How Does Your Period Affect Your Skin?
If you thought your skin was acting up just before or around the time of your period, you’re not imagining it. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, “a significant number of adult women have perimenstrual acne symptoms”. There are also some women suffering eczema or psoriasis that seems to get worse around the time of their period.
Hormones and Your Skin
Part of the reason behind this is the hormonal fluctuation that occurs during the different phases of a woman’s cycle. The menstrual cycle has three phases: follicular (before the release of the egg), ovulation (the release of the egg), and luteal (after the release of the egg). Each of these phases of the cycle is monitored by different hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And these hormones have an effect on skin.
Estrogen, for instance, spurs collagen and elastin. Collagen is a structural protein in connective tissue that gives the tissue strength and flexibility. Elastin is another protein but it is, as the name implies, highly elastic. That’s the protein that allows tissue in the body to resume its shape after contracting or stretching. And that’s not all! According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “estrogen appears to aid in the prevention of skin again in several ways” and also increases cutaneous (skin) wound healing.
Estrogen levels are higher just before the ovulation phase of a woman’s cycle. Just before the ovulation phase, the higher levels of estrogen help suppress sebum production. Sebum is an oily substance that is produced by the body’s sebaceous glands to help keep the skin and hair moisturized. When the estrogen levels drop (generally about a week before your period), the level of progesterone increases. Progesterone induces sebum build-up under the surface of the skin. Sebum is a good thing but, like many other good things, more isn’t necessarily better.
Too Much of a Good Thing
An excess of sebum and build up and can contribute to acne and oily skin. Sebum can also become trapped inside the gland (that creates those little bumps that sometimes appear on the face). The little bumps are harmless, but most of us would rather not have them.
There are some things you can do to address those lower-estrogen, higher-progesterone times (other than hiding out until it passes). Many sources recommend regular washing with a gentle, non-perfumed soap and warm water and suggest patting your face dry rather than vigorously rubbing your face with a towel. Some people have found facial masks made of natural products to be helpful.
Diet is also a factor (isn’t it always!). Dr. Alan Logan, author of The Clear Skin Diet, recommends eliminating dairy products from your diet, particularly milk but also cheese and ice cream (well, there go three of my diet staples) based on Harvard studies linking these foods with a greater risk of acne. He also suggests refraining from high-sugar processed foods and beverages. Another culprit is vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils as they can drive sebum production. According to Dr. Logan, fish and seafood will dial down the sebum production.
UCLA’s Student Wellness Commission says in their Total Wellness magazine that drinking lots of water will promote cell turnover and reduce the production of sebum. (I don’t think that the water used to make coffee counts, dammit!). Drinking water not only helps to keep your skin hydrated, it also helps to flush any toxins in your body that are aggravating skin conditions.
Simple remedies often work well for transient or mild period-related conditions that are fairly easy to resolve. But if you have a persistent or serious skin condition, you should consult your health care practitioner.
NannoPads probably won’t help with period zits, but they do provide relief from the discomfort of menstruation. Here is what some users of NannoPads have to say.