Beauty News

Get To Know How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Skin

A medium shot of two females models looking into the camera bare faced, in a studio setting on a white background.

We’ve partnered with Hertility to launch The (Wo)man-Made Make Up Edit which stars a host of must-have make up innovations, all just as iconic as the women who created them. Here, Dr Natalie Getreu, Co-Founder and COO of Hertility talks about how our menstrual cycle can affect your skin. 

Have you ever wondered why at certain times of the month your skin looks happy, healthy and hydrated, while at others its dull, dry and dehydrated? One of the culprits – your menstrual cycle.  

That’s right, these skin fluctuations are more than a coincidence. Just like cravings and cramps, your complexion changes in correspondence to your hormones’ natural cycle.  

And while not everyone may experience these significant skin shifts, it’s important to get to know your cycle to understand the ins and outs of your bodily changes and what to expect each month. With that in mind, here at Cult Beauty we caught up with the Co-Founder and COO of Hertility, Dr Natalie Getreu, to understand what happens at each stage of the menstrual cycle and how to best sync your skin care routine to it. 


Before we get into how hormones affect our skin, we need to understand what they actually are. Hormones are chemical substances that are needed for several important processes in our body such as growth, metabolism, sexual function and reproduction. Acting as messenger molecules in the body, they travel to different areas to control how our cells and organs work.  


Involved in almost all of our body’s processes, “sex hormones play a vital role in regulating both our menstrual cycles and skin health. A common complaint for women is hormonal acne, which can be anything from a light pre-period breakout to stubborn cystic acne” explains Dr Natalie Getreu. “Androgen hormones, like testosterone, stimulate sebum production, causing oiliness that leads to acne and spots. High progesterone can also cause blemishes by clogging skin pores and increasing sebum production” she adds. What’s more, hormones also affect what’s going on beneath the surface of our complexion. “We often think of ‘good skin’ as ‘clear skin’, but there is a lot more to it than that. Collagen, which is crucial for skin elasticity and moisture is largely maintained by oestrogen – which is why after menopause when oestrogen declines, skin can become thinner, drier and less elastic.” says Dr Natalie Getreu.  


Let’s face it, the menstrual cycle is a complex process. Regulated by several different hormones, it typically lasts for around 28 days, yet anything between 21 and 35 days is considered average. But no matter how long it lasts, everyone goes through the day-by-day phases. Keep scrolling to get up close and personal with you cycle stages… 


“Day one of the menstrual cycle is essentially the first day of your period, which occurs as your womb lining sheds and is the reason you bleed. An average period lasts anywhere between 2 to 7 days, and this is when your hormones oestrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. Symptoms like cramps and mood changes are common due to hormone fluctuations. With oestrogen levels at their lowest, our skin may appear dull, tired and drier than usual. What’s more, our overall levels of sensitivity, pain and discomfort are heightened during our periods, meaning skin may be more reactant to skin care products or treatments.” 

How to sync your skin care to the menstrual phase? 

Dr Natalie Getreu explains that during this phase “declining oestrogen levels (particularly during the first half of the cycle and just before your periods) can lead to decreased moisture retention. Skin may feel dry, tight or dehydrated”. To stay hydrated we suggest you incorporate moisturisers, creams and face oils during the day and end your evening with an overnight mask. What’s more – if your skin is feeling sensitive or dry – it’s important to avoid exfoliators as they’re prone for being too sensitising at this stage. 


Also known as the ‘first phase’ of your cycle, the follicular stage happens after your period. “Here your oestrogen levels begin to rise, stimulating the growth of follicles in the ovaries. Your uterus lining also starts to thicken in preparation for pregnancy.” When it comes to our complexion, this is when it appears clearer and may look more radiant. Why? Because “this is when our skin will be clearer and may look more radiant as oestrogen levels increase, improving skin hydration and reducing inflammation, leading to fewer breakouts.”. 

