Hormones and Skin Health
Tips to balance your hormones for healthy, ageless skin
Do You Wear Your Hormones on Your Face?
You can get all of the facials, dermal fillers and Botox in the world but hormonal health is key to keeping your skin looking as young as possible.
Much of the reason our skin begins to suffer is due to changes in our hormones. As we age, estrogen levels decrease, and while it can lead to thinning bones, it also creates significant changes in the skin. You may find that your skin becomes drier, more prone to wrinkles, more fragile, less elastic, looser, and even paler (the lack of estrogen reduces the number of blood vessels in the skin).
Aging is part of life and brings with it wisdom and experience. While wrinkles are a sign of living life, none of us want to look any older than we really are.
Note for guys: you may think you get to skip over all this information because you don’t have ovaries, but you should pay particular attention to the information on thyroid and testosterone because that impacts you too…
Hormones and skin interact when chemical messengers produced in organs such as the ovaries, adrenal glands, and thyroid glands, and all have an effect on other tissues. Here are the top 3 hormones that impact our skin.
The biggest culprit of sagging skin and loss of hydration (particularly among women over 40) is declining estrogens. With a sudden drop in estrogen, the skin appears thin, sallow, and saggy. Most notably, fine lines will turn into deep creases. The areas around the eyes and lips will droop slightly and lose firmness. Your skin will also not look as vibrant because less blood flow enters the skin.
Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) can be found naturally in certain foods such as flaxseeds and soy and have been shown to cause hormone effects. Even though they’re known as natural estrogen mimickers, eating flax and soy also helps estrogen metabolism.
This breakdown and removal of estrogens help avoid excess levels and is important when it comes to protecting against the downsides of estrogen such as breast cancer. You can eat these two foods alone or add them to other foods. I prefer the less processed forms of soy like edamame beans, soy milk or tempeh, and always choose organic.
If you’re over 40 or having any of the following symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and/or bone loss, you may need additional estrogen support.
Herbs such as maca, black cohosh and hops have been shown to help women low in estrogen, and some women also benefit from bio-identical hormone therapy (BHT). BHT requires the support of a well-trained hormone specialist (more on this topic at another time).
High estrogen levels, on the other had, have their problems for skin as well. Women who are pregnant or on birth control pills generally have higher estrogen levels and are more prone to hyperpigmentation (also known as melasma).
If your estrogen levels are too high, then you might want to consider eating seaweed and cruciferous veggies (such as broccoli and kale), seasoning with turmeric and perhaps taking supplements like DIM (which come from cruciferous vegetables) these help with estrogen metabolism.
If you think your estrogen levels may be out of balance, talk with a qualified healthcare provider about testing your hormone levels and getting individualized support for hormone balance.
Testosterone stimulates the sebum (oil) producing glands, which are important for protecting your skin with natural oils. Your body keeps a delicate balance with hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Both men and women have all three of these hormones and can experience imbalances.
Sometimes all of the hormone craziness (such as during puberty and menopause) will lead to a sudden increase in testosterone. If the balance tips, it can lead to adult acne. If your skin is way too oily, you might be dealing with a rise in testosterone.
It’s possible to improve your skin by managing your body’s testosterone levels. One way to do this is to avoid dairy products (even organic and raw dairy). Dairy products are made from the milk of pregnant cows, which contains hormones that the human body converts to the equivalent of testosterone.
To help manage testosterone, you can consume omega 3’s (in fish and supplements ) and zinc in the form of a supplement or foods such as green beans, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds).
Generally, you don’t want to consume zinc without a bit of copper because taking zinc supplements long term without copper can lead to a copper deficiency. If you’re still having trouble with excess testosterone, supplementing with saw palmetto can help, but it’s also important to check in with your healthcare provider.
Thyroid hormones also influence your skin’s appearance. Too much of the thyroid hormones can cause a warm, smooth, sweaty, flushed skin. Underactive thyroid can lead to dry, coarse thickening of skin with reduced ability to sweat.
If you experience any of these skin problems and also have problems with metabolism (weight gain or loss), digestion (constipation or diarrhea), or energy (fatigue or feeling amped up), talk with your doctor about having some thyroid testing done. When I test for thyroid imbalances, I do a more comprehensive thyroid panel including the following: TSH, free T4, free T3 and reverse T3.
If I suspect autoimmune activity, then I will also run thyroid antibody tests. It’s important to realize the “normal” lab ranges are not necessarily optimal numbers, so talk with a qualified specialist to learn more about what the ideal thyroid results look like. If your thyroid is low or high or you have antibodies, you’ll want treatment tailored accordingly (more on this at a later time).
To help your skin stay hydrated with a healthy oil barrier, be sure to consume essential fatty acids like omega-3 found in wild salmon, walnuts, eggs from free-range chickens, and algae. A diet short of these body-boosting fats can leave skin dry, itchy, and also prone to acne.
Here are 4 general tips to help keep your hormones in check:
(Hormones can be quite complicated, so it’s best to have the support of an experienced and well-trained practitioner such as a naturopathic physician or functional medicine doctor specializing in hormones who can help optimize your hormone function.)
- Maintain your hormone balance by managing stress, eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, and exercising regularly (five to seven days per week). Eat foods that support your liver to help ensure proper hormone metabolism, such as cruciferous veggies, onions and garlic.
- Avoid harmful skincare ingredients and other sources of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as plasticizers and pesticides. As I’ve blogged about before, many skincare products (including most sunscreens) contain hormone-disrupting chemicals, so choose your products wisely. Remember, a good general rule is – if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin. Here’s a safer sunscreen I recommend
- If you find you have hormone imbalances, various herbs and nutrients such as chaste tree berry can support estrogen/progesterone balance. Chaste tree berry has helped women with symptoms of hormone imbalances such as irregular cycles, PMS, perimenopausal symptoms, female infertility, and fibrocystic breasts.
- Take the 21 Day Healthy Habits Challenge to optimize your healthy habits. Learn more by going to this website: www.21DayHealthyHabitsChallenge.com.
Not sure if hormones are part of your skin woes? Take my skin quiz to find out
Want individualized help? Hormones can be confusing! Contact us to schedule an appointment.
And finally, If you have any questions, please post a comment below. I may not be able to answer them all here, but I am working on a podcast dedicated to hormones and your feedback will help me cover what matters most to you!