What is cyclical skincare & how can I practice it?

This is a really beautiful introduction to what is cyclical skincare and how this is affecting you and  your skin, particularly throughout the different phases of your menstrual cycle. I'm going to be  diving in and explaining to you how your skin changes and the best ingredients to focus on during  each phase so that you can work with your skin as it's changing. Your skin can change quite  dramatically, or subtly, from one phase to the next and you might not be noticing, but this is just  bringing in a bit of presence and understanding to this topic. If you are not currently cycling with  the menstrual cycles, your skin is changing along with the seasons, the lunar cycle and according  to your current life stage. So, this information is potent whether you cycle or not. 

To begin with, I’ll be running through how your skin changes throughout the cycle. You may or  may not be aware of how your body is changing throughout your cycles. When you are cycling  there's two main hormones that are impacting your skin in particular: progesterone and oestrogen. Progesterone has really close links with the oil production in your skin. When  progesterone levels are higher, your oil production in your skin is also higher. And with oestrogen;  your collagen production is linked quite closely with this. So when your oestrogen is higher, you'll  notice that your skin is more firm and plump and when it's lower, you'll notice that it really gets a  bit more dull and not quite as elastic. You might notice when you wake up in the morning that you  might have more lines on your face from your pillow case when your oestrogen levels are lower,  like when you’re menstruating, than when they're higher, such as around ovulation. That’s  something you might notice as you age as well, as oestrogen levels begin to deplete. 

When you're in your menstrual phase, your oil production and your collagen production are at  their lowest and this is because your oestrogen and progesterone fall at this time in your cycle,  and then as you're going into your pre-ovulatory phase, your oestrogen levels gradually increase.  You might notice the increase in collagen and blood circulation as you lead up to ovulation, when  your collagen production is at its highest. Firm, plump & rosy cheeks! As you're going into that  premenstrual phase, your luteal phase, this is where progesterone is at its highest, and your oil  production is increasing. 

What products can you focus on during each phase? 

In order to help balance your oil levels and promote healthy, glowing skin during every phase of  your cycle, especially if you're someone that experiences breakouts and problematic skin, this  could really supporting your skin as it is changing. 

So, in your menstrual phase, I recommend focusing on gentle exfoliation to get rid of some of  those drier skin cells. Our menstrual phase and winter time is closely aligned. In winter, our skin  cell renewal slows down, as it does during menstruation too. So really gentle exfoliation, just to  help promote more cell renewal, is going to be really beneficial. If you often tend to experience  drier skin, focus more on lighter products. Don't overdo it. I know this sounds counterintuitive.  When people experience dry skin, they tend to really layer on all of those moisturisers but you  really want to reel that back and be really light with your skincare products. If you're using oils I  recommend light oils like Apricot kernel oil - it’s a really amazing oil for your skin during this  phase. 

As you're leading into your pre-ovulatory phase, that's where you want to increase your products  a little bit if you'd like, some gentle facial steaming helps promote that blood flow in this phase,  and really helps to open up your pores and allow all of your products to absorb effectively. This is  also a great step to incorporate into your pre-ovulatory phase as you’re helping to get rid of all  those dead skin cells left over from your menstrual phase. Around ovulation, this is a really great  time for skin maintenance. However, if there are hormonal imbalances, ovulation breakouts can  occur, even though it's a time where you think that your skin would be at its best. It's really quite  common for people to get breakouts around ovulation, this is also down to the fact that our skin is  more susceptible to bacteria in this phase. Our bodies are focusing all of their energy on  reproduction, and not necessarily our skin. If you're getting quite aggressive, or repeated,  breakouts around ovulation, I definitely recommend talking to a naturopath that's going to be able  to support you and help manage your symptoms, and get to the root of your hormonal  challenges. When you're around ovulation, a great thing to focus on is really gentle, antibacterial  products. Things like gentle essential oils incorporated into skincare is a good example. Also, be mindful of over-exfoliating, or using coarse exfoliants, as this may cause damage to your natural  skin barrier & increase your risk of breakouts. 

Finally, the phase that everyone loves to discuss the most, particularly because of those  premenstrual symptoms, is that premenstrual phase. Oil production is at its highest in our skin  during this phase. This natural increase in oil is highly beneficial and it's really, really important to  be focusing on really being gentle and careful not to strip your skin in this phase, as this can lead  to further issues and a hyper-exaggerated production of oil in your skin. Our skin in the  premenstrual phase can be quite inflamed and more puffy and that can cause our pores to  become clogged. So be mindful not to increase inflammation in this phase by using 100 different  products on your skin. You may also like to focus on anti-inflammatory foods & natural, calming  products on your skin in this phase. 

Something really, really beautiful to focus on in the luteal phase is using Gua Sha & facial rollers.  These are really beautiful ancient tools to help promote lymphatic drainage. Facial massage  techniques are a totally free way of incorporating these practices if you don't have these tools,  and it is just as effective. Check out some videos online on how to do this. And it's just a really,  really lovely way of moving that lymphatic flow and increasing blood circulation in your skin. In the  luteal phase, you want to focus more on anti inflammatory as I was saying the skin is a little bit  more inflamed and a bit more clogged up in this phase. So focus on products that are very, very  gentle and anti-inflammatory. Jojoba oil is going to be really beneficial for your skin in this phase,  especially if you get excessively oily skin. Contrary to what you might have heard in skincare ads,  oil cleansing is incredible for your skin and is great at managing oil production. Oil cleansing helps  whether you have dry, combination or oily skin but oily skin is definitely one that I love to educate  about because it is such a precursor to getting those breakouts premenstrually. 

Our skin is a reflection of what is going on inside as well. So, tracking your menstrual cycle and  your skin alongside it is going to be really, really helpful. And then speaking to somebody about  your skin throughout the cycle is going to always help as well. I always always, always  recommend chatting with somebody that's going to help you, like a naturopath, to address  underlying hormonal issues that are causing your skin problems. A bit of change to your facial oil  production throughout your cycle is totally normal, but when it's getting really out of hand that’s  when we can be reaching out to people that can support with that.

Cyclical Skin Care

Hannah McGregor-Shenton

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