Skin-Care Tips

Your Eczema May Be Worse the Week Before Your Period—A Derm Explains Why

Photo: Stocksy / Jodie Johnson
If you have a pretty regular menstrual cycle, you know exactly when your body is telling you that your period is close. Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) can present itself in many ways from increased anxiety to changes in appetite. But if you have eczema, you might also notice an eczema flare before your period.

"Your eczema sometimes can fluctuate with your hormone levels," says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "We know that week before your period, when your estrogen level is lower, you may experience more dryness of the skin. And we know that when the skin is dry, it can predispose to a flare-up of eczema. We don't warn patients about this but if somebody said they it, the rationale is there."

The available research on eczema flares in the week before a period is varied. "The research really shows that maybe about 20 percent to about 50 percent of people may experience a flare during or before their periods," says Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pasadena, California. "The hard part about that information is, how do you know if it's timed to their menses or not? Is it related to stress? Is it related to the period itself? Is it related to different surges in hormones? So, it probably varies a lot based on any given individual."

Albeit very rare, if you notice eczema flares exclusively in the days leading up to your period, it might not be eczema at all. It could be worth chatting with your doctor about autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. "It's a cyclical, autoimmune eczema-type of rash that's related to the progesterone cycle," says Dr. Lee. It's an allergy to progesterone, whether it's progesterone from oral contraceptives or whether it's from our natural progesterone. And it usually happens like three to seven days before our period, which is also when we can get premenstrual symptoms."

She goes on to explain that while autoimmune progesterone dermatitis is rare, it may be underdiagnosed because derms don't always look for it. "But it is something where if this patient comes in and they say, 'Ivy, it's always around my period, I'm getting this on a monthly basis,' then it's something to consider," she says.

Treatment for autoimmune progesterone dermatitis is something to discuss with your doctor, but if you're just experiencing regular-old eczema that flares before your period, prevention is pretty straightforward.

"When our skin is irritated—a little more sensitive or itchy—we're really good about putting on moisturizer and maybe not being as harsh in terms of hot showers," says Dr. Lee. "It's when our skin gets better that we get a little lazier and a little bit more lax in terms of being as diligent about this maintenance and preventive care."

Dr. Garshick says it's key to stay on top of the tried-and-true rules that help calm eczema. "Eczema is very responsive to how you care for your skin," says Dr. Garshick. Use a gentle cleanser, pat dry when you get out of the shower instead of vigorously rubbing, put on moisturizer right away, and keep up with your moisturizer throughout the day. "Sometimes for people with eczema, that can be two or three times a day," says Dr. Garshick. "If you know you're susceptible to a flare-up at this time, do everything you can to keep that skin barrier intact and keep as much moisture in the skin."

3 products to help prevent an eczema flare before your period

Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash
Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash — $10.00

This is one of Dr. Lee’s favorite body washes for those with eczema. It’s made with moisturizing ingredients and a blend of prebiotics to nourish your skin and its microbiome.

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser — $12.00

This is a great gentle option for your face. It helps remove dirt, oil, and makeup without making your skin feel dry or squeaky.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar APM Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream
La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+M Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream — $15.00

For your face and your body, turn to this cream from La Roche Posay. It’s got the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association, so you know it’s free of any irritants that irritate eczematic skin. It’s made with soothing niacinamide and deeply moisturizing shea butter to diminish symptoms of eczema, hypersensitivity, and dryness.

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