Looking to stop recurring pimples? A few things you can do to stack the deck in your favor…
You know that pimple that shows up in the exact same spot on your face every four to six weeks? First, you start to feel bloated. Then, you have to reach for that high-impact sports bra just to walk up stairs without wincing. Next, come the cramps and actively choosing your oldest, rattiest pair of underwear just in case. Finally, your skin gets that familiar oily sheen and up pops your old friend, like clockwork.
Your period is here, which means your skin is at the mercy of your hormones. And though it may seem hopeless, there are actually a few things you can do to stack the deck in your favor, all the way from ovulation to the last day of your cycle. Just remember: Your period is not the enemy! It’s a totally natural, beautiful part of all that is being a woman.
First, what the hell is going on?
To better understand how to treat your skin, you have to understand what’s happening to it. Over the course of your 28-day cycle (give or take), your skin will experience a rollercoaster of situations. When you’re ovulating (about two weeks before the actual period), estrogen levels increase and trigger the production of Luteinizing hormone (LH), which increases oil production. More oil = more clogged pores = food for acne-causing bacteria = period pimples.
A few days before your period starts—pre-menstruation—estrogen levels drop and testosterone levels increase when your body realizes that month’s egg isn’t fertilized and prepares to reset. Those elevated levels of testosterone bring faster hair growth, enlarged pores and sebum production. Welcome back, oily skin! But there’s a twist: Those low levels of estrogen also cause dehydration. Basically, your skin can’t decide whether it wants to be an oily rainforest or a flakey desert and is super-sensitive to boot.
Then on the first day of your period, just to make things really exciting, your hormone levels drop. Not only does this leave you feeling pretty run down and exhausted, but your cells area also releasing lipids called prostaglandins during this time which causes inflammation aka puffy, blotchy, sallow skin. Huzzah, ovaries!
Right after your period ends, those hormone levels get back to normal so your skin probably looks its best a few days out (assuming you haven’t picked at it!). Estrogen prompts collagen production, meaning plump, dewy post-period skin. And then it starts all over again. Ah, the joys of womanhood!
So how do you deal? You’ve got a few options.
Take extra-great care of your skin.
In the days leading up to your period, you’ll want to do everything you can to help your skin function at its optimal level. No over-scrubbing, nothing drying—it will go a long way if your skin is super-happy before you start menstruating so it can help your body eliminate the excess hormones and toxins that come with your flow. While they’re not a cure-all, the right natural skincare products will support that elimination.
Gentle, hydrating skincare that won’t pull too much oil from the skin is best pre-menstruation. For an extra dose of moisture, lean on hydrating masks like the Egyptian Honey Rose Masque from Artifact, which is packed with raw honey, aloe leaf juice and rose flower water, a monstrously thirst-quenching trio.
Once your period starts, look for calming ingredients that will play nice with your fussy skin. Rose otto—the pure distilled essence of rose—is the star of Living Libations’ RoseGlow Serum and will make even the crankiest of skin looking happy and soothed. Combined with inflammatory-curbing golden jojoba, protective seabuckthorn berry, and antibacterial lavender, you’ll probably reach for this stuff even after you’re done reaching for the unflattering underwear.
Another serum your period skin will love? Root Science’s Bare Facial Serum and its black cumin seed oil, which contains a compound called thymoquinone, an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. It also helps regulate sebum and oil production, generally calming everything way down.
And of course, let’s not forget turmeric. The plant is full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties so whether you eat it, drink it, or slather it on your face, it’s going to help a lot with that angry hormonal skin.
When you’re finished with the menstruation phase of your cycle, keep things as-is for a few days to give your skin time to adjust back to standard hormone levels. Spot treatments are A-OK now if you want to take care of any pesky pimples that may have popped up (despite your best efforts). The Clear Skin Spot Treatment from Province Apothecary will help fade and decrease spots while still being gentle enough for your transitioning skin.
Yes, that heavy-duty sports bra will be necessary here—trust me, I’m a card-carrying member of the double bra club on my period, even for the elliptical—but keeping active during your period will work wonders on how you look and feel. Getting your heart pumping will get your blood flowing which will get your skin glowing: All that blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells while also carrying away the bad stuff (like free radicals). It’s basically cleansing your skin from the inside.
Another pro of the internal blood flow? (Sorry.) Decreased cramps. And less stress. And endorphins. In the immortal words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just have a better time during their period.” (Paraphrasing a bit here for the sake of the topic at hand.)
That said, sweat can also wreak some serious havoc on your skin if you’re not careful. Let it sit too long and it’ll dry, leaving behind a film of salt, makeup that may have run into your pores, and a veritable breeding ground for bacteria. So what’s a girl to do?
Easy. Wash your face.
If you have the time, definitely shower and wash your face immediately after a workout. Cleansing is the first step to ensuring your skin won’t freak out even more than it already might be. A great option here is Apoterra’s Activated Charcoal And Dead Sea Salt Complexion Soap, whose mineral-rich charcoal pulls impurities from the deepest layers of your skin while also taking care of any grime sitting on top of your skin and clogging pores. The sea salt also acts as a mild exfoliant and soft astringent to keep everything balanced and toned post-workout.
Nothing can replace a full cleanse, but if you’re in a rush get yourself some cleansing wipes. Use ‘em pre-workout to get rid of any makeup that might sweat its way into your pores, and again post-workout. The Bamboo Water version of Leaders’ Labotica Cleansing Tissues are great for those extra-oily days since the bamboo helps keep sebum and shine in check while also acting as a mild cleanser.
Give your diet a little help.
And of course, you are what you eat. So help your body out and fight those greasy/fatty/sugary food urges that will only make you feel worse after the fact. If you want something sweet, opt for dark chocolate which contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that keeps skin looking healthy. Turmeric is another no-brainer here. And probiotics will help keep everything running smoothly internally (at least in one department).
+ Want more beauty tips? Check out other articles by Allie White here!