The extent to which hormones can wreak havoc on our physiology is almost unbelievable. And during our menstrual cycle, the hormonal balance goes for a toss with its effects best described as chaotic. Dr Sejal Saheta, Dermatologist and Venereologist, InUrSkn, says, “The levels and balance between the three main hormones namely oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone keep changing through our menstrual cycle. These hormones are responsible for causing a number of physical and mental changes in our body, ranging from mood swings, bloating to body aches, and changes in skin and hair.”
Hormones At Play
Dr Sejal explains the role of hormones in the physiology of skin and hair.
- Oestrogen levels are associated with the thickness of your skin and dermal water retention levels. This basically determines functions like how well your skin heals or even how well it acts like a barrier against the external environment. Oestrogen levels also influence the oil production in your skin.
- Progesterone levels affect the way your skin ages.
- Testosterone impacts the sebum (oil) production in your skin and plays a major role in hair growth and hair loss.
What Does This Mean For Me?
The balance between these hormones starts getting disturbed a few days before your period and can lead to a host of skin and hair issues. Dr Sejal lists some of the common ones to look out for and also shares tips on what can be done about them.
Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples flare up just before the start of your period. This is largely due to increased sebum production, which leads to blocking of pores and hence bacterial proliferation, causing acne breakouts.
Oral and topical medications are prescribed by dermatologists to control both the symptom (the bacterial growth) and also the cause (excess sebum production). If acne breakouts are recurrent during your menstrual cycle, your dermatologist can help you establish a routine around the same time which will prevent acne breakouts.
- Bacterial And Fungal Infections
These infections are very common on the inner side of thighs and pubic area due to use of sanitary napkins, tampons, etc. Sweating becomes a catalyst for these infections to grow further.
“Here too, good hygiene practices like regular change of sanitary napkins and frequent cleansing of the area with lukewarm water helps keep the infections away. Your dermatologist can advise you on the exact oral and topical medications that can help with the specific infection. If this is a recurrent feature during menstruation, then you can ask your dermatologist for a medication that can be used prophylactically (in advance),” advises Dr Sejal.
- Dry Skin
Lower oestrogen levels can decrease collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid levels in your skin, leading to dry and dull skin. Avoid use of powders or any kind of antiseptic wash. These tend to dry the skin further. Instead, select the right moisturiser based on your skin type and moisturise frequently.
A very mild procedure called ionisation can be used to infuse hydrating serums into the deeper layers of your skin. For more severe cases, treatments like hyaluronic acid injections hold good promise and give good results.
For women who have conditions like melasma and dark circles, menstruating can be a particularly bad time as during this period, pigmented areas can get darker.
While a permanent result can be brought about only by hormonal correction, there are topical applications and procedures that can help reduce pigmentation. “Your dermatologist may prescribe some creams and oral medications that will help you with overall skin pigmentation and health, and also some targeted procedures like chemical peels and laser skin toning,” says Dr Sejal.
- Contact Dermatitis
Due to constant contact with and irritation due to sanitary napkins, tampons, etc., the skin tends to become itchy and red leading to small boils and patches. Good hygiene practices along with symptomatic treatment by your doctor can go a long way to help you with this.
- Herpes, Other Dormant Infections
During menstruation, immunity is on the lower side, which can activate pre-existing herpes or other such infections in the body. Hence, it is important to pay specific attention to your health in terms of ensuring high immunity. Lifestyle choices play a big role in keeping your immunity high. Ensure good nutrition, sleep, and exercise habits along with staying away from smoking, alcohol, etc. In case of any infections like herpes, speak to your doctor for medications.
- Psoriasis, Atopic Eczema, Other Chronic Skin Condition
Certain pre-existing chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis tend to flare up due to high progesterone levels during menstruation. Staying the path in terms of medications and topical applications is the correct choice. There are some procedures like excimer lasers which are also available to help with psoriasis.
- Hair Loss And Hair Breakage
Change in hormones can cause heavy hair breakage and hair loss. This condition is best treated by oral and topical medications. In addition to this, procedures like PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) therapy or Meso Therapy can help in reducing hair loss and stimulating hair growth.
In the end, remember that while your menstrual cycle is an inevitable part of your physiology, to live with the unpleasant effects of the same is avoidable. Just be sure to seek out medical help in time and choose to live a normal life even during ‘that’ time of the month.
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