We all know that during menopause our hormones change drastically, but what you may not know that those hormonal changes can also cause major changes in your skin.
We typically regard wrinkles, age spots and dryness as expected parts of growing older and wiser, but in reality those changes in your skin are often encouraged further by changes in hormonal balance. Here’s how:
First, let’s understand what effect the different hormones have on your skin. Your skin contains many receptors for both estrogens and testosterones, and they both have important effects on the skin.
Estrogen’s Effect on Skin
Estrogen has many effects on the skin. It reduces the size of pores, slows the rate of hair growth, reduces the amount of sebaceous secretion and perhaps the most important effects are its ability to stimulate hyaluronic acid and to increase collagen production. Hyaluronic acid and collagen are the main building blocks of your skin. They maintain the epidermal thickness and allow the skin to remain plump, hydrated and wrinkle-free. When estrogen levels decline in the body hyaluronic acid production decreases, causing the skin to become drier and to loose its elasticity. The loss of estrogen impacts aging skin far more quickly than sun damage! Too much estrogen can cause hyperpigmentation, oily skin and acne breakouts.
Testosterone’s Effects on Skin
While testosterone is more prevalent in men, it is still present in women and serves many functions. Testosterone and other androgens increase the rate of cell turnover in the base layer of the skin (the epidermis), increases the size of pores, increases hair growth and increases collagen production. Too much testosterone causes the skin to become coarse and thick, the pores to enlarge and excess facial hair to grow. Too little testosterone can result in a dull, thin and dry skin Too little testosterone can also result in fine wrinkles and a reduction in pigmentation levels.
Menopause and Your Healthy Skin
Prior to menopause the main source of estrogen and testosterone are from the ovaries. The type of estrogen that is produced in the ovary is called estradiol, which is the predominate estrogen during the menstruating years. When menopause occurs, ovulation ceases and the ovaries stop producing estradiol, however they continue to produce testosterone. There is still some estrogen produced, but it is produced in a form called estrone and via conversion from hormones called androgens. The conversion of androgens to estrone is drastically reduced when stress levels are high, so stress during menopause can wreak havoc on your skin. Without adequate estrogen, the effects of testosterone now become more apparent as normally the estradiol would balance out its effect. This unopposed testosterone often causes facial hair growth and/or acne. The lack of estrogen also causes a reduction in hyaluronic acid, meaning that the skin can become thinner, lose its supple texture and feel less smooth. There is also a decrease in the reflection of light from the skin leaving the surface looking dull and dry.
Ways to improve Skin During Menopause
During menopause, the most important hormone to focus on is estrogen. There are herbal remedies that can boost estrogen, bio-identical hormones and traditional hormone therapy. However, I have found in clinical practice that the most important thing you can do to reestablish balance in your hormones (and keep your skin looking beautiful) is to keep stress levels down. This allows the body to create as much estrone naturally as possible. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing and other stress reducing activities can have a direct effect on your body’s production of estrone and thus on your skin’s appearance! Pick one you like and do it every day. The addition of a daily stress reduction routine will make other estrogen boosting therapies 10 times more effective!
Dr. Kinney, owner of KinnCare Inc. is a practicing Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in caring for patients suffering from anxiety, depression, gastro-intestinal disorders, hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue. Using personalized diet, lifestyle modification, genetic testing and counseling, homeopathic remedies, and herbal medicine, she is able to balance and boost the body’s natural regenerative capacity and help her patients overcome disease. She received a bachelor of arts from Vanderbilt University and is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). Dr. Kinney is currently vice president of the Maryland Naturopathic Doctors Association and an active member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She enjoys running, yoga, reading, and spending time with her husband and 2 little girls. For more information about her practice visit www.kinncare.com or follow her on facebook.