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THE HORMONAL CYCLE AND SKIN: THE SCIENCE BEHIND TAILORING A SKINCARE ROUTINE



The hormonal cycle of a woman has a profound impact on her body, including the skin. Hormones play an important role in regulating the skin's structure, function, and appearance. Here, we will explore how hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle affect the skin and how to curate a skin care regime to suit the skin as per its needs through the various menstrual cycle phases. 


The menstrual cycle is a complex process that is controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary- ovarian axis. Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) are released in a specific sequence during the menstrual cycle, and they play a crucial role in the regulation of the skin's physiology. During the menstrual cycle, the skin undergoes several changes due to hormonal fluctuations. The phases of the menstrual cycle are as follows: 

a) Menstrual phase (Days 1-5)  b) Follicular phase (Days 5-14)  c) Ovulation phase (Days 14-19)  and d) Luteal phase (Days 20-28) 

* The number of days varies for each woman. The above days are indicative of the cycle on average. 




One of the most prominent changes that occur during the menstrual cycle is the variation in estrogen and progesterone levels.  During the follicular phase, which occurs before ovulation, the level of estrogen increases, leading to an increase in sebum production (natural moisturizer of the skin). Irritation is less common and the skin is likely to look its best. On the other hand, during the luteal phase, which occurs after ovulation, the level of progesterone increases, causing clogged pores and inflamed skin. This leads to premenstrual acne [1]. Another change that occurs during the menstrual cycle is the variation in skin hydration. Estrogen plays a vital role in maintaining the skin's hydration by increasing the water content in the skin's outermost layer. It achieves this by increasing the amount of acid mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid in the dermis [2]. During the luteal phase, when the level of estrogen decreases, the skin's hydration decreases, leading to dry and flaky skin. 


So, how should one go about tailoring their skincare routine to suit the menstrual cycle ? 



Well, during the follicular phase, since the skin is on its “best behavior”, it is better to stick to a light routine of just cleansing and moisturizing and not mess with it too much. During Ovulation, stick to oil-free products and avoid those that could clog your pores. During the Luteal phase, keep your skin care light. Focus on hydration and avoid layering different products, especially if they are oil-based. It is best at this time to make use of products specifically meant to treat acne or to “unclog” your pores. Of course, one should also focus on their diet during this time period and try to avoid processed foods as much as possible while enriching meals with vegetables and fiber-rich foods to add vitamins to the diet [3]. 


In conclusion, hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle have a significant impact on the skin's physiology. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone regulate the skin's sebum production and hydration, leading to variations in the skin's appearance and function. Women should be aware of these changes and adjust their skincare routine accordingly to maintain healthy skin. 


REFERENCES: 

  1. How the menstrual cycle impacts your skin .By Bonnie Azoulay https://www.oviahealth.com/guide/250222/how-the-menstrual-cycle-impacts-your-skin/#:~:text=Follicular%20Phase,deplete%20as%20you%20enter%20menopause.

  2. Relationship of cutaneous moisture, sebum and pH changes of healthy skin with menstrual cycle. Nilgün Küçükaydoğan, Ekin Şavk, Meltem Uslu, Neslihan Şendur, Göksun Karaman, Serkan Demirkan. DOI: 10.4274/turkderm.galenos.2020.35683

  3. Spots, Dry and Oily Skin: How Hormones Affect Your Skin Before and During a Period.   https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/health/period/oily-skin-before-and-during-period#:~:text=of%20the%20skin.-,Your%20skin%20during%20menstruation,initial%20days%20of%20your%20cycle.

  4. Image References- Freepik

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