Rhythmic changes influence female skin susceptibility

May 1, 2005

Orlando, Fla. — Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle can cause changes to the reproductive system, yet little attention has been paid to how these variations may impact the body's largest organ, the skin.

Orlando, Fla. - Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle can cause changes to the reproductive system, yet little attention has been paid to how these variations may impact the body's largest organ, the skin.

Several recent studies examined monthly changes in skin in groups of 20 to 25 healthy Caucasian women, ages 21 to 48, who had a normal 26- to 29-day menstrual cycle. What researchers found may forever change the prevention therapies for normalizing barrier and skin health.

"From our results, we show that there is a need to design future products that correct for and/or take into consideration the rhythm of a woman's skin," says Neelam Muizzuddin, Ph.D., lab director, clinical research, biological research department, research and development, Estee Lauder Companies, New York. "We have conducted studies where treatment with a cream over the course of the month improved the skin condition considerably; however, the pattern of skin changes (over) the course of the month remained the same."

"Based on the confines and conditions of this study, the skin barrier was the worst between days 22 through 26," Dr. Muizzuddin tells Dermatology Times. "There was a trend for elevated neuronal response between days two through 12 of the cycle. Skin was driest between day zero and day six of their cycle, and skin surface lipids appeared to be highest on days 16 through 20. Around days 16 through 22 of the monthly hormonal cycle, the highest microbial counts were recorded."

The current study compared blood levels of hormones with skin changes, and, notably, there was high UV-susceptibility from day 20 through 28 of the cycle, according to Dr. Muizzuddin.

"The differences observed in this study are consistent, but not so dramatic to imply a pathologic condition, or a diseased state. Extensive research needs to be done to correlate the actual presence of various hormones in skin with skin changes," Dr. Muizzuddin says. "Also (research needs to be completed on) the effect of these hormones on intensities of acne, eczema, rosacea and other chronic skin conditions. In addition, more studies need to be completed on the effect of declining hormonal levels of pre- and post-menopause population."

Clinical impact While dermatologists currently incorporate the role of hormonal changes into how they manage certain skin conditions - for instance, by prescribing prescription birth control pills for the treatment of acne - generally dermatologists are not in tune with the full impact of hormonal changes because this type of research still qualifies as a new frontier, according to Dr. Muizzuddin.

"It is clear from this study that skin dryness, oiliness, and barriers vary over the course of the month," she says. "These studies could aid the dermatologists in examination and diagnosis of skin conditions, and treatments should consider the cycle."