HOW HORMONES AFFECT YOUR SKIN – PART 2 THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE & HORMONE IRREGULARITIES
Our hormones are hugely powerful chemicals that surge through our system constantly. They all have different jobs and some dominate at certain times in our lives. But how do they affect our skin?
Bridget Carmady, Naturopath and Founder of Clémence Organics takes a look at different life stages, what hormones are most active at these times, how they affect our skin and what skin issues thrive in these conditions.
Part 2 The Menstrual Cycle & Hormone Irregularities
After navigating our way through puberty (see Part 1 Puberty & Acne), we end up as young adults and our sex hormones start to balance out. Sometimes, however, they get out of whack for one reason or another and this can affect menstruation and the female reproductive system in general. When hormones are unbalanced, it has a flow on effect to other areas of the body. In this blog post we’re delving into the menstrual cycle, common female reproductive disorders and how they affect our skin.
The Menstrual Cycle
Our hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, but it is just before or when we first get our period when acne tends to flare up. Why is this? You would think that it’s because our androgen levels are at their peak (increased androgen production leads to increased sebum production) but this peaks mid-cycle. Whilst it’s not clear what the exact correlation is, it’s thought that due to the gradual rise of hormones over the course of the month, sebum production is increased, which means that by the end of your cycle your pores are overworked and more likely to become blocked. Add an accumulation of dead skin cells and some bacteria to the mix, and you get an acne breakout.
You may also find yourself reaching for chocolate right before you get your period due to a decrease in insulin sensitivity at this time of month. Cave in to your cravings and any high GI or dairy foods will cause a spike in insulin levels which raises androgen levels, exacerbates sebum production and leads to more spots. (It’s really not fair is it?!)
And this is just the normal menstrual cycle. What happens when it’s not ‘normal’?
PCOS (Polycsystic ovarian syndrome)
PCOS is characterised by irregular periods, excessive androgen production and/or polycyctic ovaries. High insulin levels are also common in PCOS. Because of these factors, women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from acne, as well as unwanted hair growth known as hirsutism.
A diagnosis of Endometriosis is given when there is abnormal growth of endometrial tissue in areas outside the uterus. This can be caused by excessive oestrogen production, decreased clearance of oestrogen from the body and/or exposure to environmental toxins which mimic oestrogen. Endometriosis is also linked to chronic inflammation which has a flow on effect to the immune system. Common skin disorders that occur in endometriosis include rosacea, psoriasis and eczema.
To reduce premenstrual flare-ups I would recommend the following:
- Use a gentle exfoliant to reduce the build-up of dead skin cells, especially towards the end of your cycle. Our 2 in 1 Face Scrub + Mask is perfect!
- Add Green tea to your skincare routine. Green tea has been shown to reduce sebum production and its natural antibacterial qualities make it highly effective for reducing acne break-outs. You can find green tea in our new Ultimate Biome Spritz.
- When you get those sugar cravings, go for something that is sweet but low GI to reduce insulin spikes e.g. cherries and other berries, carob (try Carob Kitchen – my personal fave).
To reduce PCOS related acne, I would recommend the following:
- Assess and address irregular hormone levels. As PCOS is a much individualised disorder, it needs to be treated on a case-by-case basis. Practitioners who may be able to assist include naturopaths, dieticians and GPs.
- Add Green tea to your skincare routine. As mentioned above, green tea has been shown to reduce sebum production and its natural antibacterial qualities make it highly effective for reducing acne break-outs. You can find green tea in our new Ultimate Biome Spritz.
- Take control of your diet. Ensure it contains mostly low glycaemic index foods, reduce milk solids (milk and ice cream), and increase anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
To reduce Endometriosis related inflammatory skin conditions, I would recommend the following:
- Support liver function and therefore oestrogen clearance by adding more ‘bitter’ foods to your diet (e.g. brassica vegetables – broccoli, kale, cauliflower), reduce alcohol intake, increase exercise and consider a liver support supplement (e.g. milk thistle).
- Reduce exposure to environmental toxins which mimic oestrogen e.g. BPA in plastics.
- Choose skincare that offers anti-inflammatory benefits and is also organic to reduce the toxic load on the liver. Clémence Organics is perfect for inflammatory skin conditions!
I hope you find it helpful.