How Hormones Are Affecting The Way We Look
Throughout our lives, our hormones are responsible for a whole host of skin and hair issues, such as hormonal acne. In a recent study, published in The British Journal of Dermatology, acne sufferers were shown to have a 63% higher risk of developing major depression. And with emotional stress playing a role in boosting acne-causing hormones, sufferers seem doomed to a vicious circle of pimples and misery.
Fortunately, with increased awareness, the treatment modalities available to hormonal skin are expanding. Periods are more openly discussed and women now want to know how they can work with their monthly ebbs and flows to ensure their skin is in top condition. Treatments are now more targeted at the root cause of the problem, rather than a blanket cure-all.
Here are some of the skin havoc hormones can wreck on our skin, and some intelligent solutions.
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Many of us remember the trials of ‘teenage’ skin. For youngsters, a plump dermis is a poor consolation prize for the rash of pimples with which many struggle. And as many will attest ‘adolescent’ skin is a problem for many children years before their ‘teens’.
The earlier onset of puberty means “children as young as seven are entering this developmental period and we find oily skin and blackheads is on the rise in the 7-12 year age group”, according to Dr Kenneth Lee, medical director of SW1 Clinic.
When the body reaches a certain age, growth hormones increase the size of the sebaceous glands, which results in greater sebum production. Testosterone, meanwhile, is also directly linked to sebum production.
“The adrenal glands are another source for the production of testosterone and oestradiol [the strongest of the oestrogens],” Dr Lee explains. “Adrenal maturation, termed adrenarche, typically precedes gonadarche [the maturation of the gonads] in mid-childhood. As such, before the physical changes of puberty become obvious, the chemical changes of puberty associated with adrenal function may influence changes in pre-teen skin.”
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In addition to establishing a good daily regimen, “it is crucial to educate teens on the lifestyle factors that influence breakouts”, says Dr Lee. “Emotional stress – from exams to social factors – increases testosterone, meaning more oil and more neurotransmitters that can promote inflammation in the skin.”
Targeted Solutions: Young teenage acne usually have accompanying sebum overdrive. Choice ingredients are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide which does double-duty fighting acne and shine. Try Pure Gold Aquashine lotion, a super light essence that vanishes into the skin in an instant delivering traces of AHA to keep skin clear.
A hit with teenagers who don’t like the feel of greasiness on their skin. Another popular product is a facial mist Clear Tonic, which is easy to use ( a few spritzes a day keeps the acne at bay…) and versatile as it can be used on the face and back as well.
Time of the month
Even for totally healthy women of childbearing age, hormones can remain a source of skin issues. Every month, when an egg is released, the ruptured follicle secretes progesterone and oestrogen to prepare the uterus for pregnancy. This spike in progesterone levels stimulates the production of sebum (ie food for the spot-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes!), which means that by the time women begin to menstruate many will be suffering from spots, or the dreaded ‘period skin’.
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During ‘that time of the month’, Dr Low Chai Ling recommends targeted treatments such as a deep cleansing facial such as Clear Blue, that uses I-Clear blue wavelength to stop acne as well as ultrasound to dislodge blackheads, leaving skin calm and clear.
“Women at this stage find that they have acne out of their oily T-zone area, which requires specialized treatment and care” says Dr Low. She recommends Blue Orchid, from her eponymous skincare range, that contains anti-aging black orchid extract as well as very low dose benzoyl peroxide for its overall anti-bacterial affect and niacinamide (vitamin B) for its acne-fighting, redness- soothing effects. Not only does it serve as a soft day and night cream to keep skin soft and supple, its active ingredients work throughout the day to turn troubled skins clear.
During the years leading up to menopause – from late 20s to mid 40s – oestrogen levels in the blood gradually decline, which has an effect on all the body’s organs including our dermis.
“As women approach the menopausal years they are dealing with the full court press from all three types of ageing: genetic ageing, environmental ageing and now hormonal ageing too,” according to Dr Michelle Lim.
“It’s everything they dealt with in their 20s and 30s – fine lines, shallow wrinkles, sun damage and sagging – with hormonal ageing coming into play; even women blessed with great genes will now start to see genetic and hormonal ageing.”
Symptoms include a loss of elasticity, medium to deep wrinkles, and dry and thinning skin with a dull or lacklustre tone. Additionally, some women will experience adult onset acne as part of their hormonal ageing symptoms.
“You may want to target firmness, wrinkles, loss of collagen, dehydration and breakouts all in one go,” says Dr Lim. She recommends Gold Mulberry, a soft cream that contains potent anti-aging Resveratrol, the anti-aging elixir derived from red wine. By strengthening your skin’s foundational health, you are equipping it to fight lines and acne better.
A guide to hormones: What’s what?
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone: Released by the brain. Causes the pituitary gland to release two more puberty hormones: LH and FSH.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): Rising levels of LH and FSH make gonads produce testosterone and oestradiol, the strongest oestrogen.
Testosterone: The primary male sex hormone responsible for sexual and reproductive development. Linked to sebum production.
Oestrogen: The primary female sex hormone responsible for sexual and reproductive development. Both testosterone and oestrogen are present in the opposite sex, but at a much lower levels.
Progesterone: A hormone that helps prepare the body for conception and pregnancy. Can stimulate the production of sebum.
Menopause: When women’s menstrual periods stop permanently. As womens’ ovarian reserves deplete, oestradiol and progesterone production by the ovaries also decreases. Menopause typically occurs between 49 and 52 years of age.
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