Skin changes throughout your life, and hormones are a huge part of this.
When we hear the words ‘hormonal skin’ we’re most likely to think of our spotty teenage years, but throughout our lifetime hormones can make a difference to our skin.
Candice Garner from Dermalogica says, “Hormones affect everything that goes on throughout the human body… Your skin is no exception. In fact hormones will have a significant effect on everything from the amount of oil and pigment you produce, to how sensitive your skin is and how quickly it can recover from damage.”
During pregnancy, before and during your period, perimenopause and menopause are times when you are most likely to notice changes in your skin due to your hormones.
During your period
“During your menstrual cycle the hormones plummet and peak. The first day of your period, all hormones are low and the skin can appear dull and dry. But by day 14 the skin looks its best as the estrogen level is high and you ovulate. After ovulation, oestrogen and testosterone decrease but the progesterone will begin to increase,” says Claire O’Hanlon from Juliette Armand. When this happens is when you might expect to get those dreaded spots.
“A lot of women get acne around the chin area this due to excess skin sebum being produced due to an increase of estrogen and progesterone two weeks before your period, this is the most common. Your skin can also be extremely sensitive prior to your period,” says Marina Granville, Facialist and Skin Expert for Raven, The Beauty App.
Candice says, “High progesterone levels in women occur in the days before a menstrual period, and acne outbreaks tend to happen at this time.”
What can we do to help improve skin quality? Well due to skin’s sensitivity it seems that mild treatments are best.
“Juliette Armands’s Clarifying Face Foam has to be my number one recommendation because I mentioned breakouts as the most hormonal side effect. This cleanser is safe yet effective for teens, men, during pregnancy and post menopause without drying out the skin or using harsh ingredients. The Canadian Willowherb is essentially to block of the bacteria that causes 99 per cent of acne,” says Claire.
Beauty expert Neelu White says, “New scientific facials can show great results in this area. Using non-invasive skin treatments like LED lighting with its red light which has a calming effect on skin, reduces inflammation, and can help tackle rosacea, and blue, which destroys P. Acnes the bacteria that grow inside pores causing blemishes, making it a great choice for problem skin.”
She also recommends, “Don't squeeze those pimples as the process can cause permanent damage, leaving marks and also promoting bacterial infection. To stave off breakouts, it's best to cleanse with a low-pH, anti-inflammatory cleanser, such as Le Mieux Exfoliating Cleansing Gel.”
If acne has become a bigger problem and isn’t responding to over the counter products Candice says don’t be behind in seeking, “professional advice to ensure you do the right thing for your skin and don’t jump to conclusions as sometimes the issue is not directly related.”
Neelu says, “Deep, cystic acne on the chin or along the jaw line can be a sign of underlying polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS] and other types of hormonal abnormalities.”
We’re all well aware of the pregnancy glow, but there are other effects your hormones can have at this time.
“During early pregnancy, some women develop acne, especially those who were prone to breakouts during menstrual periods before becoming pregnant,” says Candice.
“Skin can go darker in certain areas. Brown patches of pigmentation on your forehead, cheeks, and neck are known as chloasma, melasma or mask of pregnancy. Chloasma is caused by your body making extra melanin, the tanning hormone, which protects your skin against ultraviolet (UV) light. About two out of three mums-to-be are thought to experience this in pregnancy,” says Marina.
“Pregnancy hormones can cause extra oil production which often leads to breakouts. The skin is known to become sensitized as well but will go once the pregnancy is over,” says Claire.
The first thing to do before you use any product during pregnancy is to check that it is safe to use.
“Some products (like those using retinol) may not be suitable,” says Candice.
“Pregnant women must avoid retinol A and acids on the skin but Vitamin C is safe to use and can help balance out the skin whilst having an anti-bacterial effect,” says Claire.
Marina’s advice is to keep it simple, “Make it one or two steps max, and leave the advanced beauty routine for a few months down the road. Just gentle cleanser and moisturiser with built-in sunscreen for the mornings, plain moisturiser before bed… Using sun protection to help with the dark spots is vital! Also using Vitamin E cream to nourish skin.”
Candice recommends Dermalogica’s Sound Sleep Cocoon for overnight repair during and after pregnancy, “Not only will it soothe and restore skin so that it glows in the morning, but the motion activated lavender will help you sleep soundly and make the most of the sleep you can get.”
And the good news is that the pregnancy glow doesn’t have to be temporary.
“Of course you can extend the pregnancy glow,” says Claire, “Once the skin has calmed down and returned to normal there are lots of ingredients you can finally use (once breastfeeding is finished). Products include chemical peels to resurface your skin, Vitamin A, B, C, E, and F, peony extract, rumex, hyaluronic acid, and basically all cosmeceutical ingredients.”
Perimenopause and menopause
Ah the dreaded perimenopause – the time when you can suffer everything from mood swings to hot flashes and more due to fluctuating hormone levels. It can last for a number of years.
“As periods are now irregular the low hormone levels affect the skin by drying out the skin. When the skin is dry it means it is lacking oil and therefore lines and creases can form much easier. Also, elastin reduces and the skin can start to sag and become dull,” says Claire.
During perimenopause Marina says, “Your skin still is producing estrogen but at this point, rosacea can occur, you lose plumpness and your skin elasticity drops as you stop producing collagen. Dryness can cause sagging, especially around neck, jawline and cheeks.”
Candice says, “Hot flushes in response to hormone surges during the later stages of perimenopause can see skin flush more readily, and may trigger the onset or exacerbate conditions like rosacea. Skin cell renewal also slows which means skin can become dull and dehydrated.”
During this time she recommends to, “Use cooling, calming products to manage flushing. You may want to boost exfoliation if skin is dehydrated or dull.”
Marina says, “instead of attacking delicate menopausal skin with aggressive scrubs, try a serum that contains alpha or beta hydroxy acids to build collagen and gently dissolve the layer of dull skin and brighten your complexion.”
What about when you’ve gone through the change of life?
“Menopause leads to major fluctuations in hormonal levels, this impacts oestrogen levels specifically, which can result dry/flaky skin with a lacklustre appearance,” says Elaine Shanahan, Brand Manager & National Trainer at Thalgo.
Claire says, “Menopause brings a new set of skin problems; when the hormones begin to reduce the collagen becomes less and less resulting in wrinkles and loss of firmness.”
Because of the drop in estrogen skin produces less collagen and elastin and can end up thinner and drier than before with less fat stored on the face. Age spots can develop due to exposure to the sun and appear as darker brown pigmentation especially on the face and hands.
Post menopause and beyond Marina recommends, “SPF for age spots and retinol serum and beta hydroxy acids, [they] help build collagen, plus night creams and eye creams are especially important during menopause.”
Candice says, “Nourish dry skin and use skin strengthening serums with retinol or Vitamin C.”
Claire says, “Applying retinol based serums and creams increase the rate at which your skin cells generate and increase collagen. Vitamin A (retinol) also thickens the skin and keeps the youthful glow along with Vitamin C. This powerful duo of antioxidants have proven results to build collagen whilst Vitamins E and F are recommended for women because they increase the elasticity of the skin and the fatty acids help to plump out the skin.”