Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate the activities of all the different cells and tissues in our bodies. The hormone produced by one tiny gland can circulate throughout our bodies in order to trigger different effects in different areas. Usually, these effects are beneficial. However, when are hormone levels are higher or lower than normal or if we have a persistent hormonal imbalance, it can cause problems. Some of these hormonal issues can cause visible effects on our skin.
Hormones and Acne
One of the most common hormonal skin problems is acne. Acne occurs when hair follicles become blocked with oil and dead skin. The trapped material can attract bacteria and cause inflammation, resulting in spots.
Hormones can increase the chances of getting spots because they affect the amount of oil that our skin is producing. The more oil that is being made, the greater the chances of the follicles becoming blocked.
The main hormone that is involved in acne is testosterone. Higher testosterone levels are associated with more oil production and a higher risk of acne. This is why acne is such a common problem for boys during adolescence. As their testosterone levels peak, boys will often end up with skin problems.
Testosterone is usually thought of as a male hormone as the levels can be much higher in men. However, women produce testosterone too. The impact of testosterone is usually milder in women because it is balanced against the effects of female hormones such as oestrogen. However, when the levels of these female hormones drop towards the end of each menstrual cycle the effects of testosterone on the skin can become more obvious. Many women will start to develop spots in the days before their period arrives.
Hormonal acne linked to the menstrual cycle is very common in women, especially during their 20s. However, spots can sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition that is causing a hormonal imbalance. For example, women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome have higher levels of male hormones that can cause skin problems along with other symptoms such as irregular periods.
How the Menopause Affects Your Skin
Hormones don’t just cause skin problems for women because of the menstrual cycle. The changes in hormone levels that occur as we pass through the menopause can also trigger certain skin issues.
During the menopause, the ovaries stop producing the hormones that were helping to control ovulation and the menstrual cycle. The effects that these hormones were having on other parts of our body will also be lost and it can take some time to adjust. The balance of different hormones in our bodies fluctuates a lot during the menopause, but it will become steadier in time.
The main effect of the menopause on our skin occurs because of the drop in oestrogen. One of the effects of oestrogen is that it stimulates the production of collagen in our skin. It also encourages the production of skin oils, but without the negative effects of testosterone. When our skin loses this stimulus during the menopause, it can result in skin drying out and losing elasticity. Many women suffer from dry, itchy skin during the menopause as a result of the hormonal imbalances.
Since these skin problems are linked to hormonal imbalances and the decline in oestrogen during the menopause, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, HRT isn’t right for everyone and most women will only want to take it for a short while until their hormone levels have become steadier. Other options such as changing your skincare routine can also help with menopausal skin problems and help you to care for your skin beyond the menopause.
The main thing you can do to look after your skin at this time is to use more moisturiser to hydrate and protect your skin. Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can also help to improve the condition of your skin by supplying it with nutrients and boosting your circulation. You should also consult a dermatologist if you’re experiencing any skin problems as there may be treatments that can relieve irritating symptoms such as itchiness. The doctor will also be able to confirm that the problem is linked to a hormonal imbalance rather than another skin condition that might require treatment.