Hormones and the Skin Understanding Life Changes

Hormones control nearly every aspect of the human body. These chemical messengers are the reasons our immune system functions; they metabolize food into fuel; they control our moods; and they kick-start the many changes associated with puberty and the physiological changes in our skin as we move from youth to old age.

Both men and women go through different stages of hormonal activity during their lives. Often unpredictable in their timing, these fluctuations can have a considerable impact on the skin. Most important are three of the sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Here’s how they operate in men and women of different ages, and some of the effects they bring.

Girls and Women

For girls, puberty begins around the ages of 9 to 14 and lasts an average of four years. Throughout a woman’s fertile years, her estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels fluctuate with themenstrual cycle, affecting skin clarity throughout the month.

Perimenopausal skin can be difficult to treat because the hormonalshifts do not follow a set pattern.

Estrogen levels peak during menstruation, leaving the skin clear of breakouts, then begin to decline on day seven of the menstrual cycle, allowing testosterone to become more dominant. With more testosterone comes increased oil production. On days 15-28, estrogen continues to decrease, while progesterone begins to increase. This is the time of
the month acne breakouts are most likely to occur: as progesterone rises, the follicle walls swell, trapping excess sebum and cell debris in an anaerobic environment conditions in which acne bacteria

Perimenopause, when a woman’s fertility begins to decline, can start as early as 35. During this stage, there are volatile hormonal shifts in the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone. This constant fluctuation creates a multitude of unwanted changes. Melasma can return or worsen, and acne breakouts can surge. Perimenopausal skin
can be difficult to treat because the hormonal shifts do not follow a set pattern.

Menopause marks the end of fertility. The age at which it occurs depends on many factors: diet, genetics, health, and lifestyle.  Menopause brings a significant decrease in estrogen. This often leads to surface dryness, which traps sebum beneath the skin and provides a perfect environment for acne breakouts. The hormonal shift can also cause melasma and other pigmentation changes, as well as the textural changes and wrinkling that come with collagen and elastin breakdown.

A regimen to address the challenges of menopausal skin should include ingredients to encourage collagen and elastin production, including vitamins A and C, palmitoyl tripeptide-38, and retinoids. For older women with dry skin, introduce highly moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, niacinamide, and silicones.

Boys and Men

Puberty for boys generally starts between the ages of 10 and 17, and lasts an average of seven years. During this time, the male body primarily produces testosterone, which increases sebum production.  Coupled with the less-than ideal hygiene habits of many teenage boys, this frequently results in challenging acne breakouts.

Throughout their teens and early 20s, men experience several more spikes in testosterone production. Typically, acne outbreaks cease after this time. Those with a family history of acne, however, may continue to experience breakouts well into their late 20s and sometimes into their early 30s. For these clients, daily care products formulated specifically to treat acne may be needed until testosterone production begins to slow during the next stage of life.

After age 30, testosterone production in men begins to decrease at a rate of 10 percent per decade. Just as with women in this age group, the rate of hormonal change and the resulting physical symptoms differ for each individual. In some men, the change will go unnoticed. In other cases, the testosterone decline can lead to reduced sexual function, changes in body composition, and mood fluctuations– similar to the experiences of older women.

Andropause, the male equivalent of menopause, brings a steep drop in testosterone production. The skin may become dry and rough due to a reduction in sebum production. Medically, this drop in testosterone is referred to as partial androgen decline in the aging male (PADAM), aging-associated androgen deficiency (AAAD), or male hypogonadism.

An older man’s skin care regimen should include the same ingredients recommended for an older woman. Although the hormonal changes involved are different, the result is the same: collagen and elastin production slows, and skin becomes drier. Older men typically need hydrating products to combat hormone-related skin dehydration.
Include lightweight humectants such as lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, glycerin, and urea.

Common Hormonal Skin Conditions

Acne can occur at any time of life, but it is most common during puberty (in males and females) and perimenopause (in females). Regardless of the client’s age or gender, the causes are the same:

• Increased keratinization within the follicle.
• Increased sebum production.
• Increased Propionibacterium acnes bacteria.
• Inflammation.

Adolescent acne clients typically have oily, resilient skin, and should have a professional treatment every two weeks. For adult females whose acne follows monthly hormonal fluctuations, use the client’s menstrual cycle as a guide and treat every four weeks.  Perimenopausal acne patients will also be fighting age-related skin concerns.

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