Hormone Life Hacks

4 Must-Know Facts About Hormones & Your Skin

As a woman, your hormones change constantly, both day-by-day and over your lifetime. These changes can affect the appearance and texture of your skin.
 
The hormones that play the biggest role in the appearance and health of your skin are the sex hormones, estrogen and androgen. Estrogen, which is mostly produced in the ovaries, is considered “the female hormone” because it prompts sexual development in young women at puberty and prompts ovulation in the menstrual cycle. Androgen, the “male hormone,” initiates sexual development in boys and spurs the production of sebum, which is a natural oily secretion from glands in the skin and a big factor when it comes to acne. Here are four important points about how hormones can affect your skin:
 
1. You may have already noticed this, but your skin is at its best right after your period ends. This is because of a rise in estrogen levels after menstruation. Higher levels of estrogen do good things for the skin, for example, encouraging collagen and elastin formation. Collagen and elastin restore firmness while minimizing your pores and aiding in hydration; all of which will make your skin look fresh and rejuvenated. In the week before your period, your skin is oilier and more sensitive, so cleanse thoroughly but gently, using anti-acne treatments as needed. Skin remains extra sensitive during menstruation, so continue to treat it with special care. From post-period to mid-cycle, you can lighten up on your acne and moisturizing regimen. Once you ovulate and oil production picks back up, get back to your regular routine if you’re acne prone.
 
2. You may still see changes in your skin from hormones, even if you take a birth control pill. Although oral contraceptives stop the ovaries from delivering eggs to be fertilized, they don’t completely prevent your body’s natural fluctuations in hormone levels. While you may experience less dramatic skin changes and better skin overall because you have less testosterone in your body, you may still have some monthly breakouts. Follow the same skincare routine that you would if you weren’t taking an oral contraceptive.
 
3. Too much androgen causes breakouts. Acne triggered by increased levels of male hormones is usually just a brief, pre-period inconvenience. If the problem is persistent, consider visiting a doctor, as it can be a symptom of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS requires medical attention and may also be characterized by male-pattern hair loss and infertility. Female body builders who take supplemental testosterone (A.K.A. steroids) to help them build muscle may develop body acne due to higher hormone levels.
 
In the week before your period, your skin is oilier and more sensitive, so cleanse thoroughly but gently and use anti-acne treatments as needed. Skin remains extra sensitive during menstruation, so continue to treat it with special care.
 
4. Estrogen production declines as you age. This, in addition to a lifetime of sun damage over the years, can cause skin to lose elasticity and appear more wrinkled and drier as you get older. The big estrogen drop-off occurs at menopause, which is defined as a year after menstruation stops for good. This usually begins when women are in their 50s, although it may start sooner. So why not sidestep Mother Nature and keep estrogen at your premenopausal levels to keep skin looking youthful? While some women do take supplemental hormones to combat postmenopausal discomfort, the risk of causing breast cancer is too high to make complete estrogen supplementation safe or desirable for cosmetic reasons alone. It’s better to tailor your beauty regimen to combat dry skin and use a richer moisturizer along with pore-minimizing and hydrating serums.
Anne M. Russell is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She is the former editor in chief of VIVmag, previously having served as editor in chief of Shape. Prior to that, she was the editorial director of Fox Television’s Health Network, where she oversaw the Network’s website as well as on-air content. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annemrussell

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