There are many age-related changes that happen to our bodies as we get older. One problem we have to deal with is skin problems. The majority of these changes are actually hormonal.
As we get older, we see acne, lines, sagging, and wrinkles, so we run to the drugstore or high-end department store in search of the “holy grail” of skincare products that can give us immediate results. Well, immediate results don’t happen unless you have a surgical or dermatological intervention with costly procedures such as botox, fillers, laser, or chemical peels, and more. These procedures work well but may not be in our budget. They give us immediate or near immediate results that can last from months to years. Sometimes your results from these are not what you expected either.
If you want to work on the underlying problems from within the body, let’s first discuss what hormones do to our skin. Hormone changes can signal responses in the skin to cause inflammation, decreased collagen production, dryness, and change in skin tone.
What hormones cause these changes?
EstrogenEstrogen, made up of the 3 estrogens, primary estrogen, estradial, and estriol, are the main female hormones (but also found in males when they convert testosterone to estrogen as they age). Estrogen affects skin thickness, skin moisture, and the development of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Estrogen also gives us strong and healthy hair.
TestosteroneTestosterone is the main male sex hormone. Testosterone is what makes men “men”. Hair is coarser and thicker. Skin is thicker, with more oil production, and gives you a more delayed look of aging. Women also have some testosterone. Increased testosterone in women can cause hair thinning and forms of alopecia (hair loss). When the estrogen/testosterone ratio gets out of sync, it changes the skin sebum (oil) production and adult acne may result.
Thyroid HormonesThe small gland in the front of the voice box is the thyroid gland. It makes two thyroid hormones that affect your metabolism, which can make changes in body temperature, breathing, muscle and bone health, and brain development, along with skin dryness, changes in weight and cholesterol levels, and menstrual cycles. Skin changes, when not functioning properly, can range from warmth, sweating, and flushing with too many hormones, to skin dryness, decreased sweat secretion, and skin thickening and roughness with too little hormones.
As women begin to enter perimenopause and menopause, skin changes can exacerbate and the feeling of overnight skin changes are a symptom that many women express. Losing estrogen decreases collagen production and causes skin thinning, sagging, and wrinkling. The anti-inflammatory properties estrogen has is also decreased, resulting in inflammatory responses such as skin flushing, night sweats, and rosacea. Decreased production of blood vessels in the skin can cause paleness, giving the lack-luster effect. This makes you appear as if you had lost the rosy glow you used to have in your youth. When estrogen declines, at times it can happen so suddenly the effect is dramatic, giving the testosterone hormones an advantage, boosting the effect of hair thinning on top and increased hair on the face and other places.
So what can we do when these changes happen? Most women are very uncomfortable with these changes and will try any means possible. As mentioned previously, cosmeceutical creams can do so much but not change the internal source or cause. Hormone replacement therapy can help bring hormones back into balance, with better results achieved when using bioidentical hormones, since they are most like what your own body makes when compared with synthetically made hormones. Superficial changes can be done surgically or with high-end procedures at a dermatologist or surgeon’s office. Many people are pleased with these results but there are always risks to any procedures. Bioidentical hormone replacement can be a safer way to get some of the changes improved over time and will be more natural. Extreme skin changes can improve more and more over time with a softer, natural appearance. You won’t look 30 years younger but your skin can improve greatly. Many people actually say they look up to 10 - 15 years younger once their hormone balancing is on track with their hormone balancing goals.
The key to helping your skin changes is by determining if these skin changes bother you and how you would like to deal with it. The other physical and emotional effects of menopause can be distressing enough and hormonal balancing can be beneficial in all aspects of menopausal symptoms, not just for skin problems.
If you are having skin changes that bother you and you would like to change them, tell your doctor and find out if these changes are hormonal or from other sources. Once you have determined the source, then you can make a more informed decision that works best for you.