How to sync your skin care to the follicular phase?

With estrogen levels rising during the follicular phase, your complexion is well on its way to looking its best. So, instead of accommodating your routine to your cycle, this is the prime time to try out those new and trending products… while working to maintain that natural radiance. To prolong your glow, we suggest reaching for vitamin C and hyaluronic acid-based solutions.  

A close up shot of a female model with brunet hair smiling at the camera with a bare face, in a studio setting.


“The ovulation stage is when you’re most fertile during your cycle as your oestrogen peaks, generating a surge in luteinizing hormone – which causes the mature follicle to release an egg.” And while some people may experience mild abdominal discomfort, spotting and discharge, it’s thanks to the rise in oestrogen that at this time your skin is looking its best. Therefore, when looking after your complexion, take this time to get ahead of skin concerns that could follow – we’re talking oiliness and the increase of blemishes.  

How to sync your skin care to the ovulation phase? 

While your skin will be looking its best during the ovulation phase, when it comes to your complexion cycle this step is all about being one step ahead. While visually your skin may have hit its peak, the increase in the luteinizing hormone can result in the onset of hormonal acne. “As hormone levels shift, you might notice skin becoming oily and breakouts appearing. Skin conditions like acne, eczema or rosacea can also get worse at this stage” describes Dr Natalie Getreu. To help treat your blemishes, we suggest deep cleaning pores with exfoliators powered by lactic acid. This not only diminishes dead cells but enhances a brighter complexion.   


Sometimes called the ‘second half’ of your cycle, the luteal phase is when oestrogen decreases while progesterone rises. “Basal body temperature increases slightly here, indicating ovulation has occurred. Cervical mucus becomes thicker, and you may notice premenstrual symptoms like bloating, mood changes, breast tenderness, acne and cravings due to the rise of progesterone. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, hormone levels drop, leading to the start of a new menstrual cycle.” explains Dr Natalie Getreu. “A rise in androgens, like testosterone and progesterone, during the luteal phase can also stimulate sebum production, leading to acne breakouts, especially around the chin, jawline and cheeks. Hormonal fluctuations can also cause dark patches while making the skin more sensitive and reactive to products.” she adds. 

How to sync your skin care to the luteal phase? 

To shield your skin against the complexion concerns above you need to eliminate excess oil, without prompting inflammation. The best course of action? To cleanse twice a day with a gentle yet effective foaming cleanser. Those enriched with niacinamide will help balance your oil production and reduce the look of redness.   


Other than harmonising your skin care routine with your cycle, there are plenty of other ways that can aid in dealing with these changes. “Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you understand your fertility, manage any hormonal symptoms and allow you to feel more in control of hormonal changes throughout the month.” suggests Dr Natalie Getreu. For general tracking, simply note down symptoms to get predictions about where you are in your cycle, when your next period is coming and when you’re most fertile. What’s more, “the health of our menstrual cycles are closely connected to our overall health. Our hormonal health can be heavily influenced by lifestyle factors like good balanced nutrition, regular exercise and a good sleep routine. Stress can greatly exacerbate skin conditions and disrupt our hormones too, so investing in stress-reduction techniques can also be helpful.  The basics really can go a long way.” Concludes Dr Natalie Getreu. 

So, there you have it, now we’ve got to know how our menstrual cycle can affect our skin’s health, it’s time to always be one step ahead to avoid these beauty bugbears.  



This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have. 

Trifonia Asmar

Trifonia Asmar

Senior SEO Copywriter

Cult Beauty’s Senior SEO Copywriter, Trifonia started out in the industry when bold brows were just becoming a ‘thing’, and shares a passion for all things fashion and beauty. Currently embracing her curly girl journey (after endless years of straightening her strands), she is finally reverting to her natural ways! When Triffy isn’t busy testing out the latest curl-saving solutions, you’ll find her binging the latest reality TV show or on a long walk listening to her ever-evolving country music playlist.