“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.
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. We all experience varying levels at different times and in many situations. Under these circumstances the brain’s hard-wiring system kicks in. When it perceives a threat, the brain signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response and is a normal bodily reaction that is meant to protect us. However, because we now live in a world of nonstop stress most of the time, our alarm systems rarely shuts off!
Without stress management and over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems including a myriad of skin issues.
Hormones, neuropeptides and other signaling molecules released during stressful times may be second only to sunlight in aging the skin. And the really bad news? Women are more prone than men. That means wrinkling, loss of tone and increased levels of sensitivity, particularly as we age.
Additionally, proteins and DNA in the epidermis and dermis urn can cause acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and hives.
Feeling bad about the way we look makes us less social and more isolated. This aloneness diminishes the production of Oxytocin, the bonding hormone. And as I mentioned in my last post, encourages compulsive picking and other bad habits.
What to do?
It is unrealistic to imagine we can ever live a stress free life but we can commit to developing coping skills that maintain balance, even at the worst of life’s moments.
Here are six of my favorites:
Getting outdoors and in touch with nature. Hiking, gardening, sitting on a park bench all reconnect us with our natural surroundings.
Breathing deeply. Not just when we are really stressed but at regular times throughout the day.
Disconnecting from social media for a day or if that sounds unimaginable, half a day!
Changing your mindset. When a challenge presents itself, think of it as an opportunity for personal growth.
Have a supportive tribe so you don’t waste time with negative or toxic people.
And finally, my new favorite, get out your colored pencils! Adult coloring books are all the craze right now. They can relief stress and anxiety as well as reconnecting you with your inner child. Check out “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book” or “Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book”. They are great fun and thoroughly engrossing.
Confucius once claimed: “True quality of life comes from lasting harmony between body and mind.” This is a goal worth aiming for.