Are you “hormonal” or is your body just trying to tell you something?
Hormones affect your skin and health as you age more than you may realize…
They’re biochemical messengers that influence your metabolism, mental focus, memory, cognition, aging, sleep, and even sex drive! They also play a role in cardiovascular health, bone growth, and blood sugar regulation.
If you think of your body as a symphony, and hormones are the instruments, it all has to be in sync and working together in order for you to function (and sound) your best. If one instrument is off balance, problems are more likely to develop including issues with skin such as dryness, acne, fine lines, wrinkles, and rosacea.
Things are always changing in our body and hormones are no different. As you get older the production of certain hormones like estrogen and progesterone change, which affects your skin. But not to worry – things can be done to naturally help counteract the changes!
There are several things you can do to support the hormone balance in your body: manage stress, eat a nutritious, whole foods based diet, get enough quality sleep, and exercise regularly. A clean nourishing diet helps with your hormone production as well as your metabolism. Supporting your liver’s detoxification pathways improves the ability to break down hormones, which, in turn, helps with your hormonal balance.
A few foods that help boost liver detoxification include cruciferous vegetables, onions, and garlic.
The 2-week program in my book Clean Skin From Within and the online program, will show you what foods you need to add and what lifestyle changes you can implement to help you improve detoxification, and as a result your overall health, and the health of your skin.
Specifically, four hormones affect your skin and health as you age the most: estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormones, and cortisol. Let’s dive into each of these…
HOW ESTROGEN HORMONES AFFECT YOUR SKIN
As we age, estrogen levels decline to create significant changes in how the skin looks and feels. It becomes dry, less elastic and more fragile. In women over age 40 the biggest culprit of dry and sagging skin is declining estrogen. Skin appears thin and sallow, with fine lines turning into deep creases. The areas around the eyes and lips may droop slightly and lose firmness and because of less blood flow and circulation, skin starts to appear less vibrant. If you’re over forty and have any of the symptoms of declining estrogen like bone loss, hot flashes, insomnia, mood changes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness you may need additional estrogen support.
Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) are compounds found naturally in plant foods, one you may have heard of is flaxseed. Although it’s known as a natural estrogen mimicker, eating flaxseed actually helps estrogen metabolism improving the breakdown and removal of estrogen helping to avoid excess levels in your body. Too high levels of estrogen can cause other problems which we will get to.
Various herbs and botanicals such as maca, black cohosh, and hops have also been shown to help address symptoms of low estrogen. In some cases, women may benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT), which requires the support of a well-trained hormone specialist.
Having estrogen levels that are too high is not good either. This can trigger melasma, a condition that occurs in many pregnant women causing hyperpigmentation of the skin, or can worsen PMS. And, if estrogens aren’t being properly metabolized, then it could increase your risk for certain types of cancer (such as breast cancer). Eating seaweed and cruciferous veggies (broccoli and kale), seasoning foods with turmeric, and taking supplements such as DIM (diindolylmethane, found in cruciferous vegetables) can help boost your metabolism of estrogen, which can naturally help lower the levels.
HOW TESTOSTERONE HORMONES AFFECT YOUR SKIN
Another important hormone involved in skin health is testosterone. It stimulates the sebum-producing glands, which are important for protecting skin with natural oils, but overproduction can lead to acne.
Testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are hormones needed to help your body maintain its delicate balance known as homeostasis. Age related hormonal changes such as in puberty or menopause can cause shifts in testosterone and metabolism. This can make your skin more oily or breakout. You may even experience acne as an adult when you never had a problem as a teen!
One way to help curb extra sebum production is to avoid dairy. Dairy products are made from the milk of pregnant and recently pregnant cows, which means it contains hormones that can potentially throw your own hormones out of balance. In addition, for many people, eating dairy products triggers inflammation in the body.
Additionally, I recommend getting your omega-3s (in fish and supplements) and zinc. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids which means we have to get them in the foods we eat or supplements we take. A diet short of these nourishing fats can leave your skin dry, itchy, and prone to acne so make sure to get enough. You can get zinc in a supplement or from eating green beans, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
If you still have trouble with excess sebum and breakouts, taking a saw palmetto supplement may help, but check with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement. You could have a negative reaction if you take too much of something or you could have an interaction with medications you’re taking. Also if you’re supplementing with testosterone or DHEA (a hormone that converts to testosterone), it could increase the size and secretion of sebaceous glands. If your doctor has prescribed these for you and you have acne, double check to make sure you are on the right treatment regimen.
