Lets Connect the Dots - Skin, Menstruation and PCOS
Effects of Menstruation and PCOS on Skin
Ever experienced flawless good skin one day and suddenly an unholy mess the next day? Welcome to the mysteries of a woman’s world, my friend! Just like your moods, your skin also undergoes multiple changes in a month.
On certain days, your complexion and skin tone are at their best making you feel confident, whereas, on other days, you suddenly experience an outburst of acne and oily skin. However, the good part is that you can easily figure out your skin mood depending on the time of your menstrual cycle.
There are three major hormones that play a pivotal role when it comes to your skin quality – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The levels of these hormones fluctuate continuously during the cycle, indirectly affecting your skin.
Oestrogen stimulates the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid, which complements the glow of the skin while making it look young. Also known as the feminising hormone, oestrogen levels fall during the menstrual cycle and begin rising from day 7 and reach their peak by day 16 (the ovulation phase). During this phase, the skin looks hydrated, elastic and radiant. After the ovulation phase or day 16, oestrogen levels begin to fall again.
Progesterone is the second hormone that plays a major role in the quality of your scalp and skin. This hormone increases sebum production, further making your skin and scalp look oily and greasy.
Progesterone levels are inversely proportional to oestrogen levels. Progesterone levels start rising once the ovulation ends from day 17 onward and reaches its peak by day 24. During this time, the skin looks oily and pores become clogged, thereby causing acne and pimples. A significant rise in progesterone levels also causes excessive acne, psoriasis and eczema breakouts.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone with a vital function in the menstrual cycle. The levels of testosterone are high when the levels of oestrogen and progesterone are dropping, which happens after day 24 in the monthly hormonal cycle, until day 28. Acne and bloating are the common symptoms caused by this rise in testosterone levels.
It has been widely noticed that many skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and dermatitis exacerbate before the menstrual cycle, and soon settle once the menstrual flow begins.
The frequency of the menstrual cycle affects the skin and the overall condition of the body too. Irregular or extra painful cycles with excessive bleeding or clots are some of the reasons to worry, as these might be the signs of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS and Skin Problems
Women with PCOS often face skin problems such as acne, skin tags, abnormal hair growth, dry skin and dandruff. Around 5–10% of women of reproductive age suffer from PCOS, and the typical symptom includes acne-prone, oily and thick skin with a tendency to gain unhealthy weight. The first-line treatment advised for skin issues is mainly the administration of oral contraceptive pills; however, hormonal therapy can also be advised to modulate androgen production.
PCOS causes the ovaries to overproduce androgens like testosterone. These androgens increase sebum production that stimulates oil production in the skin. Ultimately, skin gets infected by the bacteria – Propionibacterium Acnes, which leads to acne. This skin condition is primarily known as acne vulgaris.
Women suffering from PCOS may suffer from acne on their face, back, neck and chest. Depending upon the severity, acne can be classified into mild, moderate and severe.
In women, hirsutism is a male pattern of excessive hair growth on the face, chest, stomach and thighs, which can be extremely distressing.
Also known as male pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia can cause excessive hair loss on the scalp area, which is a matter of concern for a lot of women with PCOS.
This is dark skin pigmentation that occurs mainly around the neck, underarms, inner thighs, forehead, under eyes and around the lips. This happens mainly because of androgens on the sweat gland units under the skin that causes oily and follicular skin.
Know when to see a doctor
- When there is an exacerbation in the dermatoses like acne and psoriasis
- Dermatoses interfering with the quality of life.
- Infected wounds from deteriorated eczema or acne.
A lifestyle change is a much-need intervention to overcome these skin disorders. The cosmetic challenges of PCOS often cause depression, lack of self-esteem or low confidence in women. A majority of women are even unaware of the fact that their skin problems are mainly due to PCOS, which again could be quite confusing for them.