Does this sound familiar to you? In a month, your skin starts out being dry at the end of your period, then before you know it, you’ve got angry red bumps all over your face, on top of uncontrollable oiliness.

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Well ladies, it looks like we’ll keep having the same problem for decades (until another kicks in, but we’ll leave that for a later time) thanks to our hormones.

Our only solution? To sync our skincare routine to our menstrual cycle, says Dr Terry Long, who was in Singapore for the launch of The Body Shop’s Bouncy Sleeping Mask.

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Dr Terry Long giving us an explanation of this theory.

There are many articles floating around the Internet to support this notion. But before we go into the how, let’s go back to a little bit of secondary school science, shall we?

A typical menstrual cycle spans over 28 days, some longer, some shorter. No matter what your cycle is though, your hormonal levels will typically follow this pattern:

Starting from the first week, estrogen and progesterone – “female” hormones – are low. They both increase as the weeks go along, peaking at 14 days, which is when ovulation happens. Then, the levels decrease again, with the lowest point being the time your period comes. Throughout all this, the “male” hormone, testosterone, stays at a constant level.

These fluctuations in hormonal levels cause periods of dryness, oiliness, and breakouts. Here’s how, and the proper way to keep your skin in tip-top condition.


Week 1: The Dry Phase

When your oestrogen and progesterone levels are low, your skin gets dehydrated, so mask more often and focus on moisturising the skin during this period.

WHAT TO DO: Sheet masks are great as an instant pick-me-up, but those in a rush for time can also use sleeping masks, which are more convenient.  

Week 2: Skin improves

As oestrogen rises, the skin condition gets better and less dry. Exfoliate to brighten the skin and encourage cell renewal, and remember to moisturise!

Week 3: Glowing phase

Skin looks the best around the period of ovulation. Here, oestrogen levels peak first, just before the 14-day mark, followed by progesterone, which is at its highest just a while after.

“As levels of progesterone increase, skin swells and pores are compressed shut,” explains dermatologist Audrey Kunin, MD, of So your pores look the tiniest during this period (yay!).

“But this tourniquet effect also causes sebum to build up beneath the skin’s surface,” said the dermatologist, for a WebMD feature.

WHAT TO DO: This is when you should be extra careful to make sure that you’re not putting too much on your face and in turn, clogging your pores. Use a purifying mask during the week to remove any excess sebum, then soothe the skin with a hydrating mask.

Week 4: Oily phase

Here’s when the trouble starts. Your oil glands go into overdrive as oestrogen and progesterone levels start to fall and testosterone takes over. Your pores are more likely to become clogged at this stage – yup, breakout time.

WHAT TO DO: Try incorporating products with acne fighting properties into your skincare routine at this point, such as a toner or a serum with AHAs and BHAs. Salicylic acid is one of the most effective pimple busting ingredients for me, but work with what you find is best. (And never squeeze those bumps!)

Make sure that these anti-acne products aren’t drying your skin out by using a gentle cleanser, and a moisturiser that helps to strengthen the moisture barrier of your skin.

And there you have it the best way to prevent breakouts when you’re nearing your period. Try it, and let us know what you think.

Photography: Vernon Wong; Art direction: Michelle Tham; Styling: Hong Xinying; Hair and makeup: Dollei Seah, Lydia Thong and Vicky Lee of Makeup Entourage (9111 1919), using Lancome; Model: Lee Soon Young/Nu Models; Dress: COS; Watch: Swarovski