It is not uncommon for most women to experience the odd blemish during their period, however, problems can arise when skin becomes too dry, cracked or sore. Our PMS expert Emma Thornton is on hand to talk about why skin problems are associated with PMS, and what natural alternatives can soothe the irritation.
Skin problems can arise as a direct result of hormonal changes such as with acne and localised rashes or itching of the skin (known as neurodermatitis). However, more commonly, underlying skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or cold sores can worsen just before menstruation each month.
Aside from the irritation and pain which skin problems cause, women may begin to feel self-conscious about their problem. If you are already feeling a bit stressed or low in mood, this can multiply problems by knocking self-confidence.
There are many reasons for this – but the basic one is that between ovulation and menstruation, a woman goes through a period of two weeks where levels of the female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) fluctuate.
This in turn affects many other hormones in the body:
Levels of cortisol, important in controlling inflammation, change. This could explain why some women find that their eczema or psoriasis can worsen with each menstrual cycle
Cortisol also has an influence on the body’s immune system. This could be the reason why there a greater tendency for an outbreak of cold sores in the days before a period
Just before menstrual bleeding starts, levels of testosterone prevail over oestrogen. This gives rise to an increase in the size of skin pores and more secretion of oil (sebum). For some women, this leads to a ‘dull complexion’, but more crucially, production of all this oil blocks pores, causing normal skin bacteria to penetrate further into the skin, increasing the chances of acne.
If oestrogen is low generally, then again, then again the effects of testosterone can take over. Low oestrogen is often characterised by light, infrequent periods.
There are several things you can do at home to try to keep your skin as healthy as possible:
If your skin problems are caused by excess oil production, then wiping up this oil regularly or looking for clay face masks will help to reduce the amount of oil in your skin
If you have developed skin problems, try not to touch the affected areas too much, even if they are sore or itchy. This will only cause the irritation and inflammation to increase, as well as running the risk of leaving scars
Drinking plenty of water will keep your skin hydrated. It also helps to flush any toxins which are irritating your skin out of your body. Aside from this, it helps to improve the function of your liver and digestive system, and often the overall health of your body is reflected in your skin
Exercise is also important as it causes your skin to sweat and clean out the pores. If you have a shower directly after exercise then you can wash away all the dirt and sweat you have just cleaned out.
If your skin problems worsen in a distinct pattern consistent with your menstrual cycle, the first step you should take is to address the root of the problem, which is PMS. Most herbalists will consider Agnus castus to be the main herb of choice and basis of treatment.
Also known as Chaste Tree or Chasteberry, extracts of Agnus castus berries have been used for many years to treat a variety of premenstrual symptoms. There is now a good body of evidence for its use in treating emotional symptoms (irritability, mood swings) as well as physical symptoms such as period pains, breast pain and skin problems.
If you are suffering from a specific skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, your doctor will have specific treatments for these problems. Some of these many involve the use of steroid creams or tablets.
Hello my name is Emma and I am a qualified nutritionist. My areas of interest include female health and weight management.
I have a passion for healthy living and a holistic approach to health. I enjoy writing for the A. Vogel website, translating my knowledge into informative pages.
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