rashHave a skin problem or know a woman who does? Read on….

In a past Hormonology post, I wrote about the link between acne flare-ups and your menstrual cycle and ways to combat them.

But today, as I woke up scratching my itchy arms, I thought about other skin woes and their link to our monthly cycle.

See, I’ve got sensitive skin that will get bright red, puffy and/or itchy from allergies, the wrong laundry detergent, a perfumed hand soap or cosmetics. And, don’t even get me started on what happens to my poor earlobes when I wear the wrong earrings.

Sometimes this sensitivity is worse and sometimes I don’t get bothered at all. Right now, I’m just a couple of days away from my period–and I’ve been itching a lot more. Coincidence?

Not according to a new report in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology that pinpointed 17 skin conditions–including eczema, psoriasis and rosacea–that tend worsen 3 to 10 days prior to menstruation and during menstruation. (You can click here to find out if your skin condition made it onto the list.)

So, what’s going on?

As the authors explain, estrogen and progesterone impact the skin depending on how high or low their levels are throughout your monthly cycle.

High levels of estrogen thicken the skin’s outer layer, which helps provide a stronger barrier between you and problematic allergens and irritants. This hormone also improves moisture content in skin and speeds wound healing by prompting higher collagen production.

Though each skin problem is different, these and other factors related to estrogen are likely why your skin condition is most under control during Week 2 of your cycle–Day 8 through ovulation. You’ve got high estrogen on your side.

When estrogen levels are low premenstrually and during the first few days of your period, your skin gets thinner and more permeable, allowing more of those allergens and irritants to do their damage. Your skin also retains less moisture and you’re producing less skin-healing collagen. On these days, estrogen has left you high and dry.

The ups and downs of progesterone in the second half of your cycle also play a role in exacerbating skin conditions, though how it does is somewhat less clear and more complex.

The main takeaway here? If you’ve got a skin condition and notice it worsens prior to and/or during your period, talk to your health care provider about it. S/he may be able to tailor your treatment regimen to keep it in check.

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[Photo: Esther Simpson]