Menstrual Cycles and Skin Flares
Many things can affect the skin of those of us with atopic dermatitis. While most of us have some shared triggers, each of us still has our own individual culprits. The way and to what extent each affects us is different as well.
The most common triggers are food allergens, environmental allergens, hygiene products, cleaning products, and stress levels - to name a few. Hormones are something that affects many of us but tend to get looked over. Paying attention to your menstrual cycle (if you have one, of course!) may give you an idea if you are someone whose skin is affected by your monthly hormone fluctuations.
What does the research say?
One study reported that about 32% of people with atopic dermatitis also show an increase in their symptoms before or around their period.1
While it isn't fully understood why some people are more affected than others, there are some key takeaways. It isn't the presence of estrogen itself but the fluctuations of estrogen that are to blame for the increase in symptoms. Estrogen levels are extremely high at the start of a period until ovulation.
Do hormonal changes affect you?
In order to figure out if hormonal fluctuations are a trigger for you, I'd consider looking into a period tracker app. I personally use "P Tracker," but there are tons of free (and paid) period tracking apps on your phone's app store. You can also track it the old-fashioned way on your calendar if you'd like.
Once you get an idea of when your cycle is, pay extra attention to how your skin feels about a week before your next period. If you notice that your skin gets itchier, more inflamed, or just changes in general, you may be part of the group whose skin is influenced by their menstrual cycle.
What can I do about it?
There are lots of remedies out there for period symptoms like cramping, bloating, etc. - the typical PMS culprits. However, unfortunately, there isn't much out there about ways to quell skin flare-ups from a hormonal standpoint. In fact, birth control, which is used by many in order to lessen the severity of typical period symptoms, may make skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis worse. It may even cause hormone-induced rashes.2
So aside from doing whatever it is that you do to keep your skin as comfortable as possible, most menstrual remedies most likely won't do much to soothe your skin, unfortunately.
Knowing is half the battle
In my case, nothing I've tried has actually helped alleviate hormonal flare-ups. Even when I was using TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), I always had a flare-up about a week before my period. And I still deal with it to this day. So, I've learned to just do my best to accept it and ride it out as best I can. I do try extra hard to reduce stress during that time and get plenty of rest.
Nonetheless, knowing that there is this connection between hormones and my skin has helped alleviate that dread I feel once I see rashes creeping up in familiar places. Before I started tracking this, I'd freak out every month, wondering if it was something I ate, some different fabric I wore, or a dog I pet that set my skin off.
Now, at least once a month, I know why I'm flaring, and that peace of mind was worth figuring it out.
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