The latest skincare trend in formulas designed around the menstrual cycle. But, is it all just a marketing gimmick, or could we really benefit from period-tailored skincare? One writer puts a new set of period serums through their paces for a month to find out.
As consumers, we’ve become increasingly savvy around what different skincare ingredients can actually do for our skin, and so we’re asking more from our products than ever. No longer will we accept empty promises; we are steadfast in our demand for products that perform, and so brands are increasingly expected to back up their skincare claims with hard science. And one area of the skin world that I’m personally fairly sceptical about is latest trend of period skincare, or skincare tailored to your menstrual cycle.
Everyone who menstruates will have a different experience with their skin, but it’s a commonly-held belief that acne worsens around menstruation, and brands are taking that knowledge and running with it.
Whether it’s entire routines based around every stage of the menstrual cycle or specific products designed for your week of menstruation, period skincare is a growing phenomenon. New insta-friendly skincare brand Faace sells a period face mask, Parisian skincare line Typology has formulated a whole range of serums to help skin adapt to the effects of your cycle, while Cahaya recently launched its Period Set.
As much as I love a new skincare treat that will tackle my dehydrated, acne-prone skin, I’m a natural sceptic. While I can admit that my skin definitely changes throughout my cycle, becoming both drier and spottier in the week before my period, do I really need to switch up my skincare to follow suit?
“Our skin is very sensitive to changes in our hormones,” explains Dr Sam Bunting, skincare expert and founder of Dr Sam’s skincare. “In the second half of our cycle, rising levels of progestogens and androgens kick our oil glands into overdrive. This encourages the acne-promoting bacteria to thrive and leads to premenstrual blemishes typically in the lower ‘U’ part of the face.”
That’s not to say these changes will affect all of us, however. “Everyone’s skin is different, but I’d say the majority of my female patients experience some degree of increased sebum production and blemishes at this time. Hormonal contraception mitigates a lot of this fluctuation and is helpful at preventing premenstrual flares.”
But while our skin may change throughout the month, do we need to adapt our skincare choices to match? “I think that a sound skincare routine in someone with this concern will benefit from the use of non-comedogenic skincare and the regular use of a retinoid, like my Flawless Nightly Serum,” Dr Bunting confirms. “This helps prevent breakouts by keeping pores clear. I then recommend the use of an anti-inflammatory like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for any breakthrough blemishes.” She also recommends upping the ante on niacinamide around this time, as it’s an anti-inflammatory and can replaces ceramides to calm inflamed spots. “Azelaic acid is also useful as it reduces the red marks spots leave behind,” she adds.
Armed with this newfound knowledge of how my cycle really impacts my skin and the key ingredients to be looking out for, I decided to put some of the new period skincare products to the test.
My product of choice? Typology’s Woman: Periodic Serums, £44.90. The set comprises four different serums in teeny-tiny bottles, each one designed to meet the needs of the corresponding week in your cycle. Naturally, I had to give them a try.
Week One is for when you first start your period, and is described as a “hydrating and soothing serum”. The key ingredients are hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, bisabolol and cornflower floral water.
My usual hormonal acne was in full force by the time I got round to trying this serum. I layered on the serum in the morning after my usual cleanser, and followed up with my usual moisturiser and SPF. As far as I could tell, my hormonal acne did clear up quicker than usual, and by the time the seven days were up I had very few spots.
Week Two is designed to help restore glow post-period, and is described as a “suppleness and radiance serum”. The active ingredients are vitamin C and various fruit acids.
This week, with my acne already looking better than usual at this point in the month, I was hoping the serum would give me some serious glow. I applied the serum post-cleanse and pre-moisturiser before bed, and crossed my fingers for some vitamin C magic. It never materialised, and I have to admit that I just didn’t see much effect from this formula.
Week Three is described as a “hydrating and astringent serum”, and the active ingredients are basically just sugar. No, really, “sugar extracted from wheat and ginger extract”. This was the one I was most sceptical about.
I’m always happy for a little extra hydration, but I wasn’t sure ‘astringent’ was something I wanted to hear in my skincare routine. In skincare terms, it generally refers to a product that helps the pores contract and makes skin less oily. As someone with dry and dehydrated skin, I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me. The reality was less concerning and more underwhelming; I didn’t notice any difference to my skin outside of the norm, either good or bad.
For me, Week Four was the serum that I thought would really put the range to the test, as this is the week before my period when progesterone levels rise and hormonal acne shows its face. Described as a “mattifying and anti-blemish serum”, this was what I really came for. The active ingredients are seaweed extract and zinc.
This was my favourite serum of the set as I felt like it was actually doing something. I’m all for anything involving zinc as my skin seems to react well to it, but my skin LOVED this serum. It drank it up, and I definitely had fewer breakouts in the week before my period than I usually would.
I also tested Faace’s Period Mask, £22.50, which is designed to boost hydration and calm angry spots. I have to admit, a large part of why I love it is the dreamy scent of clary sage and lavender that makes me want to fall asleep, but I also loved the effect on my skin. It definitely helped keep my hormonal breakouts under control. While I wouldn’t use it as a priming moisturiser, the brand’s second suggested use, I did enjoy using it as an overnight face mask.
The final verdict
After a month of testing, I have to agree with Dr Bunting that providing you have a solid skincare routine already, you’re unlikely to need to switch up your skincare routine around your period. Period skincare may be partly just a marketing tactic, there are benefits, however. Our skin changes with our hormones, and you’ve probably been unconsciously adapting your skincare to those hormonal shifts already as you look in the mirror each morning and work out which of your skincare formulas to apply.
I don’t think I feel the need to have a skincare routine that is as closely aligned with my menstrual cycle as the Typology set, but I did really enjoy shifting the focus in the week of my period. All in all, I wouldn’t say you need a whole routine that’s intimately in-tune with your menstrual cycle, but it might be worth paying a little more attention to what you put on your skin at ‘that’ time of the month.
Images: Bethany Fulton / courtesy of brands.