The Connection Between Estrogen and Your Skin
Have you ever noticed how, at least on average, women tend to have better skin than men? By “better,” we mean softer, smoother, more evenly-toned, resilient, and even healing faster. One might make the mistake of simply attributing this to the fact that, on average, women tend to take better care of their skin, and that might be true for the most part, but it actually has a lot more to do with biology than most people thing. Specifically, we’re talking about hormones here. Even more specifically, we’re talking about estrogen.
Estrogens: A (Very) Brief Primer
When people talk about “estrogen,” they typically actually mean a set of hormones referred to as estrogens. They are estradiol, estradiol, and estrone, with estradiol being the most dominant. There is also a fourth type of estrogen called estetrol, which is only present in pregnant women. The three main estrogens are actually present in all humans, regardless of gender (the same is true for testosterone and the other androgens, incidentally), but women have a much, much higher amount of them, just as they have much less testosterone than men. Estrogens have a number of functions in the human body, from the development of secondary sex characteristics (breasts, wider hips, etc, etc), to ovulation and pregnancy, to other miscellaneous functions such as aiding in blood coagulation and supporting healthy lung function. Of course, the function we want to talk about today is how estrogens influence the skin. Let’s take a look.
Estrogens and Skin
Estrogens cause your pores to constrict, making for smaller pores and less oil released onto the skin. They also have an evening effect on skin tone; men, on average, have ruddier skin than women, even if they care for it properly. Research also shows that estrogens cause skin wounds to heal faster, and decrease the odds of developing skin inflammation and conditions like psoriasis, as well as decreasing the severity if you do get them. Estrogens also give a small bit of extra protection against the sun (but don’t take that as an excuse not to use sunscreen! SPF 30+ or bust!). It is quite common for women to notice that their skin begins to age more rapidly as soon as they hit menopause since menopause involves a huge decrease in estrogen levels.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
But don’t despair, ladies! You’re not necessarily doomed to lose your hormonal skin health advantages when the dreaded menopause hits, nor are you destined to always have coarse, ruddy skin if you are a transgender woman or have estrogen levels which are naturally lower than other women. In all of these cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT for short) can come to you—and your skin’s—rescue. By taking estradiol orally, with injections, patches, or other means, you can boost the levels of all your estrogens (if you add estradiol to your system, trace amounts are naturally converted into estriol and estrone as well, so all you need to do is take the dominant estrogen—estradiol—estradiol, to boost your levels of all three). Mind you, you shouldn’t do this without a doctor. For one thing, it’s incredibly dangerous, and for another, you can only get it by prescription anyway. So if you’re worried your estrogen levels are lower than they should be, if you’re post-menopausal, or if you’re a transgender woman, make an appointment with your doctor today and ask about HRT!