Have you noticed that your skin becomes more sensitive and reactive a couple of days before your period? You are not imagining it. Hormonal changes responsible for the female cycle also influence the skin. During the week before a woman’s period, her skin barrier weakens. As a result, the skin becomes more sensitive to irritants and allergens. The skin can feel dryer than usual. At the same time, it can also get more prone to inflammation, meaning that acne breakouts are also more likely.
Women who suffer with eczema often see a worsening of their skin right before the period. In rare cases, severe skin reactions and flares during this time might be a symptom of a medical condition called Autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, which needs to be treated by a dermatologist.
Skincare tips for improving skin sensitivity before the monthly period (all the tips below apply to the week prior to the first day of the menstrual flow):
Avoid high concentrations of exfoliants such as AHAs (including glycolic acid) and salicylic acid.
Adopt an extra gentle cleansing routine. For example, cleanse only once per day, at night if you are usually washing your face with a product twice daily, skip the second cleanse if you are double-cleansing usually, and use an extra-mild cleanser (for example, you can opt for a non-foaming, fragrance-free cleansing milk or lotion).
Stay away from fragranced skincare, no matter if the aroma comes from natural or synthetic ingredients.
Avoid products with plant extracts (the notable exceptions here is colloidal oatmeal, green tea and centella asiatica extracts that can help strengthen the skin barrier)
Do not skip your moisturizer, even if you get acne breakouts. In fact, you should be using a good moisturizer especially if you are breaking out. A worsening of acne before the period happens for two main reasons. The first one is the growth of the acne-causing bacteria as the result of an increase in the skin’s natural oil (sebum) production. Here is a catch: women’s skin produces more oil in the beginning of the cycle, but it takes some time for the bacterial growth to happen. In the week prior to the period, the skin’s oiliness usually returns to normal, but the number of acne-causing bacteria is elevated. In addition to this, the changes in the hormone level prior to the period weaken the skin barrier and make the skin more prone to inflammation. As a result, the skin is more likely to react with inflamed spots to the presence of the bacteria. Using a good moisturizer can help reduce the skin’s reactivity and strengthen its defences against the acne-causing bacteria.
Ingredients to look for in the moisturizer: ceramides, niacinamide (at the concentration of 3-5%), colloidal oatmeal, low concentrations of PHAs (lactobionic acid and gluconolactone).
Switch to a mineral (non-organic) sunscreen. Products like that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as their active ingredients (UV filters).