WHAT ARE HORMONES AND WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT?
Hormones are chemical messengers that send messages to the cells that they interact with. They can affect several processes in the body including growth, reproduction and metabolism. Hormones can also influence the immune system as well as our mood, causing changes in behaviour. Unsurprisingly, during the average life journey, numerous hormonal changes can reflect in various ways on our skin’s appearance and condition. For example, skin conditions commonly associated with puberty includes acne, while dryness, loss of collagen and elasticity, reduced volume are noted during menopause and surprisingly skin that suffers from breakouts is also common. The bad news is that, as we age these skin changes are inevitable. The good news is that by understanding why and what steps to take, each of us can stay in control.
TEENS - HORMONES & PUBERTY
Although acne can start at any age, hormonal changes during puberty may trigger acne flare ups. According to the British Skin Foundation, acne affects around 80% of adolescents aged 13-18 years. Why is this? During puberty, hormones that promote natural development, will raise testosterone levels in boys and girls. A side effect of this can be the overproduction of sebum which in turn can cause acne. Stress is also a contributory factor. Exams, social pressures and dealing with puberty itself can lead to a rise in the adrenal hormones, again causing the sebaceous glands to overproduce sebum.
- Avoid harsh scrubs or cleansers
- Use mineral based make-up to avoid artificial chemicals that will clog the skin further
- Use vitamin A orally and topically to help normalise sebum production.
TWENTIES/THIRTIES - HORMONES & PREGNANCY
Did you know that from 26’ish women will see a different type of hormonal acne—deep, cystic bumps in the chin and jawline area and products won't work as well on these hormonal breakouts? Other female-only hormonal changes include pregnancy, the contraceptive pill and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Many women experience acne or skin breakouts just before ‘that time of the month’ as when hormonal levels fluctuate this in turn, stimulates the sebaceous glands. The contraceptive pill, that contains artificial hormones oestrogen and progesterone, may cause photo-sensitivity in some women and result in pigmentation. The onset of pregnancy, is another trigger for hormonal changes that may lead to pigmentation and sometimes acne. Managing skin concerns, whilst pregnant can be very difficult as some treatments/remedies may have to be avoided.
Lines - What Lines?
Wrinkles and pigmentation usually start to appear as a result of damage done to skin in teens. The skin will start to appear dull as already skin cell turnover will be slowing down. Now is the time to start investing in active products and treatments to ensure firmer, younger looking skin. Having regular vitamin A based treatments and gradually increasing the dosage can help encourage healthy cell production. Using vitamin A and C orally can also enhance collagen synthesis.
- Use a mild oil based cleanser and avoid scrubs
- Start to introduce vitamin C orally and topically for strong healthy collagen formation
- Get your skin analysed and follow with a tailored skincare programme
- Introduce vitamin A orally and topically to help keep skin looking healthy (skin care expert to advise during pregnancy).
- Protect the skin from the sun at all times and use an antioxidant based sunscreen.
FORTIES - THE PERIMENOPAUSE
The lead up to the menopause can be a tricky time. Perimenopause is the phase before menopause actually takes place and normally lasts between 3 – 4 years. During this phase, hormone production begins to decline and fluctuate.
Declining oestrogen levels mean skin becomes thinner with more pronounced wrinkles such as those on the upper lip. Loss of collagen and elastin combined with reduced volume (subcutaneous fat) and bone shrinkage results in loss of structural integrity and the face literally sliding south. The severity of these symptoms will depend on UV exposure from childhood, genetics, lifestyle as well as medication which will each have an impact on the quality of skin.
The hormones that help regulate the sebaceous glands, such as oestrogen also start to decline, leading to stubborn breakouts or acne in some women. This is further aggravated by the slowing-down of the skins cell renewal process in more mature skin. As excess skin cells build up, blocked pores already clogged with sebum, are further irritated causing inflammation.
Steps to take
Balance from within
Look at your diet. Balance blood sugar levels with a combination of vegetables, wholegrains with lean protein foods including meat, fish, eggs, nuts, lentils and fibre. Cut down on caffeine, sugar and alcohol. Smoking is a no no.
