The primary hormones responsible for skin changes are estrogen, (commonly known as the female hormone) and androgen (testosterone or the male hormone), both of which are numerous and exist in both genders. Women generally have much thinner skin in comparison to men because of comparatively lower levels of androgens. This difference is why men are statistically more prone to having severe acne with heightened oil gland activity. Women, on the other hand, have the greater concern of dry skin. Nevertheless, men and women are equally effected by hormone fluctuations. The most critical time when hormone activity decreases occur is when a person grows older; the levels of estrogen for women drop during menopause and testosterone levels decrease during andropause for men.
With such a decline in hormone activity, the greatest impact is on the sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing sebum. There is a loss of collagen-, elastin-, and hyaluronic acid-producing abilities, which enable the skin to naturally look plump. The number of blood vessels decreases as well, not allowing as many nutrients to travel to the skin. The skin naturally becomes progressively dry, thin, dull, and lifeless without the assistance of appropriate skin care.
During pregnancy, the hormonal scale is often shifted in the other direction; there is an extreme hike in the levels of estrogen. This is fantastic for the pregnant woman as she sees those changes improve the quality of her hair, skin, and nails. The downside to this spike is a sudden hypersensitivity to the sun and an increased rise of hyperpigmentation, which can lead to melasma. The key is to stay protected from the sun.
Acne is one of the major skin problems that occurs when androgens are excessively active. The higher the levels of testosterone, the greater the oil production. Sebum then continues to build up and gets trapped in the dermis after it is not able to make its way into the epidermis to purge itself. This entrapment creates a breeding ground for bacteria and infection and causes acne to become more severe over time. While many would draw the conclusion that higher levels of androgens exacerbate the acne condition, one study revealed a phenomenon that by increasing androgens, acne actually improved.
The inner workings of hormones is truly a wonder. It is certain, though, that no matter how much is learned about them, there is still so much more to discover. Ultimately, a person is at their healthiest when their hormones are as balanced as possible.
Plewig, G. & Kligman, A.M. (1975). Acne Morphogenesis and Treatment.
Frank, S.B. (1971). Acne Vulgaris.
Verdier-Sévrain, S. (2006). Biology of estrogens in skin: implications for skin aging.
Experimental Dermatology, 15, 45-46.
Kolka, C.M. & Bergman, R.N. (2012). The Barrier Within: Endothelial Transport of Hormones.
Written exclusively for Dermascope Magazine.
© Dermascope Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Published in April 2016 Issue