Hormones - we hear about them everyday as we scroll through our never-ending Insta feed. But, to be honest, it can be an overwhelming topic with so many hormones to discuss. We're giving you the ultimate guide to hormones, their function, how imbalances can affect your skin, fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause, as well as the key to maintaining skin health during these changes. Let's dive in!
Key hormones and their role in skin health
Estrogen: Estrogen is a vital hormone that promotes collagen production and skin thickness (think youthful skin!), and helps maintain skin hydration. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce redness and irritation in the skin.
Progesterone: Progesterone can have a positive effect on the skin by helping to regulate oil production, as a result reducing acne breakouts, and promoting skin elasticity.
Testosterone: Testosterone can have both positive and negative effects on the skin. On one hand, it can stimulate sebum production, which can lead to acne breakouts - not ideal! However, on the other hand, it can also promote collagen production and improve skin thickness, which we're all for.
Cortisol: Cortisol is another hormone that can affect skin health, although its effects are generally negative. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone" because it is released in response to stress and anxiety. High levels of cortisol can lead to a number of skin problems, including: acne, wrinkles and inflammation. Therefore, taking steps to manage this hormone is important for ultimate skin health.
Of course, these hormones will fluctuate due to a variety of factors, and although this can't be directly managed, we can put skincare strategies in place to support our skin health throughout hormonal fluctuations.
How hormonal imbalances can affect the skin
Hormonal imbalances can have wreak havoc on the skin. It can be caused by stress, medication, use of steroids, periods in life (such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause, as mentioned), or from underlying health conditions. If suffering from a hormonal imbalance, this can often present itself as on the skin as being dry, oily, thinner, acne and even skin tags.
Underlying health conditions can also play a huge part in hormonal imbalances, for example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder which affect women of reproductive age and is cause by an imbalance of hormones, including high levels of testosterone and insulin resistance. This can cause acne from excess oil production and clogged pores.
Although the symptoms mentioned tend to not be our favourite, there are ways of managing them, which we'll get to a little later.
The menstrual cycle and skin health
The menstrual cycle can be an absolute whirlwind for our skin. During the menstrual phase, estrogen and progesterone levels are low, which can cause dry and dull skin. Following this stage is the follicular phase. This takes place after menstruation and estrogen levels begin to rise. This can lead to increased collagen production and improved skin elasticity (this will be when you're likely feeling your mighty best, yay!).
Ovulation will then occur which leads to increased oil production and sometimes clogged pores. This is when you might expect to have acne breakouts. Lastly, the luteal phase can see a rise in progesterone levels, which can lead to water retention and bloating. Acne breakouts are also common during this time. We know ladies, it's a ride to say the least! However, there are menstrual skincare routines which you can follow to support skin health during each phase.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
Pregnancy is an exciting time as women prepare to welcome a brand new addition to their little family. With this, comes significant hormonal changes to support fetal development, including higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. This can see a variety of side effects, including acne and increased hair growth. This time will also increase melanin production, which can result in hyperpigmentation of the face, neck and abdomen.
On the other hand, menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive years and can display different side effects. Estrogen levels decline which can lead to skin thinning and drying, making fine lines and wrinkles appear more easily and potential hair loss - something we're sure you'd likely want to prevent. The skin can also become more fragile, becoming more prone to tearing and bruising. With collagen production also on the decline during this period, skin can lose its elasticity and begin to sag or droop. Age spots might start to catch up on you if you haven't been wearing your SPF daily (ladies, we warned you) and acne flare ups might make an appearance. To learn more about coping with hormonal changes during menopause, explore this dedicated blog.
Overall, both pregnancy and the menopause can have a significant impact on skin health. While some symptoms are temporary (pregnancy) and some are a natural part of ageing (menopause), the good news is, there are steps women can take to support their skin health during the life changes.
How to maintain skin health during hormonal changes
The bit you've been waiting for: how to manage all these hormonal fluctuations and their undesirable side effects!
Step one: hydration. We're talking about internally and externally. No, not just an extra shower, make sure you get at least 2 litres of water intake per day and you inject moisture within your skincare. We love Medik8's H.E.O.® Mask to help combat ageing and dry skin. For more on skincare routines for dry skin, give one of our previous blog posts a read.
Step two: diet. By consuming foods rich in anti-oxidants, you're giving your hormonal skin a fighting chance of reducing unwanted symptoms. We recommend weaving tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, garlic (we apologise in advance to your partners), green tea, watermelon and dark chocolate into your diet to give you that inner glow, fight signs of ageing, prevent breakouts and protect your skin from sunburn.
Step three: manage stress. Sounds simple, but it can be far more complex than you think! Make sure you put some graft into achieving the ideal work-life balance for yourself. Set aside some 'me-time', schedule it and stick to it! Whether that's reading, yoga, journalling, a nature walk or a luxury bath. Regular exercise can also support with stress management, so don't underestimate or defer it!
Step four: reduce your alcohol intake. We're not saying you can't let your hair down, but alcohol is inflammatory and a diuretic. This ultimately means that the hydration you're striving for is being stripped away by the alcohol, and it can trigger acne and rosacea. So just limit your alcohol intake where possible.
Step five: embed a concrete skincare routine for your hormonal skin. This is much easier said than done as no two people are the same. Firstly, use a gentle non-comedogenic cleanser twice a day with a double-cleanse in the evening. Be as gentle as possible on your delicate skin and avoid scrubbing too hard or using harsh products. Skincare with ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help to unclog pores and reduce inflammation, so consider these your best friends if you're suffering from acne! Wear SPF daily and find the right moisturiser for your skin type.
With endless skincare products on the market, it can get overwhelming to choose the ultimate product for hormonal skin health. To support you in selecting the perfect hormonal skincare routine, head to our products page where you can filter our shop by concern. For example, if you require something to prevent with fine lines and wrinkles, be sure to select 'Skin Ageing' to narrow down your search.
Overall, our hormones can makes as feel like a glowing queen in one breath, to a moody teenager in the next. However, it's important to take steps to manage the side effects and take the stress of hormonal changes away. For dedicated support from one of our friendly, knowledgable team, get in contact and one of our in-house specialists can recommend the perfect hormonal balancing skincare regime during a FREE skin consultation and get you feeling your best self in no time.