Can living in tune to your period sort out your hormonal skin? Writer Chloe Burcham tried it to find out.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who doesn’t, to some degree, hate her period.
Of course, some people have worse symptoms than others, but generally speaking periods are pretty crap.
Then the period itself comes which isn’t a whole lot of fun either. There’s also the aftermath to consider: my skin just about starts to clear up and everything’s rosy for a week or two, then the cycle starts all over again.
For the past 15 years or so I’ve pretty much lived month-by-month battling against my period – as I think most of us probably do. I’ve been less than prepared when the aforementioned pre-menstrual cramps come around, and I usually hate every minute of the messy, painful main event.
But, according to Charlotte Ferguson, founder of Disciple London, living in tune with our periods – and making a few lifestyle and skincare tweaks at certain times of the month – could be the secret to being happier.
So, with nothing to lose, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give Cyclical Living a try.
What is Cyclical Living?
Cyclical Living is, in a nutshell, the belief that all things happen in cycles - think the cycle of the seasons, moon cycles and your period cycle. By embracing, and living somewhat ‘in tune’ to your cycle, rather than fighting against it, many believe that you may be able to stay one step ahead of your period and manage some of the symptoms before they begin.
I first heard of the phenomenon when interviewing Ferguson, who told me she’s been following the principle for a few years.
“I feel like my life now has a natural ebb and flow that makes everything from social engagements to work decisions so much easier” she told me.
“Following your monthly cycle instead of expecting yourself to be the same day in and day out is the secret to living an aligned, empowered life. There’s time for everything, from intense productivity, goal setting, play, adventure, rest, and reflection. Being more in touch with what works for your body at certain times means that you feel more in control of your life, clearer thinking and easier going.”
Not only that, but as the peak and trough of hormones throughout your cycle massively affect your skin, switching up your skincare throughout your cycle could potentially help if you suffer hormonal breakouts.
With this in mind, I decided to try out Ferguson’s cyclical living tips to see if (and how) it could affect some of the not-so-fun side-effects that happen every month.
How to embrace Cyclical Living
Everyone’s cycles are a different so it’s best to use the below as a guide. Ferguson says it’s easiest to think of your cycle like the four seasons – winter, spring, summer and autumn.
Spring, AKA The Follicular Phase: just after your period has ended is the time to load up on vitamins
“In the first two weeks of your cycle (starting from after your period has ended) oestrogen begins to increase which means that skin begins to rebalance and glow, while hair is strong and glossy,” Ferguson says. You might also feel more positive, confident, energised and outgoing, so it’s a great time to fill your social calendar, see friends and tick things off that everlasting to-do list.
Skincare wise, during the ‘spring’, Ferguson says it’s a great time to incorporate ingredients like Vitamin C. Your skin is likely to be clear and calm and vitamin C will help to boost and extend that radiance and glow.
I’m a big fan of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, £135 already, but as it’s so expensive, I often only use it when my skin is feeling dull and needs an extra helping hand. However, following Ferguson’s advice, I decided to try and prolong the period of ‘good skin’ by using it daily during this ‘Spring’ phase.
My skin definitely looked glowy, clear and radiant, and the redness from previous hormonal breakouts along my jaw dramatically reduced. Don’t want to spend a fortune? La Roche Posay’s Pure Vitamin C10, £38 is a brilliant, more-affordable yet still highly effective option.
During this time, I took advantage of feeling refreshed and more upbeat. I filled my evenings with plans, I saw friends I’d been meaning to catch up with for ages and said yes to all work events. Ferguson was right— I felt positive and generally pretty happy all round.
Summer, AKA The Ovulation phase: the time for self-care
“During this next phase, you’ll probably be feeling pretty good, so focus on things that promote general well-being and hormone balance as your body gears up for ovulation.” Ferguson suggests.
It’s a nice time to incorporate a bit of ‘wellness’ into your skincare routine, too. Try Disciple London’s Good Skin Face Oil-Serum, £23. The soothing scent can apparently help you feel more focused, and taking the time to really massage it into the skin with a jade roller or gua sha is said to help calm your mind and ease tension from your skin and facial muscles.
I tend to agree that during this phase in my cycle, my skin is usually at its best. However, even I’d be the first to admit that it’s when my skin is playing ball that I often get a bit lazy and forget to give it any TLC.
With this in mind I made the effort to apply a hydrating face mask every few days (Origins Drink Up Intensive, £22, is my one true love because it leaves skin plump and radiant) and also took the time to gua sha with a facial oil before bed. ZEN!
Autumn, AKA The Luteal Phase: all about prevention
“Now is the time to start thinking about preventative skincare” Ferguson advises. I know, for me, it’s during this time that my skin usually goes completely out-of-whack. Towards the end of the week, I start to feel painful, under-the-skin spots brewing and my usually normal-to-dry skin becomes oilier.
“The third week of your period is when oestrogen drops, progesterone and testosterone surge and skin becomes oily, pores become clogged and inflamed and your scalp can also become oily and irritated. This is the perfect breeding ground for acne causing bacteria” Ferguson explains.
Following Ferguson’s advice, I started to incorporate products containing salicylic acid into my skincare routine. I swapped my usual cleanser for Exuviance’s Clarifying Facial Cleanser, £25, a blend of salicylic and mandelic acid, together with tea-tree oil and pro-vitamin B5 to cleanse deeper into the pores and clean out excess oil and bacteria. It leaves skin feeling super clean, but not tight or stripped. I then applied Glossier’s Super Pure Niacinamide and Zinc Serum, £24, every evening which I find calms skin and definitely manages to keep the usual painful cyst-like spots under control.
It’s during this time that I’m usually feeling a bit less inclined to be social too. I hate bailing on friends, so normally end up dragging myself out, only to feel knackered and burnt out afterwards.
So instead, with a bit of forward planning, I allowed myself to completely chill. I saw friends in my lunchbreak instead, when I knew I’d have a bit more energy, and allowed myself to be a hermit in the evenings without feeling guilty about it.
Winter, The Menstrual Phase: for healing
Going into week four, aka the week of your actual period, skin can become more sensitive, so it’s good to look for skincare that’s simple and doesn’t contain fragrance. “If you do have a few spots this week, start using a gentle retinol cream or treatment to help skin heal more quickly and reduce scarring,” Ferguson recommends.
My go-to spot treatment has been Zitsticka Killa patches, £27. They penetrate the blemish directly and dispense zit-zapping ingredients right into to the middle of the spot. Fortunately, I didn’t have any big pimples appear this month. I’d like to think it could be due to the steps I’ve been taking, but I did s one on to my jawline where I do usually get a recurrent pimple for good measure.
Generally speaking, I felt less drained than usual. I think planning ahead and not forcing myself to say yes to everything allowed my body (and mind) to chill and recuperate – and my skin definitely saw the benefits too.
I think that embracing some of these cyclical practices is something I’m 100% likely to continue in future. I’m sure, when it comes to skincare, it’s not a completely fail safe method, and if you’re suffering from chronic acne then it’s definitely a good idea to go to your doctor or dermatologist to discuss your options.
For me, though, a little forward planning and strategic skincare choices can make a big difference to how my skin, body and mind reacts during the rest of the month.
I think I’m converted.
Main image: Getty