You may be familiar with habitual breakouts or weird facial occurrences each month—right in line with the start of your cycle—but there are actually a number of ways your hormones can affect your skin every day of the year.
According to hormone specialist, Dr. Trevor Cates—who was notably the first woman licensed as a naturopathic doctor in the state of California— maintaining hormonal equilibrium is crucial for healthy skin.
“When our hormones are out of balance, we are more likely to develop dry skin, fine lines, wrinkles, acne and rosacea,” she explains. “At puberty and around pregnancy, women have hormone surges that can lead to acne. As we age, the hormones that help keep our skin looking firm and vibrant, decline and lead to sagging and wrinkles.”
Cates shared with us the five major ways that hormone imbalance can make women break out, or suffer from other skin-related issues.
Too much stress: Ongoing stress and poor sleep, dietary and exercise habits can disturb the delicate balance of our hormones. Stress also increases cortisol, which leads to more sebum production, inflammation and acne breakouts.
Eating too much sugar: High insulin (often from eating too much sugar or high glycemic index foods) levels have been shown to stimulate sebum production and androgen activity, which leads to acne.
Low thyroid or hypothyroidism: You’ll notice an imbalance in your thyroid activity if all of a sudden you’re experiencing dryness like never before in your skin. Other symptoms of this hormone imbalance are fatigue, weight gain, low sex drive, PMS, or irregular cycles. (Talk with a hormone specialist to see if you may have thyroid, adrenal or sex hormone—estrogen, progesterone, testosterone—imbalance, the symptoms of which can be similar.)
Low estrogen: Having an imbalance of the female sex hormone leads to fine lines and wrinkles. But being proactive now can help stave off the effects of lower estrogen as you age. Protect your skin from sun damage, keep your skin hydrated and nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods.
High androgen (testosterone): An excess of this hormone causes an increase in sebum production which can lead to acne. While most of us think of testosterone as the male sex hormone, women have it and need it too. Most women experience a surge if they take high-androgen birth control pills, have polycystic ovary syndrome and sometimes naturally during peri-menopause.