We’re all familiar with hormonal breakouts – deep under the skin spots that usually appear on our chin or along the jawline – but when it comes to skin complaints, hormones are responsible for so much more than just acne.
Hormones are fundamental to all systems of the body – skin included. There are a multitude of hormones that can affect the skin, each causing a variety of different symptoms, but there are two that are common causes of skin problema. Firstly, oestrogen is responsible for collagen production and helps to keep the skin hydrated, so low levels are associated with dryness, wrinkles, and skin laxity. Testosterone is the hormone often associated with acne (it binds to the oil glands in the skin and causes an increase in oil production), so when this is off kilter, we may notice more breakouts than usual.
Puberty and periods
By far, the most common skin concern during puberty is acne. In childhood, a female’s body experiences a surge in reproductive hormones including oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The increase in testosterone causes sebaceous gland stimulation and increases sebum production leading to oily skin and clogged follicles. Salicylic acid can be beneficial here – it helps control oil production and reduce acne-causing bacteria in the skin.
Melasma, is a form of pigmentation commonly occurring during pregnancy due to hormone fluctuations. It often affects the forehead, cheeks and upper lip and is related to a woman’s oestrogen levels. We treat melasma in-clinic with a medical-grade skincare regime – usually a tailored Obagi Nu-Derm system or Cyspera Cysteamine cream – combining multiple ‘actives’ to subdue the over-active pigment-producing cells and eliminate the excess pigment in the skin.
However, these treatments can only be offered after you’ve finished breastfeeding so, taking preventative measures is imperative. When the skin is exposed to the sun, melanin production increases, leading to the darkening of the skin. In women prone to melasma or have pre-existing melasma, sun exposure stimulates melanocyte activity and can darken pre-existing spots and create new ones.
Acne is also common in pregnancy, and those with a previous history of acne, are more likely to be affected. Managing it can be tricky, as many skincare ingredients should be avoided. Reach for some gentle polyhydroxy acids such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid. They are chemically and functionally similar to AHAs (such as glycolic acid), but they have fewer sensitising effects.
Or you can use a product containing bakuchiol, a safe and natural alternative to retinol which is safe to use in pregnancy. Bakuchiol can significantly improve the appearance of blemishes and help fade post-acne marks and other discolourations to reveal a more even skin tone.
In menopause, the skin goes through a vast variety of changes. The first thing people usually notice is dry skin. Our skin is producing fewer natural oils, which keep it looking dewy and help us retain water in our skin. Furthermore the deterioration of the lipid barrier means we suffer transepidermal water loss (evaporation of water from the skin, especially overnight), so the skin gets much dryer. A rich, emollient moisturiser will help to revitalise ageing skin. I love SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, which works to replenish cellular lipids, nourish dry skin and improve the skin’s smoothness and overall radiance.
When it comes to tweakments, you can’t go wrong with Profhilo, which boosts skin hydration by enabling the skin to hold more moisture. It also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, which is what, in time, will make the skin smoother, plumper, and bouncier.
Our fibroblast cells which produce collagen, need a good supply of oestrogen to function at optimum levels. So as our oestrogen levels drop, so does our collagen production. In fact, women lose 30 per cent of their collagen in the first five years of peri-menopause. This prompts a loss of firmness and elasticity in the skin. Nothing targets this better than professional treatments such as RF microneedling and Sofwave which ramp up collagen production and lift and tighten the skin.
Many women also start to notice more lines and wrinkles during menopause which is also driven by the loss of collagen. Less collagen means our skin loses structural integrity, which can result in fine lines. Retinoids can also help with fine lines and wrinkles, and firmness, but I also love peptides when it comes to menopause skincare. There are some peptides that behave like in-clinic muscle relaxing treatments to relax wrinkles and muscle movement on a micro-level.
If you’re concerned about menopausal skin changes, click here to enquire about treatments or to book a consultation.