Total Beauty discusses skincare throughout your monthly cycle
Dr. Booth enlightens Total Beauty on the link between hormones and the appearance of skin, and how to maximize your "good skin" days throughout your menstrual cycle.
8 WAYS YOUR DAILY SKIN CARE REGIMEN SHOULD CHANGE ALONG WITH YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
You probably know about the link between hormones and acne, but were you aware that your menstrual cycle has a lot to do with "good skin days" too? Here's how to deal with the way your period affects your skin every day of the month
If you've ever experienced time-of-the-month breakouts, you know all too well about the close relationship between hormones and skin.What you probably didn't realize, however, is that you have your cycle to thank when your skin looks good "Women are supposed to have a different appearance throughout the month," says Rebecca Booth, MD, a gynecologist and author of "The Venus Week." "Mother Nature designed us to look better when we are more fertile." Therefore, higher estrogen levels generally equate to better-looking skin.
Even if you haven't had a pimple in 10 years, your hormones are constantly affecting your skin -- and how they do it is directly related to your age. "Most women reach peak fertility -- and peak collagen production -- at about age 27," says Booth. "Then it starts a gradual decline that picks up speed around ages 35, 42, and finally menopause." Understanding the relationship between your estrogen levels and your skin can help you deal with both the changes over the course of the month and the changes throughout your life. By making the most of your collagen-producing days, you'll see long-term benefits.
Unfortunately, if you're on The Pill the same rules don't apply. "The birth control pill is often credited with curing acne," explains Booth. "And it works. But it also mutes the good days -- making them harder to detect." And even though fluctuations still exist, those in the know suggest sticking with a regular regimen throughout the month.
To make the most of how your hormones and skin jibe, follow these eight tips and have a vibrant complexion all month long.
DURING YOUR PERIOD: USE A SKIN-SOOTHER
Cycle Day One corresponds to the first day of your period, at which point your hormones are very low. "You feel a little washed out," explains Booth. "And you may assume it's from blood loss, but there are also chemicals called prostaglandins that cause the run-down feeling by increasing inflammation." These prostaglandins are lipids that are released by our cells -- and they contribute to puffy, blotchy skin during the first few days of your cycle.
DURING YOUR PERIOD: AMP UP THE GLOW
Prostaglandins are also responsible for making your skin appear dull. "They give the skin a pallor," says Booth. "And low estrogen levels don't help either." However, you can fake a glow by using a serum, moisturizer, or foundation that contains light-reflecting particles.
THE WEEK BEFORE OVULATION: MAXIMIZE YOUR "GOOD SKIN" DAYS
Do you sometimes marvel at how amazing your skin looks? Rest assured that it's not just good lighting or the serum you put on the night before. "A cycling woman will have her best skin days when her estrogen is at its highest," says Booth. "This occurs right before ovulation -- when she's at her most fertile." Pores are at their smallest, and your skin is more hydrated -- making it glow. Even collagen production increases during this time of the month. "The Venus Week," the title of Booth's book, refers to this optimal phase of a woman's cycle.Booth suggests becoming aware of this particular time so that you can fully enjoy it. "This is the week to go without makeup," she says. "There's no better aphrodisiac than feeling good about your appearance."
RIGHT BEFORE YOUR PERIOD: FEND OFF BREAKOUTS
Your skin most likely looks its worst during the days leading up to your period. Doctors refer to this phase of your cycle, as well as the days of menstruation, as the "reset phase" because your body realizes that it's not pregnant and prepares for another month of ovulation. It's also when estrogen levels dip and androgens (like testosterone) trigger your skin to produce more oil. "If your skin tends to be problematic during these days, use a product with salicylic or glycolic acid to help control oil production," says Shamban. It's also the perfect time to add a treatment mask to your regular routine.
ALL MONTH: USE SKIN CARE WITH PHYTOESTROGENS
There's a lot of fear surrounding estrogen treatments, but they're not to be confused with phytoestrogens, which are something completely different. These ingredients are commonly found in skin care, and there's nothing scary about them. "The molecules are derived from plants like soy, barley, red clover, and flaxseeds," explains Booth. (You've probably seen soy in skin care, and you may already be familiar with other phytoestrogen ingredients like resveratrol.) "They affect the estrogen receptors on the skin, and stimulate the cells to hold on to water and increase collagen production." Booth recommends Veneffect Anti-Aging Intensive Moisturizer, $185.
ALL MONTH: WATCH YOUR DIET, SUPPLEMENTS, AND EXERCISE
You probably don't realize just how much diet and exercise affect your skin. "Healthy eating, supplements, and exercise can help enhance your Venus week," says Booth. "For example, omega-3s will help stabilize your glow." They may even help prolong it past just one week of the month. She also recommends eating foods that contain phytoestrogens. "Dark chocolate is actually really good for your skin -- the polyphenols are phytoestrogens. Peanuts, flaxseeds, and chickpeas are all great sources, as well."
Exercise is also extremely important. "It helps regulate your hormones and increases circulation to the skin," explains Shamban. By neutralizing hormonal highs and lows, working out can also minimize extreme good and bad skin days.
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