Perimenstrual exacerbations of dermatoses are commonly recognized, yet our knowledge of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms remains imperfect. Research into the effects of oestrogen on the skin has provided evidence to suggest that oestrogen is associated with increases in skin thickness and dermal water content, improved barrier function, and enhanced wound healing. Research into the effects of progesterone suggests that the presence of various dermatoses correlates with peak levels of progesterone. Dermatoses that are exacerbated perimenstrually include acne, psoriasis, atopic eczema and irritant dermatitis, and possibly also erythema multiforme. Exacerbations occur at the peak levels of progesterone in the menstrual cycle. Underlying mechanisms include reduced immune and barrier functions as a result of cyclical fluctuations in oestrogen and/or progesterone. Autoimmune progesterone and oestrogen dermatitis are the best-characterized examples of perimenstrual cutaneous reactions to hormones produced during the menstrual cycle. In this review, we describe the current understanding of the menstrual cycle, and its effect on the skin and cutaneous disorders.
© 2015 British Association of Dermatologists.