It's no secret that during different phases of our menstrual cycle, we look and feel different. Thanks to hormonal changes throughout the month, everything from our mood and skin to our hair and weight can fluctuate. Enter: a new way to deal with everything from PMS to anxiety and hormonal acne. Say hello to the life-changing power of cyclical living.
So what is cyclical living, and how do we do it? Well, we first heard of the term from Charlotte Ferguson, founder of Disciple Skincare. In a recent interview, she explained that she's a big believer in cyclical living, which, in a general sense, is the idea that you harness the phases of your menstrual cycle and adapt your lifestyle to suit.
"Let's face it: Sometimes life is really, really stressful, and there isn't much we can do about it," she told us. "Instead of being a slave to your menstrual cycle, you can really harness the power of it. For example, I now know that in the luteal phase, I have no energy, get irritated and want to sleep a lot. So during this week, I'll avoid family things and won't book in any drinks with friends. I'll just do a chilled yoga class and download a load of films I've been meaning to watch. This really helps me feel less anxious.
"Then, in my follicular phase, I know I'll have more energy and openness, so I'll maybe try that new gym class and meet up with an old friend for a drink. Working with your hormones is super important for good mental health, and everyone can do it. It costs nothing, and there are tons of resources, apps and evidence-based research papers online to help."
Sounds good, right? We've done some deep diving into cyclical living and created a handy guide for you to follow.
Before we get started, let's have a quick biology refresher. There are four phases of our menstrual cycle: menstruation (your period itself), the follicular phase, the ovulation phase and the luteal phase. Everyone's cycle is different, but we've based this on an average 28-day cycle.
Days 1–5: The Menstrual Phase
This is when you're on your period and your hormones are at their lowest. Think of this as the "winter" phase. You might feel withdrawn, tired or sluggish.
This is the time to really ease up on yourself and give your body a chance to chill out. Don't plan social plans around this week—you'll only be more likely to cancel them if you do. Instead, take a few days to rest and allow yourself to recharge.
"During your period, the lack of oestrogen means your skin can often lack moisture," say Megan Felton and Ksenia Selivanova, founders of Lion/ne, a London-based skincare consultancy firm. "During this time, it's important to drink plenty of water and herbal teas. It's also the perfect time to do a hydrating mask."
Days 6–12: The Follicular Phase
During this next phase, your oestrogen levels start to increase, leaving you feeling more energized, confident and outgoing. This is your "spring"—the time to plan. Thanks to a fresh burst of energy, you're at your most productive around this time, so clean out your makeup bag, list those old clothes up eBay and use this time to get your life in order. Your skin should be starting to produce less oil in this phase. It should also appear brighter and more radiant. Help it along with a gentle enzyme mask that'll eat up all the dull, dead skin cells from the phase before.
"Whilst the rise in oestrogen levels can result in a clearer complexion, the reduction in sebum can potentially leave your hair feeling drier," says Lucy Goff, co-founder of LYMA. Therefore, it might be a good idea to take a hair supplement during this time or treat yourself to a hydrating hair mask.
Days 13–18: The Ovulation Phase
Welcome to the "summer" part of your cycle. This is the time where your oestrogen levels peak and you're at your most sociable. Thanks to the high amount of oestrogen in your body, your skin is likely to be fully hydrated, clear and glowing. There's no need to change anything in your normal skincare routine at this time. You also get a burst of testosterone around this time, meaning you feel more confident and outgoing. This is the week to fill your social calendar. Go out, meet people, plan parties and spend time with friends.
Days 19–28: The Luteal Phase
After your week of oestrogen-fuelled activity, your oestrogen levels start to drop whilst your body starts producing progesterone. This progesterone has a calming effect on your body, meaning your energy levels decrease and you start feeling a bit slower again. Think of it as the "autumn" season of your cycle. This is the time to plot in more chilled events. Invite friends round for food, go to the cinema or have a Netflix session.
During the latter part of this phase, you might become moody and bloated. As oil production increases, breakouts can appear. "Oily skin has a hard time keeping up with shedding the dead skin cells, therefore, we get clogged pores causing spots. This spike in oil production can also feed existing bacteria that might be living on your skin, making our breakouts worse," reveal Felton and Selivanova.
"For normal skin types, the week before your period is a good time to up the BHA products in your regimen," the two continue. "This might mean switching your normal cleanser for a cleanser that's formulated with salicylic acid, which is designed to go deeper into the pore and clean out excess oil and bacteria."
"For sensitive skin, you can do a gentle peel the week before your period as well as the week of your period. Look for products that contain PHAs, which are gentler," say Felton and Selivanova.
By taking control of these phases, you can adjust your lifestyle and beauty routines to suit. Maybe it's time we all started living with our periods rather than trying to plot against them.