As we age, our hormone levels change, rising through childhood and peaking in our late teens, before the age of thirty our hormone levels will start to decline. Then just as our hormones seem to settle down, along comes the menopause! One of the most obvious indicators of these hormonal changes is our skin and a number of issues can be caused by this.
We caught up with Dr Daniel Glass from The Dermatology Clinic London on Harley Street to find out how best to deal with these changes as and when they occur.
Adolescent hormonal skin problems
Adolescence is defined by the transitional stage of physical maturation and psychosocial development, generally occurring from puberty to adulthood. “Prior to your teenage years, acne is uncommon,” says Dr Glass. “However, during puberty your hormones surge with rises in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which in turn can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which can lead to acne.” Acne will affect almost every teenager to some extent, but the level of acne varies enormously. As does the way it affects someone. But there are treatments which can help everyone.
Firstly diet and weight does make a difference. “Research shows that the risk of developing acne increases in those adolescents with a higher BMI,” says Dr Glass. ‘It’s linked closely to high fat and sugary foods, so the stereotypical teenage diet of sugary drinks and junk food can create a surge in cell signaling. This stimulates grease production in the skin as well as inflammation ultimately leading to acne.” Make sure you consume a healthy, balanced diet is essential in keeping your body in top shape from the inside out.
“There is also some evidence pointing towards lifestyle factors such as stress aggravating the condition,” says Dr Glass. “To try to alleviate stress-related acne, ensure regular daily exercise, a healthy diet and some ‘down time.’”
Even though your skin may feel greasier it’s important not to strip and dry out the skin but instead keep adding moisture, “Just make sure you opt for a non-comedogenic moisturiser as this will not cause you to get more spots,” advises Dr Glass. “There are many over the counter acne treatments, which when used sparingly can provide relief for some. If you are still struggling to manage your acne, make sure you consultant a dermatologist who can develop a bespoke treatment plan for you.”
How pregnancy hormones affect your skin
Pregnancy is a time when hormones understandably go haywire! And one of the first places this can be seen is in the skin. Many women notice they have spots which don’t seem to respond to their usual blemish fix before they even know they are pregnant.
Another early sign of pregnancy can be an increase in skin pigmentation, which is more marked in women with darker skin. “This darkening of the skin is often one of the first signs of pregnancy and is related to increased levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones that stimulate pigment cells,” explains Dr Glass. “Women suffering from this condition, will notice that areas that are already pigmented such as the nipples and abdomen will become darker during their pregnancy, but this will generally settle down after delivery.”
In fact up to 70% of women will suffer from dark areas of skin on their face during pregnancy. “These dark spots will commonly appear on your forehead and cheeks, due to increased hormone related pigmentation.” You can help even these area by avoiding the sun and making sure you use a good suncream as UV rays can cause the patches to darken further. “These areas often fade once your hormone levels have returned to normal after pregnancy, but occasionally persist and need treatment,” adds Dr Glass.
The menopause and its effects on your skin
For some the way in which skin is effected in the menopause can be gradual, for others it can seem to happen quickly. This is because the rate at which hormone levels change in women is very individual and the effect they can have on skin is also varied. “There are a number of structural and functional changes that occur to the skin as our hormone levels decline with age, especially during the menopause, including dryness due to decreased oil production (sebum synthesis) and lower water content in the skin.” In some women the dryness of the skin can lead to eczema. Some women find the itching it causes infuriating. In both cases treatment with moisturisers can make a massive difference
The texture of our skin also changes in menopause. “Our skin will also begin to lose its firmness as we age, as the levels of fibroblasts and collagen decrease. This can also lead to a loss of skin thickness, resulting in wrinkles and easy bruising,” says Dr Glass. You may notice an acceleration in fine lines or sagging of the skin.
“Lastly as your skin ages there are changes in the immune function, which can lead to delayed wound healing and an increased risk of skin cancer,” adds Dr Glass.
So be sure to take care of any wounds quickly and keep more of an eye on them than you would have in your twenties as they could take longer to heal or be more prone to infections. And make sure you slather on the sun cream more than ever before. It can be easy to take the attitude that any skin damage is already done but it’s actually more important than ever to make sure your skin is protected.
If you are at all concerned about your skin or hormone related issues, see your medical practitioner in person for tailored professional advice.