by Annie Tevelin, SkinOwl Founder
I will never forget the day I went to my seventh dermatologist in Los Angeles to get to the bottom of my cystic acne. To paraphrase: Upon asking him if my menstrual cycle could be the reason for my cystic acne, he replied, ‘Absolutely not. Would you want to go on birth control to see if that could help?’ I left even more confused than when I got there.
It was at this moment that I realized how many people, like myself, were out in the world struggling to understand their acne to no avail. Every day of every month, my skin would erupt and decorate my cheeks, chin and jawline with purple ‘couldn’t pop you if I tried’ bumps that left me helpless, humiliated and desperate for answers. There were no ‘good skin days’ and I was tired of people telling me to ‘lower my stress’ and ‘stop eating dairy.’ As I look back on the last ten years, I now see that this was the beginning of SkinOwl. I went back to school to study Cosmetic Chemistry and got to work formulating in my kitchen. This was going to be my portal for helping people with their most stubborn skin issues, especially when it came to understanding their menstrual cycle.
Here’s what I know to be true: Everyone’s hormone cascade is unique and deserves an accurate profile. Some people have more estrogen, some people have more testosterone. The magic is in discovering what your hormone cascade looks like so you can nurture it in the best way possible. Here are my top tips for how best to understand your acne and sync your cycle with your skincare:
- It all begins with a blood test. Not one. Four of them. One day a week, for four weeks. This will allow a doctor or naturopath to see the entire hormone landscape. One blood test will only show a moment in time. Asking for a ‘full hormone panel’ blood test once a week will ensure that a doctor sees the ebbs and flows of your hormone cascade.
- While you’re awaiting your blood results for the month, track your cycle on your phone calendar. Report what you see in your skin - is it oily right before your period? Does your acne flare up before, during or after your cycle? Does your skin look fatigued? I recommend tracking for three months so you can accurately see patterns across each month.
- Once you have these results, you can note what stage of your cycle you’re in: menstruation, the follicular phase (post- menstruation), ovulation (roughly two weeks after the start of your cycle), and the luteal phase (pre-menstruation). Here’s how to best treat your skin depending on which phase you’re in:
Menstruation: Cue dull, sensitive skin. This phase notes low estrogen/progesterone levels and high prostaglandins. The result? Dry, acne-prone skin. Use this week to build out extra moisture and put your retinols, acids, and more harsh ingredients to the side.
SkinOwl Recommendations: The Geranium Drops AM + PM
Follicular Phase: During this phase, estrogen begins to build back, leaving your skin with that extra glow. When estrogen is high, so is collagen production which gives the skin a plump, smooth appearance. Now is the time to bring in your brightening products or glow-getting masks to keep the luminosity alive.
SkinOwl Recommendations: Maqui Berry Whip AM + PM
Ovulation: At this phase, testosterone is at its highest, i.e. breakouts are on their way. This is a wonderful time to bring in acne-fighting agents such as pure plant oils, lightweight moisturizers, or detoxifying masks. With more testosterone comes more facial hair, so this is a great time to book your dermaplaning appointment too!
SkinOwl Recommendations: Pomegranate Enzyme Cleanse + Lemongrass Dew
Luteal Phase: It’s time to wave bye bye to estrogen. Bring on the antioxidants! This phase is when the skin looks most tired and congested. Hydrating serums and calming masks are all a go. Keep it simple and nourishing!
SkinOwl Recommendations: Green Tea Dew + The GlowStick
Your hormones are the battery of the body. Taking the time to understand how they can work for you and against you is the key. Consider trying out these steps above - I truly believe you’ll be that much closer to unlocking the secret to your skin’s perfect treatment, inside and out.