The decrease of hormonal levels means increased risk of osteoporosis so keep moving with daily exercise such as walking daily for at least 30 minutes. Building in weight bearing exercise is essential to help strengthen bones. Exercise is also great for beating depression and anxiety and boosting your libido.
Supplement your diet
Introduce a good multivitamin to ensure appropriate levels of magnesium, vitamin D to channel calcium to the core of the bones and ensure daily essential Omega 3 to help with dry skin, low mood and depression
FIFTIES - SKIN & THE MENOPAUSE
The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. It follows the perimenopause stage and is when menstrual periods stop and fertility ends. Menopause symptoms include hot flushes, insomnia, and weight gain, loss of sex drive, mood swings, depression and changes to the appearance of the skin. A rather irritating symptom is also unwanted facial hair. Some women often find hairs appearing on their chin or jaw line, which is caused by a drop in oestrogen and rise in testosterone levels. It is also during this time that women may opt for treatment to relieve some of the many symptoms of the menopause such as BHRT (Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
“Bio-identical hormones are exactly similar in molecular structure (i.e. identical) to the hormones that your ovaries and adrenal glands secrete into your bloodstream. They are produced in the laboratory from plants, usually yam or soya"
Dr Yehudi Gordon (Consultant Gynaecologist)
What are typical Menopause Skin Changes?
1. Change in fat deposits
Oestrogen deficiency during menopause causes a change in body composition with an increase in abdominal fat. This contributes to metabolic syndrome which increases the risk of cardiac disease and diabetes. Facial fat becomes thinner resulting in loss of volume.
Wrinkles will become more prominent as your skin begins to sag and lose its elasticity.
3. Hyperpigmentation/Age Spots
Melanocytes, which are the cells that manufacture the pigment melanin, are also controlled by oestrogens. As menopause kicks in, melanocytes levels decline. As melanin decreases, areas of the skin become lighter and therefore more susceptible to sun damage.
4. Sun Damage
Years of sun exposure can results in solar lentigines. These brown 'age spots' may start to appear on the face, neck, hands, arms and chest. Age spots can look flat with a black, brown or even grey colour. However, often at times these age spots may have a similar appearance to some skin cancers. Therefore, as a precaution, if your client is concerned with very dark spots or spots that one that looks blotchy or are increasing in size, it is best to advise them to visit their GP.
5. Dry Skin
Dry skin happens as your skin ages because it fails to produce natural oils partly due to a decrease in hormone production. Seasonal changes also affect menopause skin changes. However on the contrary, some women may experience oily skin with the decline in oestrogen.
Useful Tips for coping with the menopause
1. Use SPF cream with antioxidants – a winning combination for menopausal skin changes.
2. Eliminate scrubs, harsh cleansers and facial brushes which strip the skin of natural oils and disrupt the stratum corneum promoting transepidermal water loss.
3. Use a hydrating oil based cleanser that removes environmental pollutants from the skin whilst maintaining the natural acid balance of the skin.
4. Introduce key active ingredients such as vitamin A and C orally and topically, along with antioxidants to protect the skin against the damaging effects of free radicals. Vitamin A thickens the skin, whilst stimulating natural moisturising factors. Vitamin C will support collagen production and help generate healthy skin cells.
5. Introduce a good quality omega 3 and 6 supplement to compensate for the decline in oils and nutrients.
6. Supplement with bio-identical hormones which will reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the menopause. Combined with lifestyle and dietary changes this can mean staying vital, strong and healthy (physically and mentally) as we go through the menopause and beyond.
FIVE STEPS TO HORMONAL HAPPINESS BY DR YEHUDI GORDON, CONSULTANT GYNAECOLOGIST
Understand. Every cell in the body needs hormones to work optimally.
Nourish. Hormones cannot work in a stressed body – nutritious food, vitamins, minerals, omega fish oils, vitamin D, sleep and exercise are like fertilised soil for the hormones to do their job.
BHRT. Bio-identical hormones mimic the structure of your own hormones. They are natural purified from plants and have not been manipulated for the purposes of patent applications
Personalised. Your doctor will recommend a formula that is personally designed to re-balance your hormone profile, depending on the results of a blood test.
Ageless. BHRT is beneficial during the peri -to post -menopause stages; it’s a myth that once past menopause, women do not need hormones. Even 90 year old women are using them.