Your endocrine system consists of the glands and organs that produce hormones. Until now, the components of the endocrine system were believed to be your:
- Pineal body
- Pituitary gland
- Thyroid and parathyroid glands
- Adrenal gland
- Ovaries (females)
- Testes (males)
Now, however, researchers realize that your skin — the largest organ in your body — is part of the endocrine system. Not only is the skin affected by hormones from other organs and glands, but it’s also able to produce hormones and hormone-like substances.
So, if you notice that your acne flares up or you have other skin changes during your monthly cycle, you’re not imagining things.
At The Center for Dermatology Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York, our team of expert dermatologists wants you to understand how your cycle affects your skin so you can stay ahead of the curve.
Androgens start the acne cycle
When you hit adolescence, your endocrine system produces an abundance of “male” and “female” hormones. Androgens, such as the hormone testosterone, occur in males and females, though females have lower levels.
Puberty creates a surge of testosterone, which directly affects the health of your skin. More testosterone causes your follicles to ramp up production of sebum, an oily substance that normally helps clear out dead skin and impurities from your pores (i.e., follicles).
With more and more sebum in the follicle, the dead skin cells can’t easily move to the surface. Instead, they remain in the follicle and clump together, creating whiteheads and blackheads.
All that dead skin and sebum provides a feast for the bacteria that live on your skin. The bacteria proliferate due to the extra nourishment, creating an infectious response in your body that leads to the red, swollen inflammation you associate with acne.
Progesterone adds to acne
Although your first acne lesions may have started with that surge of androgens, you may notice that you continue to get acne right around the time of your period.
In addition to testosterone, the hormone progesterone — which increases as you menstruate — also causes changes in your skin. Progesterone may lead to or exacerbate:
- Atopic eczema
- Irritant dermatitis
Of course, the more you understand how your hormones affect your skin and when you can expect a surge, the more easily you can anticipate and possibly ward off unwanted consequences.
Know your cycle and its hormones
Your menstrual cycle begins on the day you start bleeding. Your hormone levels rise and fall predictably during your cycle.
Your body has “realized” it’s not pregnant, so all of your hormones drop. Without extra testosterone and its sebum-producing capabilities, you may notice your skin looks dry and dull.
During this time you also produce more of a hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which may make your skin extra tender. Avoid waxing or shaving at this time. Moisturize to make your skin feel better.
Week two starts the entry to the sweet spot of your cycle: You begin producing hormones again. Extra estrogen may make your skin glow. Your skin cells turn over more quickly, creating a youthful luster.
Help cells turn over faster at this time by booking a facial or chemical peel. These therapies help keep your follicles clear, too.
During this time, your skin may look and feel its best, plumped and moisturized by plenty of hormones. That’s because you’re about to ovulate!
Your pores may even look smaller than usual. Reward your skin for making you look so great with peptide and retinol treatments.
After you ovulate, estrogen declines and progesterone rises. So does testosterone. Excess sebum starts to build up in your pores. Comedones may form. Consider a mask or other treatment that draws out impurities.
Welcome to hormonal acne! Testosterone surges while other hormones dwindle. You’re most likely to break out along your chin and jawline. On the bright side, you know your period is just days off.
Now’s the time for therapies, including facials and serums, to kill bacteria and clear your pores. Look for products with salicylic acid and beta hydroxy acid.
Listen to your skin’s signals as you move through your menstrual cycle and find the treatments that can keep your skin glowing and acne-free.
Contact our friendly team by phone or online form to book a regular facial, chemical peel, or other skin treatment today. Also ask us about customized skin care products and procedures.