Is Your Skin Itchy? Eczema And Birth Control Pills: Does Low Or High Estrogen Matter?

Jan 8, 2023
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About 40% of Canadian women take birth control pills every year. Every woman’s body is unique and will react differently while on the pill. For some, it is a blessing where they do not face any side effects and their hormonal balance improves. For others, being on the pill comes with a few side effects, such as itchy skin, rashes or acne.

This article will provide you with insights into the correlation between birth control pills and skin problems like eczema, rashes or irritation.

Can birth control cause eczema?

Birth control pills do not cause eczema, per se, but they can trigger eczema flares in some people who are prone to the condition.

In some individuals with eczema, the symptoms may worsen. On the other hand, it may improve for others. How is this possible? Despite eczema being very common, its causes are still not well understood by the medical community to this day. This is because the underlying causes are very complex, involving a number of factors like the environment, genetics, immune system, and hormones. Birth control pills contain estrogen and/or progesterone hormones, which can affect immune cells. Sometimes, this results in improvement of eczema. Other times, the hormone changes worsen eczema. 

In very rare cases, birth control pills may cause autoimmune progesterone dermatitis – a condition in which an increase in progesterone hormone is associated with symptoms such as:

  • Swelling
  • Flaky patches
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Hives

Eczema is a skin disorder in which your skin gets inflamed, resulting in red, itchy patches. Soaps, garment fabrics, things we eat, and sometimes even drugs we take may trigger eczema.

Birth control pills cause hormonal changes, which can affect different people differently. This is because every woman’s skin is as unique as they are. Sometimes, the change in hormones may worsen eczema or cause skin problems like acne. This is similar to what some women experience during times of hormonal change, such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Even without birth control pills, ‘normal’ hormonal fluctuations can aggravate skin problems. For some people, regulating estrogen and progesterone levels with birth control pills may improve skin health.

Birth control pills and skin issues

For a lot of women, birth control pills may help reduce skin issues such as acne. At the same time, others may face a lot of skin troubles.

Can birth control cause itching and burning skin?

On their own, birth control pills do not generally cause skin itching or burning. If you experience sudden or serious skin reactions after taking a birth control pill, contact your health care provider immediately. A serious skin reaction could be a sign of infection or allergy.

For some women who are prone to eczema, starting on birth control pills may lead to a flare of symptoms. This may mean having itchy, inflamed skin.

Can birth control pills cause skin rashes?

Yes, you may get an itchy rash from hormonal birth control pills. It could be an allergic reaction to hormones in these prescriptions, such as estrogen and progesterone, or a combination of both. Skin rash is one of the expected side effects of the birth control pills.

In rare cases, birth control pills may cause autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, which may also cause skin rashes.

If you experience skin rash after taking pills, inform your doctor immediately.

Birth control pills and eczema

Often it has been seen that eczema flares in women when taking hormonal birth control pills. So it may be said that birth control pills can cause eczema in a few women, however it is essential to keep in mind that there are a lot of different factors that may trigger eczema.

Can birth control cause dyshidrotic eczema?

Dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition in which blisters form on the soles of your feet and/or the palms of your hands. As with other forms of eczema, an immune reaction triggered by hormone changes from the birth control pill can exacerbate symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema.

Can birth control cause an eczema flare up?

Birth control pills cause changes in hormone levels. These hormonal changes may trigger eczema flare-ups. In such cases, inform your doctor as soon as you can.

Can the pill make my eczema worse?

Yes, birth control pills may affect someone’s hormone balance. Changes in hormonal balance may cause eczema to worsen. Inform your doctor if this happens.

Can stopping birth control cause eczema?

Stopping birth control may lead to a few changes in the body, especially changes in hormone levels. This may trigger eczema flares, at least in the short term.

Eczema and estrogen levels

The balance of female hormones estrogen and progesterone is essential for various health aspects, including the skin. Imbalance in these hormones may result in skin disorders. 

Can low estrogen cause eczema?

There are substantial consequences on the skin as estrogen levels drop, including increased water retention, a rise in microorganisms like bacteria, and slowed wound healing. These processes can worsen eczema, which already has a weakened skin barrier.

The skin's natural ability to retain water is affected and dry skin can result from excessive water loss. Furthermore, the skin's barrier is damaged, allowing allergens and bacteria to infiltrate.

Can high estrogen cause eczema?

A high level of estrogen is a hormonal imbalance and may trigger any of your underlying conditions, including eczema.

Treat eczema before or while on the pill

You can try some home remedies like using coconut oil, certain over the counter creams, or moisturizers and wet wraps to control your eczema while taking the pill.

How to treat hormonal eczema while on the pill

If you are experiencing worsening of eczema or eczema flare -ups while taking pills and  want to control your eczema, try the following tips.

Top tips to prevent eczema or skin issues if considering the pill

  • Moisturize your skin daily, itchy or not.
  • Determine and avoid potential triggers.
  • Shower or bathe in lukewarm water for a few minutes.
  • Make use of a humidifier.
  • Scratching should be avoided.
  • Choose apparel made entirely of cotton.
  • Carefully select facial and body care products.
  • Make use of stress-reduction measures.

Best contraceptive pills for eczema

Oral contraceptive pills are hormone based medicationstaken to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of hormonal contraceptive pills:

1. Mini pills.

The progestin-only pill (POP) is a type of birth control pill that solely contains synthetic (man-made) progesterone.

2. Combined pills.

Artificial (man-made) forms of progesterone and estrogen are found in the combination pill. A doctor generally prescribes a combined pill for women with skin disorders.

To date, we don’t have clear guidelines on which pills are best for women with eczema. This is because eczema is a very complex condition involving multiple factors of genetics, immunity, and the environment. Finding the best pill for you may need a few tries of different options.

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