormones, or rather, two in particular: oestrogen and progesterone. “Oestrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries,” explains Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, medical consultant skin expert and founder of Adonia Medical Clinic. “They work together to regulate the growth and shedding of the uterine lining as well as the development and release of an egg from the ovary.”

But how does their ebb and flow impact the skin? Dr Ejikeme highlights that fluctuating hormonal levels may lead to more dry patches, oiliness and even clogged pores at different stages of the menstrual cycle. But the good news is that some stealthy tweaks to your skincare routine could help you be better equipped to deal with the effects.

“Tailoring a skincare routine to your menstrual cycle can be helpful for managing some of the skin issues that can arise,” she tells us. For example, if you tend to experience congestion during the premenstrual phase, “you may want to incorporate products that contain salicylic acid during that time,” she says.

While not every woman will experience significant changes to their skin during their menstrual cycle, those who do could find it helpful to make some anticipatory skincare swaps that work with their flow, rather than against it for an ‘ovulation glow’ (more on that in a moment – it’s a thing) that lasts the whole month.

All sound a bit overwhelming? We promise, it’s simpler than it sounds – here’s a breakdown of what happens at each stage and how you may be able to tailor your skincare to suit the different phases of the cycle.

How to tailor a skincare routine to your menstrual cycle

Here, we’ve used the average 28-day cycle as our rule of thumb, but every woman’s cycle is different (don’t stress if you notice it lasts anywhere from 23 to 35 days because that’s completely normal), so find what works for you and when.

As always, there are certain skincare non-negotiables, such as sunscreen, but if you’ve found that other parts of your skincare don’t land in quite the same way at certain times of the month and wondered why, making some menstrual cycle skincare changes could be for you.

Dubbed the ‘ovulation glow,’ you may find that your skin looks dewy and more luminous

The follicular phase (around days 1-13)

During your period, oestrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. As oestrogen plays a key role in collagen production, supporting the skin barrier function and hydration, you may find skin feels dry or more sensitive than usual.

If so, it can be helpful to keep your skincare routine simple, with a focus on self-care (exactly what’s needed when you’re on your period) and nourishing formulas.

A good place to start? Cleanser. In one study, skin was found to respond more strongly to sodium lauryl sulphate (a type of detergent) on day one of the menstrual cycle than days nine to 11, so it could be worth swapping foaming face washes for cream ones, for a more caring cleanse.

Thankfully, there’s a wide range of sulphate-free face washes out there that may fit the bill perfectly…

Try: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin

●      Size: 236ml

●      Fragrance free

●      Non-comedogenic

Loved by beauty editors and fellow Boots customers alike, this hydrating cleanser uses ceramides to help support the skin’s natural barrier and hyaluronic acid to keep complexions hydrated and happy. It’s simple but effective and a dermatologist favourite for good reason.

When oestrogen levels rise in the late follicular stage, as they reach their peak right before ovulation, skin may start to look softer and fresher thanks to an increase in collagen production.

Dubbed the ‘ovulation glow,’ skin can look pleasantly dewy and more luminous than at other times. Consider it the perfect opportunity to rock a ‘no make-up' make-up day.

Ovulation: around day 14

During day 14, you’ll likely still be riding the ‘ovulation glow’ high.

Sounds pretty peachy so far.

However, as the body temperature rises slightly during ovulation, this could make skin more prone to shine. What’s more, as progesterone levels start to increase post-ovulation, skin can become more oily, which may lead to congestion.

On these days, swap out richer moisturisers and sunscreens for lighter weight ones that hydrate and protect without weighing skin down. Look out for milky textured, multitasking SPFs or products that are ‘non-comedogenic’ or oil-free, to help skin feel more comfortable.

Try: Garnier Ambre Solaire Anti-Dark Spots & Anti-Pollution Super UV SPF50+

• Size: 40ml

• Non-comedogenic

• Fragrance free
• SPF50

This silky-textured SPF not only provides high protection, it also sits beautifully underneath make-up. Fast-absorbing, it sinks into skin like a dream for an invisible finish.

The luteal phase (around days 15-28)

Also known as the ‘premenstrual’ phase, the luteal phase is the final stage before your period, when the menstrual cycle starts all over again.

Post-ovulation, up to around day 21, progesterone levels increase, which can stimulate the sebaceous glands and the production of sebum, making it more likely that you may experience congestion.

If you have congestion-prone or oily skin, “consider adding a BHA cleanser or serum three times a week from the midpoint in your cycle and increase or decrease use depending on your skin’s needs,” Dr Ejikeme suggests.

Try: Vichy Normaderm ProBio-BHA Serum 

• Size: 30ml

• Suitable for sensitive skin

Containing salicylic and glycolic acids, this serum helps improve the appearance of skin texture for smoother, softer skin. Add to a nightly skincare routine for best results and make sure to wear SPF30 the next day to keep skin protected.

For some women, fluctuating progesterone levels can lead to a greater chance of experiencing hormonal acne. Do you find you tend to break out more just before your period? If you have a few blackheads, whiteheads or spots, your local Boots pharmacist will be able to share advice on some over-the-counter gels or creams containing benzoyl peroxide that may be able to help.

For moderate or severe acne, book in with a GP or check out the Boots Online Doctor Acne Treatment Service*, for quick and confidential advice and prescription acne treatment (if suitable) from the comfort of your own home.

The takeaway

While every woman’s cycle and skin needs are different, tweaking the products you use throughout the month to suit the hormonal ebb and flow could help you get the most out of your skincare routine.

Whether it’s adding in a hydrating face mask when you’re menstruating, or an exfoliating treatment when your complexion’s feeling oilier than usual, a few simple swaps could be all that’s needed to help you feel more in sync with your body – and your skin.

*Eligibility criteria and charges apply