Which Hormones Affect The Skin And How?
Did you know that our body hosts more than 100 hormones?
Hormones do affect our general condition including our skin´s condition at every age. So, let´s have a look at which famous hormones drastically affect our skin´s health and appearance and how, but first let´s answer the question of what hormones are.
Hormones are chemical substances that are secreted by the cells or the glands of our organism and act as chemical mediators, messengers that send signals from one part of the body to another.
They control and regulate our metabolism, growth, reproductive cycle, how we react to environmental stimuli or how we feel. They coordinate the function of the organs and prepare our bodies for some major changes such as adolescence, pregnancy or menopause. And of course, their fluctuations affect, positively or negatively, our skin.
Although estrogens are known as female hormones by most people, they are steroid hormones that are produced in the body of both men and women, just their presence is more intense and their function is more complex in the case of women.
Estrogens are directly linked to our reproductive system – they participate in egg maturation – that’s why they are called sex hormones. They also protect the bones, regulate the distribution of fat and speed healing of the bruises on the skin.
In addition, they are responsible for many of the female features such as the chest and curves, the soft texture of the skin as well as the small size of the skin pores. They help maintain skin moisture as well as the composition of collagen and elastin, those proteins that ensure the skin’s firmness and elasticity.
During the reproductive age, particularly in our 20-30s, estrogen levels are high and reach their peak during pregnancy. During this time, estrogens make the skin appear brighter, but it is very likely to cause – in combination with sunlight – excessive accumulation of melanin in the epidermis, the so called melasma or pregnancy mask.
After 40 years old, when estrogen levels begin to rapidly decline, their beneficial effect on the skin is abruptly cut down. The sebaceous glands produce less sebum and the skin becomes brittle, dry and dull. The metabolism of the skin cells slows down dramatically and its layers gradually become thinner. The subcutaneous fat gets reduced and the skin loses its elasticity and starts sagging.
Testosterone, the Male Hormone
This androgenic hormone is present in women as well, just at much lower levels. It plays a key role in reproduction as well as in the development of a strong skeletal and muscular system. It is also responsible for many of the masculinity features, such as, in the case of the skin, its intense hair growth, its thickness and strength, larger pores and increased sebum production.
In women, elevation of testosterone levels (in puberty or due to a condition such as polycystic ovarian syndrome) can cause overstimulation of the sebaceous glands, which may lead to persistent acne and even cystic acne. The skin becomes more sensitive and increased hair growth can be noticed on the face.
But too low levels of testosterone and generally androgen hormones (after 40-50) do also have an effect on the skin. The skin becomes more dry and fragile. The fat builds up, muscles waste away and the connective tissues become loose, so the skin sags not only on the face but also on the body and especially on the arms.
Cortisol, the Stress Hormone
Nature has predicted that every time our body senses immediate danger, the brain reacts immediately and triggers the release of cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
In fact, it’s a survival mechanism that gives urge to the muscles to deal with danger or a stressful condition until it ceases to exist (especially cortisol feeds blood with “fuels” like glucose and fatty acids.)
But if the stress becomes chronic, we are forcing cortisol to work intensively so that, in the long run, its positive role is getting transformed into a negative one. High levels of cortisol are usually associated with weight gain but they also have an effect on our skin.
They are responsible for intense oiliness and those acne outbursts that occur in our adult life as well as accelerate skin aging process. In particular, cortisol causes an increase in blood glucose, which in turn causes collagen damage, resulting in the appearance of wrinkles and sagginess.
T3 / T4 Thyroid Hormones
The thyroid gland is the largest gland of our endocrine system. It uses the iodine that takes from the foods for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, especially T3 and T4. These hormones regulate, among other things, tissue metabolism, body temperature and circulatory and nervous system. It also has an effect on the skin.
If there is a reduced production of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), the skin can become brittle, severely dry and pale as well as feel cold to the touch.
In the case of increased thyroid hormone production (hyperthyroidism) the skin may feel warm and sweaty to the touch, have rashes and in some cases vitiligo, a dermatopathy characterized by loss of melanin and discoloration of different areas of the skin.
In conclusion, hormones do affect our skin both positively and negatively, and in this article, you have seen which hormones affect the health and looks of our skin as well as how they do it.