How do hormones affect your skin? Well, we’re all familiar with that dreaded monthly breakout. You know the one – it usually coincides with an important event. Or when you need to have a picture taken for an ID badge or driver’s license.
A lot has been written about monthly cycles and the hormonal changes that occur. But what about other times of the month – do our hormones affect our skin more than we are aware?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is complicated and involves lots of biology and science. But I’m going to break it down to easy pieces here.
Basically, hormones are produced by the endocrine system and released into the bloodstream. They generally fall into two categories: 1) Proteins, Peptides, Modified Amino Acids, and 2) Steroids.
I’m not going to go into great detail here, I’m only going to name a few. But if you want more info or even just a basic understanding of how they all work, the Hormone Health Network has a great A-Z resource you can use
The three hormones that work together most often in a women’s body are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. “Work together” is the key phrase here. For ease of understanding, I’m going to refer to these three as “EPT” throughout the rest of this post.
Just like any machine, if something is out of balance, the production of the machine can go wonky (yes, that’s a technical term). Hormones need to stay at certain levels, and they have to be in balance with the other hormones, so everything works together.
Think of a recipe – if you add too much of one thing and not enough of another, it won’t taste right. If your hormones are unbalanced (which can happen for any number of reasons) the rest of the body responds accordingly. And that is how hormones end up affecting your skin.
Now that we’ve had a little biology lesson, let’s look at a few specific examples. It goes without saying that these imbalances can manifest themselves in different ways depending on several factors, including (but not limited to) age, diet, overall health, and other determining factors.
While teenagers certainly suffer the brunt of this inflammation, doctors have recently expanded their understanding of why it occurs in adults as well. It is interesting to note that there are people who didn’t have acne as teenagers but do as adults. It is all due to imbalance.
EPT levels surge in the teen years. The overabundance of all three causes the sebaceous glands to overproduce as well, which causes more oil to rise to the surface of the skin. Voila – acne breakouts.
Teens also have a tendency to eat junk food diets. This isn’t to fault them for it – it’s just often the nature of teen life. Foods that are high in fat and sugar, as well as highly processed foods with additives, can all exacerbate acne. For some teens, dairy also makes a big difference.
The same factors that cause acne in teens can also do so in adults. Additionally, stress becomes a bigger consideration (although, today’s teens have very stressful lives as well). Some women have experienced an increase in acne during pregnancy, while others report that their acne subsided while pregnant. Again, it’s all about the balance of EPT and other hormones in the body. Everybody reacts differently.
As you age, you may notice dark spots on your face, or other pigmented areas get darker. This is reported to occur a lot in pregnant women, due to increased levels of progesterone, estrogen, and other pigment-stimulating hormones. Many women report that pigmentation returns to normal after pregnancy, but spots can persist in some cases.
This can occur for a number of reasons, including hard (or soft) water, too much sun, allergic reactions, etc. But as women enter menopause, the hormones again go out of whack. For example, the sebaceous glands that overproduced (causing teen acne) begin to underproduce as menopause sets in. The lack of oil causes dry skin. Lower EPT levels affect other hormones and important proteins. Collagen levels also decrease, causing the skin to lose elasticity and firmness.
There are several other examples of how hormones can affect your skin, but these are some of the most prevalent. As you can tell, they all have one thing in common: the hormone balances.
You know your body better than anyone else. If you happen to notice any kind of change, chances are your hormones have gone out of balance. While things like better diet and exercise can control these swings, only a doctor can diagnose other causes and help find a regimen (like HRT) to stabilize the fluctuations. So listen to your body, address any imbalances, and be comfortable in your skin!
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