Ladies, this one is for you!
Your skin can tell you many things about the way your hormones are functioning. For example, acne might be triggered for a variety of reasons, such as puberty, menses, post-partum, coming off birth control pills, and so much more. Excessive dry skin is sometimes caused by menopause or hypothyroidism. Yellow and pale skin might be a sign of a thyroid dysfunction, and those dark circles under your eyes are often a sign of adrenal exhaustion or elevated cortisol levels. Whatever the circumstances, always keep in mind that your hormones are messengers coordinating the function of cells, tissues, and organs throughout your body and communicating that information to you.
Progesterone has many actions in females, some of which include maintaining the lining of the uterus, relaxing the uterine muscles, normalizing libido and sexual function, promoting hair growth, raising HDL and lowering triglycerides, and improving sleep patterns. Estrogen promotes vaginal secretion, increases lactic acid production, and increases breast tissue mass, to name a few. Testosterone, another key player, is vital for improving mood, increasing muscle size, enhancing libido, and producing sebum secretion of the skin.
Progesterone works synergistically with estrogen and an imbalance in it or testosterone can manifest itself with physical signs. Deficiency in estrogen can show up through dry, dehydrated, pale, or wrinkly skin, specially above the upper lip and around the eyes. A deficiency in progesterone, which can often result in excess estrogen, is likely to show up as red or swollen skin. And a deficiency in testosterone results in dry skin; whereas excess testosterone produces increasing levels of sebum, resulting in acne.
Acne often occurs around your menses because estrogen drops while testosterone remains constant. During the second half of your menstrual cycle, progesterone begins to rise, causing more oily skin and clogging pores. Have you ever wondered why certain birth controls are prescribed for acne? They work by synthetically, regulating hormones. Hence, coming off birth control will often throw your body “out of whack.”
After pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, allowing for prolactin to be released, initiating breastfeeding. This can result in changes to the skin. The reduction in these hormones compromises the integrity of the skin, and can result in various skin issues.
When we’re stressed, we experience an increase in adrenaline, which results in elevated cortisol levels. Adrenals are important in supporting our ovaries and producing our reproductive hormones, but when they’re under stress, our bodies elicit attention from the adrenals to produce more cortisol instead. Too much cortisol can result in thinning of skin, an increase in bruising, and weight gain, to name just a few symptoms.
As women age and approach menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease and impact the skin. When estrogen levels fall with age, not only does it lead to vaginal dryness, but the skin also becomes more prone to dryness and wrinkles. The production of collagen and elastin decreases, weakening the skin. The skin becomes dehydrated because it’s not able to soak up water as effectively. The lipid production of skin also decreases, compromising the skin barrier and further drying the skin. There is also a decrease in blood flow to the skin that doesn’t allow for nutrients to optimally reach the cells.
Given my background in integrative health, I enjoy explaining how promoting systemic health invariably results in great looking skin. Part of this process also involves focusing on proper nutrition, including creating herbal formulas that address hormones. I have found that whether it’s necessary to promote the detoxification of hormones, support the adrenals, or create a specific balance between hormones, there are a variety of herbs and nutrients that can be used. For example, biphasic herbal formulations focus on the two phases of a women’s menstrual cycle and are especially useful in creating that balance. There are specific times when hormones tend to fluctuate the most, but understanding the imbalance empowers you to take steps towards obtaining naturally beautiful skin.
Ladies, I hope this information helps you to take control, nourish yourselves, and celebrate your femininity – not to mention your beautiful, healthy skin!