How to Predict Skin Changes During Your Monthly Cycle

When Auntie Flo comes visiting, she brings an entire entourage of premenstrual symptoms. And if that wasn’t enough, these PMS “guests” come and go throughout your period, such as menstrual skin. 

Even if you have a blemish-free complexion, zits may appear on it as you go through your mense. Other times, you seem to glow. This on-and-off-again situation can be discomforting, especially if there’s an event you need to attend and you want to look your best. The last thing you’d probably want is a pimple popping up when you least expect it. 

However, all’s not lost. These seemingly erratic skin irregularities actually follow a typical pattern. This may help you better predict when they arise. In this article, we’d like to share what to expect from your skin as you undergo your monthly cycle so that you can do away with unwelcome surprises.

The Key Players

First, we’ll introduce the principal actors in your menstrual production: your hormones. These are your body’s chemical messengers produced by special cells called endocrine glands.

When these glands secrete the hormones, they travel to various body parts to control how cells and organs work. Let’s break down the four most active hormones during your monthly cycle.


From the ovaries, you get estrogen. It is a group of sex hormones that develops and regulates the female reproductive system and womanly characteristics. It also makes breasts grow and widens the pelvis and hips.  


The ovaries likewise produce progesterone, another type of reproductive hormone primarily responsible for regulating the endometrium or internal lining of the uterus in support of pregnancy.

Follicle-stimulating hormone

As you can tell from its name, the follicle-stimulating hormone triggers follicular growth in the ovaries. These follicles contain immature eggs, which they nurture to optimum size. The follicles erupt later on to release the developed eggs into the abdominal cavity, a process called ovulation.

Luteinizing hormone

Produced by the pituitary gland, the luteinizing hormone regulates the ovaries, stimulating ovulation and spurring the corpus luteum (from a follicle that previously housed a mature egg) to secrete progesterone.

How Your Hormones Affect Your Cycle

Now that you have some idea of the different hormones, let’s detail out how they work your cycle, inevitably affecting your skin in one way or another.

Follicular Phase

The first stage is the follicular phase, typically lasting from Day 1 to Day 14 of your cycle.

It all begins with the hypothalamus, a gland in your brain that regulates your entire hormone system. This gland signals your pituitary gland to release the follicle-stimulating hormone, stirring your ovaries to produce 5 to 20 follicles. Each follicle is a sac containing one undeveloped egg. 

Only the healthiest egg will live into maturity (although it’s possible for two eggs to become fully grown). Then, the maturing follicle launches a burst of estrogen. This results in the thickening of your uterine lining, creating a nutrient-filled environment for the coming embryo. The body will then reabsorb the remaining follicles. 

On Day 7 or 8, the mid-follicular phase, the healthiest egg (or two) will develop rapidly, secreting large amounts of oestradiol (a type of estrogen). Increased estrogen levels stimulate collagen production and your oil glands, resulting in thicker skin and higher dermal water content. This helps protect your skin and make it more youthful. Thus, you may say that it’s at this specific time when your skin is at its radiant best.

Skincare Hack: Continue with your regular skincare routine using a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. For a quick glow-booster, use a vitamin C serum to look great instantly!

Ovulation phase

The increase in estrogen stimulates the pituitary gland to release LH or luteinizing hormone around day 14 in a typical 28-day cycle. This triggers the ovary to release a mature egg, a process called ovulation. The egg then moves towards the fallopian tube and closer to the uterus. There, it will await fertilization by a sperm, which is when you get pregnant. If the egg isn’t fertilized in 24 hours (or around 16 to 24 hours in some females), which is how long your ovulation lasts, it will die and eventually be discarded by the body. 

At the start of this phase, there’s a surge in both LH and FSH levels. But, simultaneously, estrogen levels decrease. The hormone’s decline makes skin sensitive to touch as there is less collagen. As a result, your complexion becomes less elastic, drier, and more wrinkle-prone. It may also look a bit lighter or paler because estrogen is known to promote melanin synthesis, whereas progesterone does the opposite. 

Skincare Hack: Use organic skincare products that don’t clog pores (non-comedogenic). Avoid harsh products with sulfates that wash off the skin’s protective barrier, making it more vulnerable to irritation and redness.

Luteal phase

This phase happens around Day 15 of your 28-day menstrual cycle, lasting for 14 days (or 11 to 17 days). After the release of the egg, the source follicle transforms into the corpus luteum. This mass of cells releases a lot of progesterone and some estrogen to prepare for the potential coming of the fertilized egg. The uterine lining thickens with fluids to nourish the embryo, and your milk ducts dilate. 

If you don’t become pregnant, the body will reabsorb the corpus luteum. The progesterone will then activate abdominal muscle contractions to enable your body to expel the unwanted materials from the failed fertilization. Your hormones drop to their lowest levels before you bleed, which is the onset of your period. Your menstruation signals the end of the luteal phase and the start of the menstrual phase. 

Unfortunately, the hormonal fluctuations during this stage trigger other premenstrual symptoms, such as migraine or headaches, constipation or diarrhea, and acne. Progesterone, in particular, can cause the skin to puff up as it minimizes the pores. In addition, the tourniquet effect puts pressure on the oil glands, stimulating increased sebum production (the light yellow viscous fluid from sebaceous glands. The result is clogged pores, leading to acne.

Skincare Hack: Keep your acne under control by cleansing twice daily, once in the morning and in the afternoon. Use a mild exfoliating toner with lactic acid or niacinamide. If you have sensitive skin, avoid using beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. Finish up with a water-based moisturizer.

Menstrual phase

When you get your period, you’re at the menstrual phase, with a typical duration of 3 to 7 days (though it can last longer with some women). Here, your body is getting rid of your thickened uterine lining and some blood, mucus, and tissue from the uterus. 

The premenstrual symptoms incurred by the hormonal shifts before the menstrual phase are now lording it over your cycle. Your progesterone and estrogen levels are also low because your reproductive system no longer needs them to support a baby. So you also experience the same PMS symptoms of body aches and pains, mood swings and irritability, and problematic skin. 

Skincare Hack: To relieve acne, try a warm compress 3 to 4 times a day for about 10 to 15 minutes per application if you want to remove the pus. On the other hand, use a cold compress for about 5 to 10 minutes to reduce inflammation. In addition, benzoyl peroxide will help control the bacteria on your skin.

The Wrap Up

By understanding how the different hormones and phases affect your skin, you can better control and manage dermal issues during your monthly cycle. Additionally, keep a consistent skincare regimen, practice sleep hygiene, avoid acne triggers such as high-carb and high-sugar edibles, and indulge in skin-friendly foods like salmon and mackerel with omega-3 fatty acids and leafy greens full of antioxidants. Lastly, wear period underwear to keep yourself free of leaks and worries.

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