HOW THYROID HORMONES AFFECT YOUR SKIN
Thyroid is another hormone that influences your skin’s appearance. An overactive thyroid can cause warm, sweaty, and flushed skin, while an underactive thyroid can lead to dry, coarse skin with a reduced ability to perspire.
If you suffer from any of these skin problems and have weight, digestion (constipation or diarrhea), or energy issues (fatigue or feeling overly stimulated), talk with your doctor about thyroid testing.
If your thyroid is low, high, or you have antibodies, you’ll want your treatment tailored specifically to the problem. TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), Free T3, Free T4, thyroid antibodies and reverse T3 are the blood tests to ask your doctor to run. When the results come back, ensure they’re within optimal ranges, rather than the broad “normal” range. To help achieve optimal thyroid function, consider working with a licensed naturopathic physician or functional medicine practitioner.
HOW CORTISOL HORMONES AFFECT YOUR SKIN
Cortisol is your stress hormone. It’s released from your adrenal glands and a surge in this hormone can cause an increase in sebum production, a trigger for acne. Excess cortisol also amps up inflammation, which can make almost any skin condition worse. If you have chronically high levels of cortisol this will also lead to sugar cravings, and we know that eating sugar increases skinflammation and breakouts.
Not all stress is bad, and your body is well equipped to handle it. This physical response helps us to react quickly when faced with a dangerous situation — but balance is key. The problems occur when we are exposed to repeated or continuous stress. This is when your body has a hard time maintaining homeostasis and will keep triggering physical reactions—eventually overwhelming your systems.
Chronic stress can worsen conditions including acne, eczema, rosacea, and vitiligo. Practicing relaxation techniques such as breath work, moderate exercise, and meditation can effectively help manage stress, especially when you make them a daily practice. In the 2-week program in my book Clean Skin From Within and my online program, I cover specific, powerful stress-busting techniques.
If you often feel “tired but wired,” you may have imbalances in your cortisol levels, also called adrenal fatigue. Have you noticed you’ve gained extra weight around your midsection or have fatigue, sugar cravings or insomnia? If so, you’ll need extra support for your adrenals to balance your cortisol levels. Adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragalus, and ginseng may help.
An easy saliva test of your cortisol level can help you find out what your levels are, so talk to your healthcare provider for more information about testing. If you do suffer from imbalances in cortisol, the recommendations I give in my book will help support your adrenal function.
You can also support your skin externally with skincare products containing adaptogenic herbs like ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) root extract. Ginseng is a powerful adaptogen herb that increases the overall resistance to all types of stress and helps rejuvenate and invigorate tired-looking skin.
There are many other hormones that play a role in skin health, but these are the four major contributors for most people’s skin types.
HORMONE DISRUPTORS AND YOUR SKIN
Are you throwing your hormones out of balance with the personal care products you use?? It’s highly likely.
Many skincare products contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are a problem because they interfere with your hormone function. Remember, skin is your largest organ, and even though you may think what you apply on your skin simply stays there, the chemicals in these products are actually absorbed into the bloodstream wreaking havoc on your endocrine system.
According to the Endocrine Society, a research and advocacy group focused on hormones and endocrinology, EDCs are associated with fertility issues, breast development, breast cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid disease, neuroendocrine problems, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. In a 2009 study published in its journal, Endocrine Reviews, the Endocrine Society described EDCs as “a significant concern to public health.”
One important step for reducing exposure to EDCs is to look more carefully at what you put on your skin. For example, try to avoid ingredients such as oxybenzone (found in most sunscreens), parabens, and fragrance because research has linked these and other chemicals in personal care products to hormone disrupting effects.
Hormones affect your skin and health as you age in so many ways. They are the masters of your metabolism and so much more! Keeping them balanced and functioning properly helps you look and feel your best. Eating nourishing and cleansing foods, managing stress, and avoiding personal care products containing EDCs is a great place to start.
Not sure how hormones are affecting your skin? Take The Skin Quiz and find out
What about you, which hormones are affecting your skin and health right now? And what are you doing to keep them in balance? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know.