Hormone Imbalance Wreaks Havoc On The Skin – Here’s How Hormone Testing & Therapy Can Help
Skin is the body’s largest external organ and as such, a reflection of our internal health. That’s why it is critical for men and women of all ages to closely monitor the health of their skin – common conditions like acne, dry skin, rosacea, and premature aging may actually be a sign of a larger systemic issue.
In fact, one of the most common causes of reactive skin is a hormonal imbalance. Hormones play a significant role in maintaining the healthy functioning of our bodies, signaling for essential processes to take place at the appropriate times. Hormone levels vary with gender, age, health conditions, and life events – factors that can disturb our systemic homeostasis and cause problems with our skin.
Unfortunately, skincare today focuses on treating from the outside. Walk down any drugstore beauty aisle and you will find hundreds upon hundreds of products promising to cure acne, ward off aging, and transform your skin. But because these products fail to treat the root cause, they do little more than mask the problem. So, before you reach for that shiny new face cream, keep reading to find out if the source of your skin ailment is (a couple of) layers deeper.
Androgen Imbalance – Oily Skin & Acne Breakouts
Acne is not just a problem during puberty and teenage years – it can affect men and women of all ages. When the skin produces excess oil, pores become clogged, and oil production is partially regulated by hormones.
Androgens are the biggest culprit here. Androgens such as testosterone moderate the production of sebum from the sebaceous glands in our skin. Sebum is a type of oil that keeps the skin healthy and lubricated, however individuals with excessive androgen hormones produce too much sebum leading to oily skin and acne breakouts.
Changes in estrogen also lead to the development of acne. We most often see this in women during puberty, throughout the menstrual cycle, in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and in menopause. While adolescents typically present with acne on the forehead, nose and chin, adults often have hormonal acne on the cheeks and jawline. However, these are not black and white rules, as hormonal acne can present in many different areas of the body including on the chest and back.
Cortisol Imbalances – Inflammation & Premature Aging
Cortisol is commonly associated with stress, as it plays a critical role in regulating the stress response. When confronted by psychological or physical stressors, our bodies release two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. While adrenaline is responsible for the many symptoms associated with a ‘flight-or-flight’ state such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, it is cortisol that generates the surge of energy needed for this response while pushing pause on non-essential functions.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks down molecules in order to release energy. At normal levels, this gives our bodies the means to repair damage caused by stressors and return to homeostasis. However, prolonged exposure to stressors leads to an excess of cortisol and in turn, the destruction of molecules crucial to our skin health. One such molecule is collagen, which cortisol breaks down into its amino acid components, causing premature aging of the skin.
Ever wonder why stressful life events are often accompanied by a nasty breakout? Cortisol also plays a role in stimulating the sebum glands and when stress increases cortisol levels, the overproduction of sebum oil and acne breakouts ensue. Therefore, stress management is one impactful way in which we can improve the appearance and health of our skin.
Estrogen Imbalances – Fine Lines & Wrinkles, Rosacea and More
Estrogen has many jobs: it supports collagen production, increases hyaluronic acid, and helps with wound healing, to name a few. Healthy estrogen levels play a role in skin thickness, hydration, smoothness, and helps to decrease the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
During perimenopause and menopause, women experience fluctuations and changes in levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Estrogen is by far the most impactful hormone in relation to skin health, and its beneficial effects are often not noticed until levels start to decrease.
One of the main skins changes that women notice in menopause is in the vaginal area; many experience vaginal dryness and tissue sensitivity when estrogen levels fall. Estrogen production is very important for keeping the vaginal tissue healthy and supple and affects lubrication during intercourse. Estrogen also is an anti-inflammatory hormone and inflammation levels can rise when levels drop. This can impact the skin in general and can make rosacea and other inflammatory skin conditions worse.
Thyroid Imbalances – Redness, Flushing, Dryness, & Flaking
Our thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of our neck. It produces two hormones, triiodothyronine/T3 and thyroxine/T4, that play an important role in heart rate, respiration, and metabolism.
Thyroid imbalances occur when the gland produces too much or too little of the associated hormones. For example, an excess of thyroxine leads to a condition called hyperthyroidism in which your metabolism is overstimulated and weight loss, heart rate irregularities, and anxiety & jitters ensue. As for our skin, hyperthyroidism causes flushing, redness, and increased sensitivity to heat.
The symptoms of low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, fall on the other side of the spectrum. Individuals suffering from hypothyroidism experience increased sensitivity to cold and excessive fatigue, with skin issues ranging from dry and flaky to course, cracked, and lined.
One of the most effective ways to identify hormone imbalances is through blood testing. However, determining the root cause is not so simple. This is where our team of naturopathic doctors come in, helping you to interpret your results and design the best course of action moving forward.
No matter what your age or gender, balancing hormones can lead to beautiful, healthy, and vibrant skin. If you are interested in learning more about hormonal balance therapy, or would like to book a hormone testing appointment, contact us.
Article written by Dr. Aliza Cicerone, ND, FABNO
Spark Health naturopathic medical clinic is located in Solana Beach, San Diego County, CA, and was founded in 2013.