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Hormones and the Mechanism of Aging Skin (Aging Skin)
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Hormones and the Mechanism of Aging Skin

Richard Thomas, MD

Aging skin is determined by two general factors: Extrinsic and intrinsic aging. The first is influenced by environmental factors such as overexposure to sunlight, radiation, wind, or pollution. Many precautions such as advice to wear hats, sun screen, and the avoidance of excessive exposure to the sun, are all designed at limiting skin damage from the externsic factors. Intrinsic aging refers to the natural mechanism of aging, and for the most part, our hormones are responsible for the natural changes in our skin as we age.

Hormones are produced by organs like the adrenal glands, thyroid glands, and the ovaries, and act as chemical messengers. Hormones affect the various tissues in the body, and are responsible for the changes that occur within the body.  Women who are going through menopause in their forties and fifties undergo major changes within their body. Estrogen levels are reduced, thinning bones, and drying the skin, creating wrinkles. The skin becomes less elastic and more fragile due to reduced collagens. Reduced estrogen also has the effect of reducing the number of blood vessels in the skin, giving the skin a paler look.

As women approach menopause, they may notice some other major changes, due to their fluctuations in hormones. The level of thyroxin, a hormone produced by the thyroid gland, may change. These influence the dryness or moisture in the skin. Sweating may also be influenced. Hair will also tend to thin after menopause. Estrogen has the effect of keeping the hair longer in the growing phase. During the end of pregnancy, women’s hair will often thicken for this reason. When estrogen levels drop after menopause, the hair also responds by losing its ability to remain at its growth phase, and thins. The effects will vary from person to person, as the individual levels of thyroid hormone, and the amount of iron in the body, as well as other genetic factors can influence hair thinning.

For post-menopausal women, the balance between testosterone and estrogen changes as estrogen levels drop at a much more significant rate than testosterone levels. The increase of typically male traits such as facial hair or acne is the effect of the relative increase in testosterone levels in the body. Some birth control pills can block testosterone skin reactors, improving the look of the skin.

Hormone replacement therapy can be used to fight the effects of natural aging. This is a relatively new type of therapy, developed and used over the last twenty years. Hormone replacement therapy can reverse the loss of subcutaneous fat, and can fight the resulting drying of the skin. Topical estrogens can also have similar effects in maintaining the skin’s elasticity and fullness following menopause. It can also minimize the thinning and drying of vaginal surfaces. Although estrogen creams are not widely used at this time due to variability in the skin’s absorption and the concerns regarding potential side effects, topical treatment has a lot of potential for future development.

Related:

aging skin,   hormones,