My HormonologyEver get an itchy rash out of the blue? Or notice that a cosmetic or skin treatment (such as an acne wash or anti-wrinkle cream) that you’ve been using for awhile suddenly causes redness or burning when it never did before? Or are bothered by other skin issues that seem to flare up, then subside–only to flare up again weeks later?

Your problem may be that your skin gets more sensitive during certain days of your menstrual cycle.

That’s the word from a new study of 278 women in the European Journal of Dermatology that found 42% of women with natural menstrual cycles in the study experienced an increase in skin sensitivity in the days right before and during menstruation.

More sensitive skin means your skin is more likely to react to cosmetics, detergents, weather, shaving or stress, resulting in a rash, bumps, pimples, redness, dryness, itching, scaling and other bothersome issues.

This sensitivity can occur anywhere on your body. In fact, just yesterday, during my own premenstrual week, a rash developed on my midsection from a sports bra that was washed with too much detergent. However, this study found that the most common problem area reported in cycling women was the face.

Are you perimenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal? The same study found that 32% of the women studied who were in these hormone phases experience heightened skin sensitivity in general. The most common problem area reported was the feet.

So, what’s causing your skin to be more sensitive in the days around your period or the years leading up to and following menopause? Low estrogen. This hormone plays a role in thickening 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. So, when estrogen dips, all its protective effects dip with it, leaving your skin more vulnerable.

What can you do about it? When estrogen is low, try using cosmetics, moisturizers and detergents that are fragrance-free and don’t have many chemicals, keep your skin shielded from harsh weather and ask your dermatologist or pharmacist for recommendations of products or medications that may help protect your skin.

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