“I’m not waiting for the stars to align… just my hormones.”
In my teens, I was at my ugliest. For the most part, I suffered from acne, bad hair days, and was just skin and bones (dogs thought I was a treat). Eew! So glad to be over that phase. The culprit… hormones.
So, what are hormones? And what do they do in the body?
Hormones are chemical messengers of the body produced by several glands transmitting messages to organs to control and regulate most major bodily functions such as hunger, reproduction, and our emotions. Hormones affect our skin too and are a huge component of how our skin looks.
There are several types of hormones in the body with different functions. However, I find the major stress hormone — cortisol and the happy or love hormone — oxytocin most interesting as they definitely affect the way we look and feel. And stress, unfortunately, is a constant presence in our lives exacerbated by the pandemic and the events of the past year. While love and happiness is what we need more of.
Let’s take a closer look at these hormones and what they do…
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. It increases sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain function and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. However, too much produced by long term and extreme stress causes our skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more sebum a.k.a. oil. And too much oil in our skin can clog our pores and lead to breakouts.
Other ways cortisol shows up on our skin is through signs of aging. Increased cortisol production can accelerate the aging process, leading to the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
Lastly, if you have skin conditions such as rosacea or psoriasis, you might experience flare-ups when you have high cortisol production.
On the other end of the hormone spectrum, we have Oxytocin produced in the hypothalamus. Oxytocin is often referred to as the ‘happy’ or ‘love hormone’ because of the physical and psychological effects it has on the body. It plays an essential role during sex, orgasm, childbirth, and lactation to aid reproductive functions, and it influences social behavior, including the ability to bond and be emotionally balanced. What is most interesting is that it can also be used as a treatment for depression, anxiety, and intestinal issues, all of which directly affect skin health.
Oxytocin also helps reduce inflammatory factors which promote skin healing and boost our immunity. Less inflammation and less inflammatory skin disorders lead to less acne.
So how do we access and balance these titans of the hormone world to obtain that glow we all hanker for?
Getting into a good mood is the first step. A good mood helps to keep your hormones in check, which means that annoying imbalances that can be at the root of skin troubles won’t be such a problem.
Meditation, diet, exercise, laughter with friends, hugging, cuddling, kissing, sexual intimacy with your lover, and occasionally indulging yourself, can make a big difference to your mood. Other ways include listening to music, getting a massage, petting your dog, performing acts of kindness, and spending quality time with your loved ones.
And forgive me if this sounds too simplistic, but there is some research that suggests that people who smile a lot tend to look younger — perhaps it’s the result of oxytocin being released. The words of that old ballad “smile though your heart is breaking” totally makes sense now. Smiling not only tricks your skin into behaving but might even lift your spirits.
The goal is to reduce stress and increase happiness.
For more skincare tips, check out my other blogs on Medium or call us at Skinsense Wellness at (323) 653–4701. We offer a virtual consultation, in-salon treatments, and home service facials to our valued clients.
“Too much of a good thing can be taxing.” — Mae West
This week I received a frantic call from a client who had purchased an over-the-counter retinol product and glycolic acid peel. Unfortunately, she used both at the same time and her skin reacted badly — it was red, irritated, and flaky. Yikes!
There are just too many topicals available now, over the counter and online, including glycolic acid, various vitamin A derivatives, and at-home peels. These skincare products, when used wisely and under the supervision from either a dermatologist or aesthetician, can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin — the building blocks of the skin that keeps it looking youthful and plump. As we age these proteins begin to diminish and that is when lines and wrinkles begin to show.
These topicals work by causing a small amount of localized trauma. So many women assume that skin irritation is part of the cell renewal process. And when the reaction is mild and short lived, it can be. But tolerating anything more serious or chronic is just inflaming the skin.
Another ingredient that can also contribute to irritating oxidative damage is benzoyl peroxide, a mainstay of professional and at-home acne treatments. So instead of healing the acne it worsens it.
Certain acids, particularly those of smaller molecular size like glycolic acid, have been shown to reach the dermis or true skin where inflammation takes place. Molecularly larger acids, such as lactic, malic, pyruvic and tartaric, don’t tend to penetrate the dermis, making them gentler on the skin and less likely to spark inflammation. They are also naturally occurring substances in human skin which makes them more compatible to a wider range of skin conditions.
More isn’t always better. Overtreatment can have an adverse effect on your skin’s appearance and health. It can result in inflammaging. This means that when the skin has chronic, persistent inflammation it can actually age prematurely. Instead of a toned and firm complexion, the skin looks red, irritated, and broken out.
As with any skin concern, inflammaging can worsen with prolonged sun exposure.
So, what can you do to reverse inflammaged skin?
- Take antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, and adaptogen-rich supplements. Adaptogens are herbal pharmaceuticals. They work to counteract the effects of stress in the body and on the skin. This will help protect and boost the skin’s antioxidant response system.
- Support the Skin’s Barrier. Look for products that contain ceramides, hyaluronic acid, (HA,) plant butters, cholesterol and squalene. Make sure these ingredients are plant based. They all reduce water evaporation which keeps the skin soft and hydrated.
- Moisturize. Blend your retinol product with a moisturizer — this buffers the skin and reduces any reaction. A pea sized amount used twice a week works for most people.
- Stop doing at-home glycolic acid treatments — leave those to the professionals.
- Look for chirally correct products, where ingredients occur in their purest form. This can help further maintain the efficacy of other ingredients and minimize the risk of adverse side effects.
- Make sure you use an SPF 30 everyday whether you are indoors or outside. Without good ventilation indoor pollution can be twice as bad as outdoor.
- Keep it simple. When your skin is irritated stick to a basic routine.
Lastly, be patient. Your skin needs time to recover and won’t heal overnight. Allow a few weeks of consistent use to see a calmer, smoother skin, and fewer lines.
In an industry that is constantly updating itself, the advent of inflammaging serves as both a wake-up call and a challenge to product developers, cosmetic companies and skin care professionals alike. And more than ever, it’s definitely about education. The skin care game is transforming itself scientifically to consider environmental concerns and the effect pollution has on our skins. It is our job to keep up and stay informed!
For more skincare tips, check out my other blogs on Medium, call us at Skinsense Wellness at (323) 653–4701. We offer a virtual consultation, in-salon treatments, and home service facials to our valued clients.