Don’t recognize the face in the mirror? Here’s how to use your hormones to your complexion’s advantage.
Ahh, youth. Remember that time? The secret crushes? The teen angst? The questionable – very questionable – fashion choices?
Amidst those memories, you probably also remember having really different skin, whether it involved acne (like 99% of us) or…it didn’t (that insanely lucky 1%). Blemish-free or not, your complexion had fullness, lots of elasticity and moisture, and – sigh – not a wrinkle in sight.
Hormone balance is critical to your skin’s health and appearance, but despite what you may think – that getting older automatically means dry, sagging skin – it’s not impossible to rebalance your hormones. Nor is it a given that skin stops glowing after the teen years. So let’s take a deeper dive then into the hormones affecting your complexion, and what your skin on the outside may be telling you about your health on the inside.
Produced by your ovaries, estrogen is the “heating hormone” causing tissue to grow, and body fat to increase. It’s also the “feminizing hormone” that aids in collagen production and elasticity, and peaks right before ovulation, giving the skin a temporary glow.
But a few factors can cause estrogen production to decrease, taking elasticity along with it. As Brooke Borel at YouBeauty writes, “As the overall level of estrogen decreases, the skin does not bounce back the same way it does during each menstrual cycle. Instead, collagen and elastin production decreases, which causes the skin to get drier and lose its elasticity. The loss of estrogen impacts aging skin far more quickly than sun damage.”
Falling estrogen speeds up the aging process more quickly than sun damage? Yikes! What then are those estrogen-reducing factors?
Age (starting around mid 30s, but especially mid 40s and onward), sleep disruption, stress, irregular eating habits and illness can all adversely affect estrogen production. Fortunately though, you’ve got tools in your arsenal for balancing this hormone: supplementation (more on that in a moment), practicing good sleep hygiene, and positive dietary changes. Natasha Turner, ND at Chatelaine writes:
“Simple dietary changes can also help support healthy estrogen levels through the intake of phytoestrogens, such as flaxseed and fermented soy products. Have one serving of organic, non-GMO soy along with two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in your smoothies or salads, daily. Increase your intake of vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts—they contain indols, compounds that are essential to healthy estrogen balance.”
But estrogen is just one of the hormones affecting your skin’s appearance. Let’s take a look at some others.
While we do need cortisol in our bodies and our lives – say, to help us hit the car brakes before slamming into a tree – our modern lifestyles prompt us to pump out way too much of this steroid hormone. And when your system is exposed to too much cortisol over time, weird things happen: cortisol-induced collagen loss, disrupted sleep, accelerated age spots and wrinkles, and to add insult to injury, a reduced sex drive. Not cool, cortisol! Not cool.
We’ve all seen the faces of stressed-out executives who work crazy hours under stressful conditions, and who don’t get enough sleep to boot (maybe you’re one of them). These are typically the faces of those who’ve got a lot of extra cortisol to deal with, but, as with estrogen, there are natural interventions available.
Exercise, relaxation, and quality sleep all help temper the body’s cortisol levels, and the benefits will show on your face. What’s important to remember here, though, is that you’re not just trying to bring down your cortisol; you’re trying to balance all of your hormones (cortisol included), which work in conjunction with each other to provide you energy during the day, deep sleep at night, and radiant skin, hair, and overall vigor. So let’s examine two other hormones whose levels impact your skin, and how they fluctuate with age.
Most people think of testosterone as a guy’s hormone, but it’s without a doubt one of your hormones, too. As Dr. Laurie Steelsmith writes in her book “Great Sex Naturally,” testosterone:
“…can have wide-ranging effects on your personality, giving you an extra “edge” that may be felt in your sexual energy, or anywhere else in your life…it helps you build bones and prevent bone loss, maintain a balanced ratio of fat to lean muscle mass, and improve your muscle strength. If your level is too low, in addition to experiencing diminished libido and feeling lackluster about sex, you’re apt to be uninterested in trying new activities and feel “drab,” worn-out, and tired much of the time.”
Testosterone’s energetic effects have significant implications for your complexion, particularly if you’re experiencing fatigue during the day, and less-than-nourishing sleep at night (hello, undereye circles). Not enough testosterone, and you experience the symptoms Dr. Steelsmith outlines; too much, and acne can crop up on your face, chest, and back.
As you may have guessed by now, testosterone works in conjunction with healthy levels of estrogen, and those are supremely affected by another critical hormone: progesterone.
Here we come to one of your most critical hormones when it comes to beauty and vitality, one that we could probably all do with a little more of.
Progesterone decreases with age, and that’s a shame, because it’s the hormone that has a lot to do with your energy and appearance. If you’ve noticed bouts of acne, or if your nails or skin of your heels and hands are dry and cracking, you might be low in progesterone. Other signs? Foggy thinking, low energy, moodiness…and the list goes on. Like estrogen, progesterone naturally decreases with age, but also like estrogen, its levels are not irretrievable – your body can make more. If you suspect low progesterone is at the root of your skin issues, you can have your levels tested in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle (the second half, usually around day 21 of a 28-day cycle), via blood, urine or saliva samples.
Supplementation – particularly with a formula containing chaste berry, which has been clinically proven to prompt your body to naturally increase its levels of progesterone – is a terrific way to balance this particular hormone, whose levels tend to have a stabilizing effect on the others.
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