How do Hormones Act On Your Skin
Hormones and Skin
About one hundred years ago humans doubled their life expectancy. This was a monumental feat, given that the number of years the average person was expected to live was a relatively constant number throughout most of human history. Nutrition, modern medicine and technology were mostly responsible for this dramatic change. In 2007, average life expectancy was 80.4 years for women, and 75.3 years for men.1 This gap may be narrowing, but one thing is clear – there is virtually a new population in the human experience, and women are the chief contributors. The aging female client is the backbone of our industry. Anti-aging skin care, led by cosmeceutical sales, is the leader in the multibillion dollar skin care industry, and it is not going away anytime soon.
The Role of Hormones
One of the most important factors involved in the initiation of aging is the endocrine system. Particularly important for women, the endocrine system produces and regulates hormones, which decline, sometimes drastically, with age. Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced in organs such as the ovaries, adrenal glands and thyroid glands. Sex steroid hormones, thyroid and growth hormones are involved in many different functions such as growth, immune, reproductive and metabolic functions, and even hunger and stress. Unlike extrinsic aging, which requires external factors like ultraviolet (UV) radiation, lifestyle and pollution to cause deep wrinkling and photodamage, intrinsic skin aging is governed by our own body’s biological clock. Dryness, fine wrinkling and paleness is all part of the natural process of skin aging. Many factors are involved in intrinsic skin aging: genetic mutations, increased inflammatory signals, decreased lipid production and decreased hormone levels. These hormone changes are now being more closely examined to reveal just how important they are to skin health, especially in women. How do these hormones act on the skin? And specifically how do they impact skin aging?
Testosterone is the chief male sex hormone and is the primary reason for everything that makes a man, well… male. Coarser hair, thicker and oilier skin, and generally a later onset for showing signs of skin aging are all due to testosterone. Female pattern alopecia, or baldness, is attributed to increased androgen levels and is the most common cause of hair loss in women. With age, the estrogen-androgen ratio becomes unbalanced, and changes are seen following menopause. Since androgens, and in particular testosterone, are involved in skin sebum production, females may experience increased oiliness or even adult acne when hormones become unbalanced during menstruation or menopause. The effects of androgens on skin are important in both male and female clients, as both can experience effects of altered androgen levels.
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated just in front of the voice box. The thyroid gland makes two thyroid hormones which affect metabolism, brain development, breathing, body temperature, muscle strength, bone health, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight and cholesterol levels. Again, balance is key when it comes to these hormones. Too much, and skin can become warm, sweaty and flushed. Too little, and skin becomes dry, coarse, thick and even sweating is decreased. Thyroid dysfunction can also lead to thinning hair and eventual hair loss.
When it comes to popular hormones, estrogen takes the prize for most widely known and discussed.
Estrogens include estradiol, the most abundant form in adult females, estriol, the primary estrogen during pregnancy and estrone, which is produced during menopause. Interestingly, in females, estrogens are made by converting the male hormones, known collectively as androgens, into estrogens. And these androgens are initially derived from cholesterol, the primary steroid that gives rise to many steroid hormone families. The conversions from cholesterol to androgens, or from androgens to estrogens, is all made via the actions of certain key enzymes. Without these enzymes, conversion would not be possible.
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