You may notice changes to your skin around the start of your menstrual cycle (your period), such as increased oil or breakouts. But your menstrual cycle is more than just your period. So what is happening with your skin the rest of the time?
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a woman’s cycle can be divided into five phases; period, pre-ovulation, ovulation, post-ovulation, and pre-period. To understand how your menstrual cycle affects your skin we will outline the Yin / Yang energies. Look what the hormone activity is and how this comes out in your face. And, of course, which treatments, home practices and lifestyle changes can help. So let’s break it down.
Your Menstrual Cycle
During the start of your cycle, your body is producing prostaglandin which causes your uterus to contract. It also constricts blood vessels causing you to feel flushed, and increases pain sensitivity, so your skin will feel more tender. If you find that your face looks completely dry and dull during your period, there’s a good reason for it. Oestrogen levels are low, which means lines, pores, wrinkles, dark spots and acne will be more visible. Progesterone levels are low as well, reducing the production of sebum (aka making your skin dryer)
This is a Yin phase, but the warmth and movement of the blood is Yang, the quality or substance of the blood is Yin. You are also becoming depleted of Yin, which is why in TCM we are more conscious of honouring the female in that time. Be tired, be cocooned. Allow it to happen.
It’s important to avoid any dermal rolling or excessive Gua Sha during your ‘red days’ because you do not want to draw Qi up to the face, as this draws it away from your ‘middle jiao’ or your uterus, where Qi is busy doing its work. Your body needs to be treated gently and allowed to rest and release. Focus instead on self care; foot baths, hot compress on the lower belly, and tea.
The low oestrogen and progesterone levels during this phase signal to the pituitary gland to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), that begins the process of maturing a follicle (which is inside the ovary, and where you’ll find the egg).
This the phase in your menstrual cycle where you will literally have your best face. What does that mean? You’re high on oestrogen, girl! Full, soft skin. Bright, tight, and clear! The Yin energy continues to build, as the follicle maturation stimulates oestrogen production which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken and further follicle development. Your cosmetic acupuncturist will work to accumulate as much momentum with Qi and Xue (Blood) building, to pre-plan the next three weeks of your cycle. There’s not much you need to do at home, except enjoy that oestrogen glow.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) surges which triggers the release of an egg from the follicle. This is where the Yin energy peaks just before the egg is released and then shifts into Yang. This transition is referred to as the dynamic flux, which can be experienced as a hot flash. There’s a bump in testosterone here, which enhances your libido, aka: your body is doing all it can to get that egg fertilized.
If your hormones are imbalanced, you will notice tiny pimples with a lot of ‘pop’ and puss around your lower mouth and chin area. Graphic, we know, but the puss colour and location of pimples can give clues to your cosmetic acupuncturist about what is happening in your internal systems.
This is a great time for dermal rolling, get a facial, it can handle a chemical peel or laser (if that’s what you’re into), because it’s strong and has dexterity to it.
Now it’s all about Yang for the remainder of your cycle. Directly after ovulation, hormone levels fall before rising again. Do you feel like a see-saw yet? The role of progesterone in post-ovulation is to control the build up of the lining of the uterus.
During this time, if you have a Xue (Blood) or Qi deficiency, or a hormone imbalance, you will likely find a ‘build up’ on your face as well. If you don’t have enough Xue there will be insufficient lymph and blood circulation, combined with insufficient Qi, these pimples will not make their way to the surface. Blind pimples can be frustrating so resist the temptation to squeeze and dig at them. Instead, use your Jade Gua Sha tool to bring Qi to the face, a collagen dermal roller, and an antimicrobial face mask to cleanse what you’ve brought up.
A visit your cosmetic acupuncturist where she will apply mini-needles locally, to encourage white blood cells (phagocytes) to the area to speed up the death of that bad boy. She will also support Shen, reduce the ‘crazy eyes’ and feelings of full-moon-psycho, ensuring sleep-filled nights and no dark circles under the eyes!
Ok, prepare for nearly all hormones to descend to their lowest point before your period begins. Here we’re talking progesterone: drops, oestrogen: drops, FSH: not even, LH: gone. There is an ever-so-slight increase in testosterone, this hormone, together with the dwindling levels of oestrogen and progesterone allow your body to prepare for shedding the uterus lining without causing damage to your health. You may feel cold during the day and have hot flushes during the evening, this could be due to a Yin deficiency.
If hormones are imbalanced, you’ll find ‘red hot’ pimples, especially around your chin. During this phase, eat less fatty foods and oils, avoid sugar. Hydration is important to support your skin and body, as is eating bone broth to build Xue (Blood) in preparation for losing it during your period.
Your body needs enough Xue (Blood) in order to build and establish collagen. Literally and figuratively. You need both volume of blood, and quality of blood. This is when you are most prone to be anaemic. And God forbid that your skin become dehydrated and saggy! You may already know that boosting collagen can reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. So ensuring that you prepare for your period by increasing your iron intake, if you don’t eat meat, try adding bone broth to your diet. It is going to do wonders for your face, not to mention, relieve the impending doom of ‘red days’.
What’s a gal to do?
Cosmetic acupuncture of course! At your appointment, Dr Abbie will map out your cycle. She will use TCM techniques to set the best treatment plan for you to work towards putting your best face forward, no matter what phase of your menstrual cycle.
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