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Estrogen and your skin: What's the connection?

Ah hormones — Gotta love ‘em!

Can the hormones in your body affect how your skin looks? You bet!

Woman touching her face

What are hormones?

Hormone levels fluctuate naturally throughout every age and stage of life, regulating functions that include growth, reproduction and even hunger and stress. These chemical messengers are produced in the ovaries, adrenal and thyroid glands, and beyond their role as regulators, hormones also have a huge impact on our skin. Whether it's puberty, pregnancy, menopause or aging, hormones — or the lack of them as in aging — are factors in how our skin looks and feels.

Estrogen: What is it?

The hormone that probably gets the most attention is estrogen, and for good reason. The standard view is that, as women age, decreasing estrogen levels are responsible for our wrinkling, sagging and dryness. And while the human life expectancy continues to increase (about 80.4 years for women, and 75.3 years for men), the average age for the onset of menopause is about 50 (but we are finding that not only are kids at the tender ages of 10 starting to menstruate, but women as young as 30 are stopping… which is what happened to me). That means that women are living longer than ever in a hormone-reduced state.

Estrogen: Why is it important?

So, what is it about estrogen that's so important? Well, first of all, it's not exclusively a female hormone like everyone thinks. Nope, though it might be made in the ovaries of women, men have estrogen, too — it's just made in different tissues (and we have, and need, healthy levels of testosterone too). And, estrogen isn't so much a single hormone, but includes a group of hormones that share the same chemical composition.

Estrogens include estradiol, the most abundant form in adult females; estriol, the primary estrogen during pregnancy; and estrone, produced during menopause. Estrogens affect the thickness of the skin, the very important factor of bone density (which, if you are young when you go into menopause, it's so important you check out estrogen replacement therapies so you do not end up with osteoporosis), the formation of wrinkles and skin moisture. These hormones can increase glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), such as hyaluronic acid, to maintain fluid balance and structural integrity. They can also increase collagen production in the skin, where they maintain epidermal thickness and allow skin to remain plump, hydrated and wrinkle-free.

What does this all mean?

So, it goes, if less estrogen means drier skin and more wrinkles, then more estrogen can lead to better, more youthful looking skin. But, interestingly, a 2008 study by Boston University researchers revealed that compared to a placebo, women who took HT therapy didn't show any measurable improvement on wrinkles, dryness or sagging. So, wow, this can be confusing!

If estrogen replacement isn't the only answer, then what is? Well, there are plenty of natural, 100 percent pure options available to strengthen and hydrate maturing skin. It's important to use cosmeceuticals that boost collagen. Retinol, a form of vitamin A is considered a benchmark for anti-aging treatments and has a proven effect on cell renewal. Retinoids, like retinol, can trigger changes in your skin that really look like you've turned back the clock.

A wonderful, natural alternative to retinol (which can result in dryness or redness, especially for those of us with sensitive skin) is the new botanical actives out there like Natural Yeast or Moth Bean Extract. Just like retinol, these highly active natural cosmeceuticals help stimulate cell renewal and collagen synthesis and diminish wrinkles. You can find Moth Bean Extract in products like Jurlique's Night Recovery Night Cream and Retinol from Moth Bean and Yeast in my suki® Bio-active Purifying Face Serum and Balancing Day Lotion, among other formulations.

Vitamin C is another ingredient that helps boost collagen production, while brightening skin and evening out skin tone. But, be sure your vitamin C is in the form of liposome peptide delivery system — Vitamin C-rich serums I like include: Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Serum and Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum. For those who are in the peri-menopause or menopause transition, and are battling hot flashes and increased inflammation, choose soothing botanicals like chamomile in products like Pai's Chamomile and Rosehip Sensitive Skin Cream and Sundari Chamomile Eye Oil. Along with soothing skin care, avoiding triggers like heat, excess sun and alcohol will also help keep hot flashes under control. For dry skin, using pure essential oils can provide hydration and nourishment. Look for oils like argan (Jose Maran's 100% Pure Argan Oil) and rosewood (Ananda Aromatherapy).

Too often in our culture, aging and the transition into menopause is seen as something negative that requires medical intervention and hormone replacement. Now, while hormone replacement is not the devil it's been made out to be, and it's important to check out all your options for ultimate good health, it's also super important to embrace our true age. I think we should embrace our real beauty, looking at every period in our lives as a natural process to be celebrated. When we take charge of our skin care naturally and holistically, we'll be happier and healthier — through every age and stage.

Expert Suki Kramer founded suki® clinically-proven natural solutions® skincare with a commitment to education, empowerment and 100 percent natural beauty products that work like they should. She has found loyal followers in some of Hollywood's hottest green enthusiasts like Alicia Silverstone, Courteney Cox and Julianne Moore and top celebrity makeup artists Jenna Hipp (renowned green nail stylist) and Pati Dubroff.

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