4 Women Show Us How Their Skin Changes Throughout Their Menstrual Cycle

Did you know that between one- and two-thirds of female acne sufferers will have a flare-up around the time of their period? According to London-based dermatologist, Dr Justine Kluk, one study found that adult women may be more likely to experience this breakout around the time of menstruation than teenagers!
"We know that spots are caused by a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells getting trapped in our pores, along with inflammation from a bacterium called p.acnes, but what we don’t precisely understand is how hormones affect this process," she continues. "Progesterone levels rise to a peak mid-cycle before dropping off again, and may escalate congestion through increased sebum production," but androgens (a.k.a. male hormones like testosterone) also contribute to spots. "These levels are pretty stable throughout the cycle, but are relatively high compared to falling oestrogen and progesterone levels just before our period starts," says Dr Kluk. "This may be why oil production and pore blocking by dead skin cells peak at this stage and is the most likely explanation for breakouts at this time."
So if hormonal breakouts are the bane of your cycle, is there anything you can do to minimise them? Contrary to popular belief, yes. "It is important to stick to your usual skincare routine as much as possible," Dr Kluk says. Remember to cleanse twice daily and only use non-comedogenic (non pore-clogging) beauty products and makeup – this is usually stated on the label. Dr Kluk continues: "Adding topical benzoyl peroxide (which you can only get on prescription), retinol or salicylic acid to your routine can help unblock pores by removing dead skin cells, decrease shine and reduce redness and inflammation."
Oral medication such as spironolactone and the pill may also help keep breakouts under control around your period. "If the aforementioned self-help measures are not enough," Dr Kluk says, "the combined contraceptive pill can work very well for women who suffer with worsening breakouts around the time of their period. Pills with anti-androgen activity can also be especially helpful. Yasmin is an example, but beyond this, more specialised oral treatment options, such as antibiotics, Roaccutane and spironolactone may be necessary but should always be discussed with a consultant dermatologist."
To show just how troublesome hormonal acne can be, we got four readers to document their skin over the course of a month to see how it changed depending on where they were in their cycle. Click through to see what happened.
1 of 20
Chelsey, 21

It's day one and I'm menstruating but I'm a bit surprised as my pimples are usually larger when I’m on my period. I wonder if documenting my breakouts has scared them off. Two days after this picture, I feel a big spot coming but I'm actually not in the least bit upset about it.
2 of 20
It's day four of my period. I went for my usual hike and have never felt so refreshed – a new direction today. I put away all my cleansers and decided that I will only be washing my face with water. I have extremely sensitive skin and I think that using cleansers every day made me susceptible to irritations.
3 of 20
It's day seven of my cycle and I'm not feeling as rosy as I did yesterday. I have another pimple growing on my cheek and the area is red and painful.
4 of 20
Today is day 10 of my cycle. Although my right side is clearing up, I’m a bit anxious for this stubborn chin pimple to fully heal.
5 of 20
It's a week after my period and my skin is still trying to heal itself. I was stressing out about this chin spot the other day but I’ll just let it be. I’m just happy about how clear the rest of my face is right now.
6 of 20
Mairi, 32

I'm starting this diary a week after my period and my skin is at its best. Redness is reduced and there are fewer spots. The ones on my jawline begin to reduce, too.
7 of 20
Almost two weeks later, my skin is still clearing apart from the persistent buggers on my chin and jawline. Apart from that, I'm feeling good.
8 of 20
It's day 17 of my cycle and spots are appearing again. I'm getting big individual spots on my cheeks. The jawline redness is still reduced but sweat is really irritating my skin and I want to scratch a lot. I feel a little frustrated. The next day, the spots on my cheeks spread a little and the redness along my jawline reappears. I've also noticed lots of whiteheads, which are really painful when my hair gets caught in them! My face was bleeding this morning because I must have been scratching them in the night. My forehead is clear and my nose is slightly puffy and red but there are no spots there. Still, my face is sore and irritable.
9 of 20
It's day 21 and I'm counting down to my next period. My skin begins to get super red and more spots appear on the jaw and chin area. I want to scratch my face off and hate looking in the mirror as I want to squeeze everything. I resist, though. Scarring only makes it worse. The next day lots of whiteheads appear. This time of the month makes me low; I try to focus on the 60% of my face that isn't covered but I always tend to fixate on the acne. I've stopped using my skin treatment prescribed by a dermatologist as it makes my skin too sensitive in the sun.
10 of 20
I'm back on my period this week and there's only a breakout along my jawline. I think the sun and a slower pace of life (I'm in Tulum, by the way) has helped.
11 of 20
Hati, 22

I'm somewhere in the middle of my cycle, not on my period, so my pimples are flatter and much less red than they've been in about a month. A few days later, and the redness remains calm but white pimples and lumps begin to appear under the skin and all round the chin area.
12 of 20
It's now the first day of my period but my skin is actually pretty settled.
13 of 20
I'm now two days into my period and spots have started to appear around my lips. My skin remains the same for around five days after.
14 of 20
Nine days after my period, there are spots around my mouth and they are yellow, sore and not settling. A few days later and they still haven't gone down but the redness is less visible.
15 of 20
Two weeks after my period, my skin is the worst it has been since I started this test and remains so for another week. Twenty-eight days after my last period, I'm back on and my skin feels normal – it settles slightly.
16 of 20
Zachi, 27

My skin is usually at its best at this halfway point between periods. It feels calm and quite clear, and so do I. Today is a good day. The next day I feel more or less the same, just a little more aware of the scars and my uneven skin tone, which actually makes me feel worse about my skin than the acne does.
17 of 20
I feel tired today and my forehead is having a little outbreak. My skin is oily, too, but there's too much on my mind to actually worry about it.
18 of 20
My period is two weeks early, which is surprising as it’s usually on time. I’m on a course in the middle of nowhere with a load of women, so maybe everyone’s hormones are messing with mine? I haven’t looked in a mirror for a few days, so not feeling bad about my skin. Almost halfway through my period and more than my acne itself, I am very aware of my scars. I feel tired and shitty, inside and out.
19 of 20
Today I am in the pre-ovulation phase and so my skin is quite clear and calm. A sweaty sheen with a little bit of powder actually makes my skin look good! I feel like the heat and constant sweating are on the whole better for my skin than winter when it is a lot drier, because then it overcompensates by producing more oil and I experience more breakouts.
20 of 20
With a week and a half to go until my period, my skin is playing up, especially on my forehead, cheeks and chin. The scars are not helping either. But although I feel like this is not a great day for my skin, I decide not to cover it up and just wear eyeliner; that in itself is making me feel good.

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