By Arielle Egozi
Period skin. Even Chrissy Teigen gets it, which means even the goddesses among us are mere mortals against hormones.
Red, blotchy, extra-sensitive, dull, flat, and lackluster — this may be your skin before your period. It kinda sucks, so we set out on a mission to get advice from the best of the best in the skincare biz. Because we’re only human, these experts tell us *exactly* what to do (and not to do) to have the healthiest skin during that particularly pesky time of the month.
So, why do we get “period skin”?
According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Kate Kleydman of Kleydman Dermatology, it’s all your endocrine system’s fault: “Fluctuations of hormones are responsible for many of the pimples, dryness, oiliness, and the blatantly frustrating things that happen on our skin.”
Most of us get period acne 7-10 days *before* we actually start bleeding, and once menstruation begins, it tends to immediately get better. “In the first half of the month, estrogen is dominant, and in the second half of the month, progesterone is dominant. During menstruation, both drop to the lowest levels,” says Dr. Kleydman. Basically, it creates “the perfect environment for the bacteria that causes acne to thrive and wreak havoc on our skin.”
You also *may* have noticed your skin is not only breaking out right before your period, but it’s much more sensitive than usual as well. Like, it almost hurts to touch your skin during this time, let alone pluck any hairs or pop any pimples (ouch!). Our friend Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology says it has to do with prostaglandins, a group of chemicals that are released as the uterine lining cells shed. “Prostaglandins cause a lot of inflammation throughout the body, including the skin,” says Dr. Howe. These pesky chemicals are also the ones that cause menstrual cramping.
If your skin is really bothering you, Dr. Howe suggests using anti-inflammatory agents such as Aleve or ibuprofen “to counteract the noxious effect of prostaglandins” and get those guys to calm down.
Your skin is always changing during your cycle, but there are skincare routines to help before, during, and after your period.
Diana Yerkes, lead esthetician of New York City’s Rescue Spa, breaks down her go-to treatment plan for period skin:
- Use headphones/hands-free devices instead of your cellphone when gabbing away with friends. During ovulation, oil production increases, which leads to the formation of occasional blemishes. This no-phone strategy minimizes bacterial growth on your face.
- Cleanse your face thoroughly to combat oil production, which can lead to clogged pores and hormonal acne. Diana recommends using a washcloth, purifying masks (add a pinch of baking soda, a natural disinfectant!), and fighting the urge to cover up with makeup.
- Stimulate blood circulation with a mini-facial at home. After cleansing, massage a dime-sized dollop of cream into your skin for about 5 minutes. Use a clean cloth to remove the residue and then head to bed. Glowing skin should greet you in the AM.
- Change your pillowcases frequently and sleep with your hair tied back. Think of allllll the stuff that lands on your pillowcase after a night of sleep — oily hair, dead skin, and maybe even a cookie crumb or two (if you’re anything like me on your period!).
Dr. Howe also recommends using a salicylic acid-containing cleanser in the week leading up to your period if you’re acne-prone. It’s “particularly effective at penetrating pores and cleaning out the excess oils that build up during that stage of the cycle.”
And what should you NOT be doing to your skin while on your period?
“Absolutely NO SCRUBBING!” says Dr. Kleydman. “I always recommend avoiding any harsh acids, scrubs, and intense cosmetic procedures. All of these things can exacerbate blemishes. Mild scrubs are okay in the week post period where your estrogen levels are high and can support quick cell regeneration giving youthful skin.”
Diana also tells us to never use coconut oil, or any oil, to cleanse skin (ugh, but I’m obsessed with coconut oil!). “Many people still believe it’s the best way to rid the skin from impurities when it’s actually counterproductive and clogs pores,” the esthetician reminds us. “Instead of layering oils to moisturize, try a balancing or oil-free cream instead.”
Now for a lightning round of final, favorite skincare tips from our experts + me!
- "Stabilizing your diet has a huge effect on the appearance of your skin,” Dr. Kleydman says. So reduce your sugar and caffeine intake and up the H2O. “Whatever your put into your body shows on your skin, it is a closed system. If you feed your system well, it will look good."
- "It’s all about soothing and making the skin more comfortable during this time," Dr. Howe reminds us.
- Diana “can’t stress enough the importance of a consistent skincare regimen at home.” Her biggest tip? “Don’t go to bed with makeup on because you are overly tired. We all have been there! The 3 minutes it takes to clean and prep your skin is nothing compared to 7 days of breakouts caused by clogged pores thanks to oil and makeup residuals.”
- I recommend looking in the mirror and saying “I love you” out loud. Seriously… it can be hard to feel confident when your skin’s all outta whack, but take a moment to remember that it’s absolutely normal to have imperfect skin. It’s a really good way to boost self-esteem and your mood.
Do you deal with the dreaded “period skin”? How do you manage, and what have you learned? Gimme some tips for a brighter glow in the comments below!