Should You Switch Up Your Skincare Routine When You're on Your Period?

A crop of new skincare brands purport that tailoring products to your menstrual cycle will help solve hormonal skin woes—but does the science support it?

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Knours sheet mask product for hormonal acne treatment

These days, skincare brands are delving deeper and deeper into the root causes of acne, taking things like diet and hormones into consideration with more transparency than ever before (see: an entire section of hormonal acne product suggestions on Sephora’s website). That also means majorly considering the age-old complaints of hormonal acne sufferers about chin zits and extra-oily T-zones, and as a result formulating beauty products that work to address your skin’s needs as you go through a menstrual cycle.

Enter Knours, the skincare brand that goes so far as to tell you when to switch up your skincare products throughout the month—and with what. “Hormones have a pretty big effect on your skin,” reads the Knours site. “That means your skin—and what it craves—is changing day to day. So why are you using the same product regimen 24/7?”

“We’re trying to normalize conversations around hormonal skin effects,” says Jessica Chung, the brand’s VP of marketing and sales. Hormonal skin changes can be the result of many external and internal factors, including periods, aging, the weather, or even changes like menopause or pregnancy. Together with a Knours-designed app called U-Kno, which tracks your period and offers product suggestions based on where you’re at in your cycle, the brand’s ultimate goal is to keep your skin at its peak condition, which, for many people, is during ovulation.

“Common hormonal skin conditions are acne (which tends to manifest around the jawline and chin), redness, dryness, dullness and sensitivity,” explains Chung. “Knours products complement the cycle and address these changes directly.” Its offerings include a Skin Meditation Gel Cream and a Be Kind To Your Skin Sheet Mask—products that can certainly be used any time of the month, but are especially useful to have on hand to soothe stressed-out “PMS skin.”

Skincare brand Amareta takes the concept of syncing beauty regimens to menstrual cycles one step further, splitting up their product offerings into four sections: Basic (to be used by anyone, anytime), Glowing (for cycle weeks one and two), Clarifying (for cycle weeks three and four) and Expecting (to be used throughout pregnancy and postpartum). “These anti-blemish formulas were specifically designed for use during the third and fourth weeks of your cycle when progesterone and testosterone levels rise, increasing the likelihood of hormonal breakouts and skin stress,” instructs the brand of its Clarifying products, which feature ingredients like witch hazel and tea tree oil, to treat and prevent breakouts.

But is the science behind switching up your skincare based on your cycle legit? Well, it’s not not legit. “As your body prepares for menstruation, your testosterone levels will rise,” says Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of customizable skincare brand Curology. “These higher testosterone levels influence the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which can lead to clogged pores.” That extra sebum (aka oil) interacts with a bacteria that’s always on our skin, called P. acnes, which thrives in excess oil, says Dr. Lortscher. This creates an enzyme that breaks down the sebum into free fatty acids and results in pimples that are redder and more swollen and tender than usual. (Ugh. Sound familiar?)

That being said, while it’s a good idea to be ready with a tube of spot treatment and a calming sheet mask seven to ten days before the first day of your period, you don’t really need to worry about meticulously tracking your cycle and stocking up on a different cleanser to rotate through each week. In fact, all that change could be detrimental.

“Once you’ve found an acne treatment that works for your skin, it’s important to keep using it for maintenance and not stop based on where you are in your menstruation cycle,” advises Dr. Lortscher. “Although topical acne treatments treat acne while you’re using them, they don’t cure the skin’s long-term tendency to create pimples.” In fact, Dr. Lortscher explains that, often, zits can flare up once you stop using a targeted acne treatment, leaving you right back where you started. So when it comes to hormonal acne treatments, if it’s ain’t broke you’d probably be wise to not fix it.

Not to mention, everyone’s period is different and can yield varied physical side effects, skin-related and otherwise. So, a one-size-fits-all-cycles system probably isn’t universally effective. And, at the end of the day, having control over your period—and your skincare regime, for that matter—is a privilege not all people who menstruate have, whether that’s due to cultural, social or socioeconomic barriers.

So while there’s no cure for hormonal acne, being armed with the knowledge of what’s happening in your body during a menstrual cycle—plus a good skin treatment, concealer and highlighter (PMS isn’t exactly a recipe for luminosity, after all)—makes it possible to have, dare we say it, a happier period, pimples and all.

Related:

I Attempted a Zero-Waste Beauty Routine for a Month
What’s All the Hype Around Edible Collagen?
The Hydration Heroes You Need in Your Beauty Arsenal

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