Skin Deep Look at Hormones
Written by Michelle Violi, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy
There is no doubt that hormones affect the skin, but do different hormones affect the skin differently? Let’s take a closer look.
- Estrogen appears to affect the skin and its appearance in a number of ways: It supports collagen production, it maintains skin moisture by increasing certain skin components called mucopolysaccarides and hyaluronic acid, and it may assist in maintaining barrier function of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin).
- A study using topical estriol 0.3% cream or estradiol 0.01% cream showed markedly improved elasticity and firmness of the skin as well as decreased wrinkle depth and pore sizes in both groups.
- A study using topical or oral estradiol with or without progesterone showed improvement in skin surface lipids, epidermal skin hydration, skin elasticity, and skin thickness after six months.
- A study using topical progesterone 2% cream showed an increase of elastic skin properties and firmness, and a decrease in wrinkle number and depth.
- Thyroid affects the skin through a number of different mechanisms. Thyroid hormones have a direct action on the skin itself, the skin can manifest symptoms based on thyroid hormone actions (or lack thereof) on other tissues, and the thyroid and skin can both be affected by the body’s autoimmune response.
- Skin-related symptoms of low thyroid function include:
- Rough, thin, scaly skin
- Edema, or swelling of the skin
- Puffiness of hands, face and eyelids
- Pale skin
- Cold skin
- Dry skin
- Decreased sweating
- Rash of purple spots
- Skin-related symptoms of excess thyroid function include:
- Smooth, thin skin
- Warm skin
- Increased sweating
- Reddening of skin
- Skin-related symptoms of autoimmune related thyroid disorders such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis include:
- Vitiligo, loss of skin pigment
- Stress conditions can increase cortisol production in the body and contribute to immune system dysfunction and inflammation. This can lead to slowed wound healing, psoriasis exacerbation, acne flares, and atopic dermatitis (often associated with eczema and itch).
- Increased cortisol and other adrenal related hormones can also impact skin aging by a variety of different mechanisms, such as DNA damage.
- Androgens like testosterone affect a number of different functions of the skin. Examples include growth of the sebaceous glands, which are the glands that produce the waxy, oily substance known as sebum, as well as keeping the skin ‘s barrier intact and wound healing.
- An excess of testosterone or a testosterone imbalance relative to the other sex hormones in the body can increase the production of sebum in the skin, which can lead to acne.
- Melatonin regulates sleep and wakefulness in the body. Some use melatonin supplements to help them sleep. A study showed poor quality sleepers to have increased signs of skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced elasticity.
- A study using topical melatonin combined with vitamins E and C showed protection to the skin from the effects of the sun.
Hormones play a significant role in the health and function of the skin and the skin is greatly affected by hormones in the body. Interestingly, recent studies have shown the skin itself can also produce hormones. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione are converted in the skin to testosterone and 5 alpha dihydrotestosterone (5 alpha DHT). Scientists hope this will further our understanding of how the skin and its hormones affect the health and wellness of the entire human body.