Skin Deep Look at Hormones
Written by Michelle Violi, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy
- 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.
- Safer JD. Thyroid hormone action on skin. Dermatoendocrinol. 2011;3(3):211-15. www.landesbioscience.com. Accessed February 2017.
- Zouboulis CC, Degitz K. Androgen action on human skin – from basic research to clinical significance. Exp Dermatol. 2004;13(suppl):4:5-10. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2004.00255.x. https://search.proquest.com/docview/304607160
- Zouboulis CC. The skin as an endocrine organ. Dermatoendrocrinol. 2009;1(5):250-52. www.landesbioscience.com. Accessed February 2017.
- Higdon J. Cruciferous Vegetables. Oregon State University. 2005; Updated 2017; Reviewed 2018. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/cruciferous-vegetables. Last accessed September 2019.
- Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging. Curr Drug Targets Inflamm Allergy. 2014;13(3):177-90.
- Holzer G, et al. Effects and side-effects of 2% progesterone cream on the skin of peri- and postmenopausal women: results from a double-blind, vehicle-controlled, randomized study. Brit J Dermatol. 2005;153(3):626-34. doi:10.111/j.1365-2133.2005.06685.x.
- Schmidt JB, et al. Treatment of skin aging with topical estrogens. Int J Dermatol. 1996;35(9):669-74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8876303. Last accessed September 2019.
- Shah MG, Maibach HI. Estrogen and skin: An overview. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(3):143-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11705091. Last accessed September 2019.
- Sator PG, et al. The influence of hormone replacement therapy on skin ageing: a pilot study. Maturitas. 2001;39(1):43-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11451620. Last accessed September 2019.
- Dreher F, et al. Topical melatonin in combination with vitamins E and C protects skin from ultraviolet-induced erythema: a human study in vivo. Brit J Dermatol. 1998;139:332-39.