Written by Dr. Olivia Rose, ND
From infancy to old age, your skin will go through different stages of aging. Your genetic make-up and environmental factors impact how your skin functions and how soon the changes in your skin will become apparent. Lifestyle factors such as sun exposure, diet, alcohol intake, smoking status, skin care routines, and stress also play a role in the health and integrity of your skin. However, an important and often overlooked factor is the role that your hormones play across the lifespan.
Hormones have an important role in the health of your skin and as you enter the different stages of life such as puberty, perimenopause and menopause, the skin can be affected. For example, the hormone estrogen is associated with increased collagen production and hydration of your skin, which provides a more youthful appearance.1
During menopause, estrogen levels decline, therefore the skin can become more sensitive to damage.1 After menopausal symptoms begin, many women report thinner, drier skin with increased wrinkles and poor elasticity.1In a study comparing premenopausal women with perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, approximately one third of the peri and postmenopausal women noticed increased sensitivity of the skin.2 Sensitivity included bumps, pimples, dryness, itching, and redness of the skin.2Due to the declining estrogen and collagen, the skin becomes dry and more easily damaged. Some individuals notice this same sensitivity to their skin when estrogen levels drop just before menses during the menstrual cycle.1
Estrogen should be in a certain ratio with other hormones such as progesterone and testosterone in the body. When this ratio becomes off-balance, the skin can be impacted.3During puberty and at different times in the menstrual cycle, this balance can be thrown off, leading to an increase in androgens and resulting acne lesions.
So how can we manage our hormone levels throughout the life cycle to improve skin health?
Maintaining the proper balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in the body is a key step in improving skin health. To metabolize estrogen properly, the liver needs to function appropriately.4 Therefore, supporting detoxification through the liver is an important step in keeping a balance of estrogen in the body.4 Avoiding exposures to toxins such as BPA, pesticides, and alcohol is a great way to decrease the toxic load on the liver.
Adding in a supplement to assist in the detoxification process may also be helpful. Two great supplements to assist the liver in estrogen metabolism are I3C and DIM. Indole-3-carbinole, or I3C is found in vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and turnips.5 I3C is a precursor for diindolylmethane or DIM. DIM helps to stimulate the detoxification of estrogen through stimulating the enzymes needed for metabolism of estrogen in the gut and liver.6
Decreasing amounts of estrogen can lead to individuals experiencing perimenopause or menopause as well as loss of skin’s elasticity and firmness. Borage oil contains high levels of Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid. GLA is made in the body from linolenic acid. However, with age, the conversion of linolenic acid to GLA is decreased.7 GLA supplementation can be used for individuals with dry skin, improving the skin barrier and decreasing inflammation.8
Lifestyle strategies such as proper sleep, diet, skin protection from the sun, reduced alcohol consumption and stress management can help reduce the signs of premature aging. However, depending on the stage of life you’re in, supplementation may be helpful in balancing out hormonal levels to manage the skin’s elasticity, hydration and blemishes.
Remember to consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.
- Stevenson S, Thornton J. Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs. Clinical interventions in aging. 2007 Sep;2(3):283.
- Falcone D, Richters RJ, Uzunbajakava NE, Van Erp PE, Van De Kerkhof PC. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. European Journal of Dermatology. 2017 Jan;27(1):42-8.
- Arora MK, Yadav A, Saini V. Role of hormones in acne vulgaris. Clinical biochemistry. 2011 Sep 1;44(13):1035-40.
- PharmMGKB. Estrogen Metabolism Pathway. Accessed on April 2, 2021. https://www.pharmgkb.org/pathway/PA145011118
- Meng Q, Yuan F, Goldberg ID, Rosen EM, Auborn K, Fan S. Indole-3-carbinol is a negative regulator of estrogen receptor-α signaling in human tumor cells. The Journal of nutrition. 2000 Dec 1;130(12):2927-31.
- Thomson CA, Chow HS, Wertheim BC, Roe DJ, Stopeck A, Maskarinec G, Altbach M, Chalasani P, Huang C, Strom MB, Galons JP. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of diindolylmethane for breast cancer biomarker modulation in patients taking tamoxifen. Breast cancer research and treatment. 2017 Aug;165(1):97-107.
- Gunstone FD. FATTY ACIDS| Gamma-linolenic Acid.
- Kawamura A, Ooyama K, Kojima K, Kachi H, Abe T, Amano K, Aoyama T. Dietary supplementation of gamma-linolenic acid improves skin parameters in subjects with dry skin and mild atopic dermatitis. Journal of oleo Science. 2011;60(12):597-607.