Skin conditions can affect anyone. But there are certain skin conditions women are more likely to have. According to dermatologists, hormones, pregnancy, and lifestyle habits are usually the cause of these different types of skin conditions.
Bustle acknowledges that people who identify as women may not have uteruses, and those with uteruses may not identify as women. For the sake of uniformity throughout this article, "women" will be used to refer to those with uteruses.
"Women have more estrogen and progesterone, and men have more testosterone," Dr. Sandra Lee, M.D. (aka Dr. Pimple Popper), dermatologist and founder of SLMD Skincare, tells Bustle. "Melasma, adult acne, and spider veins are all influenced by [these] hormones."
Spider veins are also seen more commonly in women, and usually start during pregnancy. According to Lee, the growing uterus puts pressure on the vascular system and makes it harder for venous blood from your legs to flow back to your heart. "Things get backed up (sort of like a dam) and this is when you can see more prominent spider veins and varicose veins," she says. "It's why we recommend compression hose during pregnancy."
While different skin conditions can affect people regardless of gender identity, there are a few specific ones that tend to affect women more. So here are some unexpected skin conditions women are more likely to have, according to dermatologists.
1. Adult Acne
A study conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology found that women tend to get adult acne at higher rates than men. "Adult acne is often driven by hormonal fluctuations and can be worse right before a woman’s period," Dr. Sheila Krishna, MD, board-certified dermatologist who serves on the advisory board for Smart Style Today, tells Bustle. "It tends to occur along the jawline and chin and appears as red, painful bumps and as cysts under the skin." Even if you were lucky and didn't get acne as a teenager, you can still develop it as an adult. According to Krishna, the foods you eat can also play a role in whether you get acne. "Treatments that balance hormones and reduce fluctuations in hormone levels can be beneficial," she says.
2. Rashes Related To Autoimmune Diseases Like Lupus
In general, autoimmune conditions are more common in women than men and some do have skin-related symptoms. Lupus is a big one. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, nearly 90% of people living with the disease are women.
"Lupus usually presents with a combination of findings including a characteristic ‘butterfly’ rash on the face," Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, board-certified dermatologist at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care, tells Bustle. It's also associated with other symptoms such as sun sensitivity, joint pains, chest pain, anemia, and neurologic and psychological changes. Lupus can be triggered by medication. But as Shainhouse says, "It's usually spontaneous in genetically-predisposed people. Some versions have more scarring types of skin lesions, but most cases can be managed with oral medications."
3. Lichen Sclerosus
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, lichen sclerosus is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that typically affects women before puberty or after menopause. "This itchy, irritated skin condition appears as whitish patches with fine scale or thickening," Shainhouse says. "It's most common in the vulvovaginal area, and can lead to permanent scarring, permanent loss of anatomical structures, strictures and tightening of orifices, fissures and painful sex." It's a condition that's pretty rare. In fact, Shainhouse says women are often misdiagnosed as just having a "persistent yeast infection." So many go years without a proper diagnosis and treatment. Usually treatment involves strong topical steroid use.
4. Perioral Dermatitis
Perioral dermatitis is a common condition that usually shows up as a face rash around the mouth. While this skin condition may look like "pink, bumpy acne," Shainhouse says it's actually more similar to rosacea. Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that's often associated with skin redness and pimples. It's commonly seen in women and children, and comes and goes with specific triggers like sunlight or stress. While perioral dermatitis has fewer triggers, it almost always presents itself in the same way — persistent pink bumps around the mouth, chin, nose and eyes. According to Shainhouse, it can last for months if left untreated. But prescription creams and pills can help to clear it up within weeks.
5. Melanoma In Younger Women
Melanoma is a serious skin cancer that can affect both men and women. It typically shows up in sun damaged skin and appears as a dark spot that grows and changes. "While men overall are more likely to die of melanoma, women under the age of 49 have a higher chance of developing it more frequently than men," Krishna says. Lifestyle habits like unsafe tanning practices or forgetting to wear sunscreen can increase your risk. So as much as you can, try to avoid unnecessary UV exposure, minimize sun exposure during peak sun hours, and protect yourself by using sunscreen and sun protective clothing.
Intertrigo is a common skin rash that's usually caused by friction. "This is essentially candida overgrowth in warm, moist, dark skin folds that leads to red and often macerated rashes in and around the skin folds," Shainhouse says. This tends to happen in women more often due to a couple of reasons. For one, it can happen in women with larger breasts. If the breasts aren't lifted enough to prevent direct skin-on-skin (or breast to chest) contact during the day, it can lead to sweat and the potential for yeast, fungus, or bacteria growth. Wearing tighter underwear or leggings for an entire day can also have the same effect in the groin.
According to Shainhouse, prevention includes keeping dry by toweling off, changing out of wet clothing ASAP and applying powders to help absorb sweat, and wearing looser clothing. "If you do get a rash, see your dermatologist for prescription treatment to kill the yeast and reduce the inflammation reaction," she says.
Melasma is a pretty common skin condition in women that usually shows up as brown patches on the face. According to Krishna, it's tied to hormonal changes and often appears during pregnancy. "It's often termed the 'mask of pregnancy,'" she says. It can be made worse by sun or heat exposure, or even hormonal contraceptives. If you're sensitive to hormones, you're more prone to developing it.
So these are just some of the skin conditions that are more likely to affect women. Hormones, pregnancy, and lifestyle habits can all increase your risk. If you ever notice changes in your skin, it's always important to talk to a doctor. That way, they can give you the right treatment you need.