Hormones: we know full well they’re often behind annoying mood swings or spots at certain times of the month, but they play a bigger role in our overall health and the appearance of our skin, too. How? Well, since hormones play such a crucial role in our body’s equilibrium, when they’re unbalanced they can cause myriad beauty issues, including acne, redness, wrinkles, sagging and even brown spots.
Balancing hormones is a pretty complicated issue, best dealt with by a good dermatologist or endocrinologist, so I’ve consulted Dr Sweta Rai, Dermatologist and Dermatologic Surgeon at Kings College Hospital in London for advice on this article written for Eluxe. As each person is unique, it’s essential for you to contact your own medical expert if you suspect your hormones are out of whack.
But if you’ve noticed some changes in your skin lately and don’t know why, here’s a handy guide to possible hormonal causes of common skin issues, and tips on what you can do to counteract these imbalances. You can find this article on Eluxe Magazine too if you fancy hoping over for an alternative selection of products, otherwise, read on!
Oestrogen: your best friend for plump skin
Known as the ‘female’ hormone, oestrogen is key in regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle, so if it is disrupted it can lead to a range of side effects from irritability and headaches to weight gain and dry skin (source: Medical News Today). Dr Sweta Rai confirms that ‘oestrogen helps to keep skin’s density intact, increasing its moisture levels and therefore preventing skin dryness such as eczema’. When it comes to your skin, if your oestrogen levels are depleted (as they naturally tend to with age) fine lines can begin to appear. Why is that? Well Dr Rai warns that ‘loosing oestrogen affects the production of collagen in the dermis (the layer of skin below the epidermis consisting of connective tissue), impacting the pliability of your skin’, as well as elastin, essential for a smooth and plump skin texture. The side effects of low oestrogen can sound dramatic, however there are a few key non-drastic steps you can take to help counteract these.
How to deal with oestrogen imbalance
- As the owner of The Plant Academy cookery school, plant-based chef Lauren Lovatt is passionate about balance in food – a key component of better hormone health. Include flaxseeds and sesame seeds in your diet as well as soy products and herbs such as turmeric, thyme and sage for natural ways to increase oestrogen levels in the body
- Keep your skin hydrated with a rich moisturiser such as Caudalie’s deeply hydrating Resveratrol Lift Face Lifting Soft Cream
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, too much oestrogen can also lead to skin disorders such as melasma, where skin pigmentation is exacerbated by sun exposure (source: The International Dermal Institute) so make sure you protect your face with a high SPF sunscreen such as The Body Shop Skin Defence SPF50.
Cortisol: beware of the stress hormone
‘Known as the stress (or fight or flight) hormone, cortisol is released in the body due to stress, leading to a dull complexion, hair loss and weight fluctuations’ says Dr Rai. This hormone plays a key role in your health as it reduces inflammation and regulates blood sugar and metabolism, but too much of it can lead to high blood pressure, fatigue and irritability. The Society for Endocrinology adds that cortisol can have further detrimental effects on skin, from acne to thinning skin and a flushed face. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles don’t lend themselves to stress-free situations. So, how do we limit the damage?
How to deal with cortisol imbalance
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods that are high in fibre and full of essential nutrients. Lauren rates turmeric and recommends to ‘always consume with black pepper to release its benefits. And healthy fats are so important for good hormone health – look for good quality (extra virgin and cold pressed) olive, pumpkin and hemp oils, avocados are amazing and also coconut oil.’
- Easier said than done, but key to keeping cortisol under control is to manage your stress levels. Introducing mindfulness to your routine such as meditation or deep breathing exercises can help in creating a calming environment, therefore reducing the stress hormone. Indulge in a bath as part of your bedtime routine and give BUFF Mama Sea Salt Scrub a go with its tension relieving Mandarin, soothing Lavender and tranquillity inducing Frankincense. For more bedtime routine tips check out my Top Tips for Improved Sleep post.
- Exercising regularly at a gentle to moderate level balances out hormones while bringing cortisol to their natural levels and encouraging a healthier and deeper sleep. For a little helping hand try herbal supplements such as holy basil, liquorice root or ashwaganda.
Insulin: the sugar rush
Produced by the pancreas, insulin is a hormone that allows other cells to turn glucose (i.e. sugar) into energy. ‘Eating too much refined sugar means that your body has to produce more insulin to counteract the sugar’ confirms Dr Rai. The more we consume refined sugar and white carbs, the more this influx of sugar increases our levels of insulin. And as levels of insulin increase, so does the production of sebum, which can lead to acne and inflammation in the skin.
How to deal with insulin imbalance
- Reduce your refined sugar intake. As we gorge our way through refined carbs such as cakes, white bread and white pasta this increases the overall insulin levels in the bloodstream, so look to complex carbs. Lauren recommends going for ‘natural sugars when you might have something more refined. Raw energy balls with nuts and seeds are a great afternoon snack and readily accessible, but check the ingredients.’
- Sedentary behaviour exacerbates insulin spikes after meals so exercise such as aerobics is effective in decreasing insulin levels in the body.
- In the world of skincare salicylic acid has become a go-to ingredient to fight blemishes as it exfoliates, unclogs pores and has antibacterial properties. Try Caudalie’s Vinopure Blemish Control Infusion Serum
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