Why Your Period Messes With Your Skin (and What You Can Do About It)

Because it's bad enough to deal with your period on your wedding day


For a bride-to-be, skincare is paramount to achieving a beautiful bridal glow for your big day. From soaps to serums, chances are you’ve been exploring all the best skincare options leading up to your wedding. But how can you care for your skin when it's busy reacting to fluctuating hormones? We chatted with Dr. Shari Marchbein, board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, as well as Claire Zhao, CEO and cofounder of Amareta, for a better understanding of your skins needs.

Pimples and breakouts are increasingly common as your hormones fluctuate, says Marchbein. “Biologically, the ovaries produce hormones such as estrogen and testosterone and these levels fluctuate during the month," she explains. "Estrogen is low at the start of the menstrual cycle (your period) and spikes two weeks into the cycle at ovulation. Testosterone levels also peak at ovulation causing excess oil production as well as hormonal breakouts. All of these dips and surges can lead to breakouts, especially the larger, deep painful cystic breakouts that are more difficult to treat."

Though Marchbein says that anyone can break out at any time, many women struggle with mid-cycle flares during ovulation, and then immediately before, during, or after their period. In fact, she adds, upwards of 63 percent of women experience a premenstrual increase in the number of inflammatory pimples, and that is where a combination of oral contraceptive pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone, as well Spironolactone (an anti-hormonal medication that blocks hormones from stimulating oil glands), can be used.

Zhao, cofounder of hormonal cycle-based skincare brand Amareta agrees, adding “Our skin undergoes a series of changes throughout the 28-day cycle. Just like the body requires different nutrients during different phases of the cycle, your skin goes through conditions that call for different ingredients and treatment."

To customize your skincare throughout your cycles, the Amareta skincare line offers products for hormonal acne (most common during the luteal phase), and dull skin (most common during the menstrual phase), plus products for your skincare needs during pregnancy, all with carefully chosen ingredients and packaging.

For pregnant brides, it’s even more important to be conscious of what you’re putting on your skin and exposing yourself to. Marchbein cautions, “Most acne medications are theoretically considered to not be safe during pregnancy, including many over-the-counter products like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid,” noting, however, that some ob-gyns will allow their use, so it’s always best to discuss any products and treatments with your physician.

Marchbein adds that some safe prescription options include azaleic acid cream or foam (brand name Finacea); a topical antibiotic cream called Clindamycin; and Metronidazole cream, which is also an antibiotic. She says that in addition, "dermatologists are able to perform mild cortisone/steroid injections for large painful cysts both while pregnant and while nursing." Amareta’s line is considered pregnancy-safe, as it’s free of synthetic preservatives, fragrances, and any harsh chemical ingredients, and includes a clarifying serum and cleansing balm.

Zhao describes her favorite, the Petal Soft Cleansing Balm as a “beautiful product that is quite different from other cleansing balms you’ve tried. It’s velvety without being heavy or waxy. This concentrated balm emulsifies with water, creating a lightweight milky texture that melts impurities away, while nurturing the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Cranberry Fibers exfoliate dead skin and unclog the sebaceous glands, it's also loaded with Vitamin C which is essential for amino acid production, i.e., production of collagen.” She adds the product leaves skin, “supple and glowy, perfect for a facial treatment before your wedding day."

For even more skincare TLC, Marchbein advises that all brides-to-be (and all individuals, really) with hormonal skin seek out their local dermatologist as soon as possible. She explains, “It takes three to six months to really get breakouts under good control, and it often requires a combination of prescription creams and sometimes hormonal control, including birth control pills and Spironolactone."

Regardless of your skin’s unique and changing needs, she strongly advises not waiting until the last minute to seek treatment.

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