In this skin nutrition and hormones blog, my clinic associate and skin specialist, Gurjit Dhanjal, will take you through a step by step guide on how to feed your skin health at different stages of your life, with a special focus on hormones.
Hormones, hormones, hormones. They have a lot to answer for, don’t they? And at certain times of our lives they rage and play havoc on our skin. We all know the skin ages – but did you realise it’s the hormonal shifts at each stage of our life that can have such a big impact on your skin health?
It’s no secret we all want to age gracefully, but at the same time we don’t want to wake up one morning and discover fine lines and wrinkles prematurely staring back at us! The good news is that skin doesn’t have to be at the mercy of our hormones and there are so many things you can do to help your skin look great and age naturally.
Don’t shoot the messenger!
First ask yourself this question: Is your face older than you? Are you concerned about how well your skin is ageing?
How well we age can depend on how well our hormones are behaving. When our hormones are out of balance, we are more likely to develop skin problems.
Our hormones are our body’s messengers, giving orders to our cells, just like a manager gives his staff direction and orders.
When it comes to hormones, they are there to regulate so many functions, including our heart rate, metabolism, appetite, mood, reproduction, growth and development, sleep cycles and so much more.
Which hormones help to keep your skin looking younger?
Oestrogen is one of our main female hormones, and one of its jobs is to stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin which help skin look dewy, supple and smooth. Oestrogen naturally declines as we go through our peri-menopausal and menopausal years.
Another important anti-ageing hormone is DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which can be depleted by chronic stress. This hormone protects against oxidative stress, which is vital in preventative skin ageing.
Human growth hormone (hGH) naturally declines as we age, and this hormone supports skin’s elasticity and muscle.
How do other hormones affect our skin?
In the same way, it’s important to support overall hormonal balance within our body – it’s not just the female sex hormones that shift across the menstrual cycle or at key life stages like puberty or menopause. Other hormones also play a key role, including testosterone, insulin and the stress hormones. Here are some of the key ones to address:
Testosterone – often thought of as the “male hormone”, women also need their testosterone in balance too. Too much can result in oilier, thicker skin and contribute to acne. Not enough can affect muscle health and production of collagen.
The thyroid hormones can also have an impact on our skin – keeping the body in balance by regulating functions such as breathing, heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature. If the thyroid starts to slow down, it will show in the skin as dryness and skin thinning, but also as eye bags and puffiness.
Cortisol is another stress hormone that works closely with DHEA. Imbalances of cortisol caused by chronic stress can lead to an overproduction of sebum (oil) in your skin glands, causing acne breakouts. Swings of cortisol can also exacerbate existing inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, leading to flare ups. Managing your cortisol levels is also key when it comes to supporting hormonal conditions such as PCOS, and to support an easier transition through the menopause.
Insulin plays a key role in skin health too, as higher levels of insulin (caused by blood sugar swings and high sugar intake) can contribute to the formation of Advanced Glycation End products – AGEs for short. The name AGEs tells us everything about what the risk for the skin is here… premature ageing!
A guide to supporting skin health, decade by decade
As we go through our life, there are natural changes that occur in our skin. It’s inevitable that our skin will change through the decades, but there is so much you can do to help your skin to age in a healthier way.
Teens Skin Health
If life wasn’t difficult enough around this time, this is a time when your hormones erupt, and this can have quite an impact on your skin.
Generally, boys will experience more acne during their teen years than girls, due to the large amounts of testosterone that can over-stimulate the sebaceous glands. This causes the pores in the skin to clog.
Girls might experience fewer breakouts during their teen years but are more likely to have breakouts well beyond their teens, due to the changing hormones across their menstrual cycles. This can be exacerbated in the early menstrual cycles, as it can take some time for hormones to settle and cycles to follow a regular balanced pattern.
What you can do: Encourage your teen to keep skin hydrated – studies show drinking 2 litres of water can help prevent acne and flush toxins out of the body.
If your teen won’t go near plain water, try adding in some lemon juice (PLJ is a great brand with no added sugar or sweeteners); buy them a water infuser and add mint, cucumber and strawberries or try some Kombucha for a fizzy alternative.
Also make sure your teen is getting in enough healthy fats – as these help to support hormone balance, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Oily fish twice a week for omega 3 (salmon, sardines, mackerel), or chia and flax for vegetarians. Plus daily portions of hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and a variety of different nuts. These will also provide much needed zinc, for sex hormone production, growth and brain function.
Skin health in your 20s
It’s easy to assume your youthful skin will last forever in your 20’s, or that your skin requires little or no care. However to avoid playing catch up later in life, it’s never too early (or late) to set the stage for a lifetime of healthy skin.
Skin in your twenties looks plump and firm, thanks to a steady supply of collagen and hyaluronic acid – your skin’s natural filler. You may find your hormones start to settle down after your teenage years, but you might still encounter some breakouts due to hormonal fluctuations across your cycle.
What you can do: Keep your face clear and glowing by packing your diet with plenty of plant foods, especially those high in omega 3 and 6 (oily fish, nuts, seeds). Also, think about what you’re putting on your skin – choose organic, natural skin products to help reduce your toxic load (we love Tropic and Green People). Prioritise your need to sleep – as this helps to support healthy detoxification and anti-ageing.
Skin through the 30s
You may be surprised to learn that sex hormones begin to decline from your late 30’s onwards, so you might start to see some early signs of ageing. Also the 30’s can be a stressful time for many women, juggling a career alongside home life or a family.
The effects of chronic stress? Higher levels of cortisol, which can cause oily skin, acne and sex hormone imbalances. You may also start experiencing some dryness, as your skin finds it harder to hold onto water as oestrogen levels start to reduce later in your 30s.
What you can do: Start your day with a warm cup of green tea. Studies show green tea has a calming effect on your mind. It’s full of antioxidants and contains an amino acid called ‘theanine’ which helps you relax and keep stress at bay.
Prioritise daily stress relief – even if it’s just 10 minutes of gentle yoga or deep breathing exercises. Here’s a really simple belly breathing exercise you can do every day to help balance your stress levels:
40’s & 50’s (Hello Perimenopause & Menopause!)
For the first few decades, the top layer of your skin (epidermis) renews itself every 30 days, but by the time you’re 40, it takes 45 days. (I should know, I fall into this category!)
The 40’s are usually the peri-menopause years, which can take up to a decade for most women. Your hormones shift and flux over several years, before eventually your periods stop and your ovaries cease producing oestrogen. During this time you may experience the common symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, weight gain, insomnia, mood swings and loss of libido.
As your hormone levels shift, you may also experience changes in the skin’s texture, some loss of tone and increased dryness. This is due to decreased oil production, lower water content and collagen loss. For some women they see a return of more acne breakouts, often exacerbated by changing hormones.
Many peri-menopausal women also find they start reacting to foods that they never reacted to before, and this can manifest in the skin.
What to do: Phyto-oestrogens are foods which have been shown to minimise symptoms of the menopause. This includes linseeds (flaxseeds), beans of all kinds, lentils, oats, fennel, celery, parsley, alfalfa, tofu, tempeh, natto, miso. Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds into your morning porridge – this gives you a quick and easy phytoestrogen boost every day.
You can also help to support collagen production within the skin by including plenty of foods rich in Vitamin C – fresh fruit, raw vegetables and salad, plus sauerkraut. At the Family Nutrition Expert clinic, we also love collagen supplements – Bare Biology Skinful and Igennus Vegan Collagen are our favourites, and many of our female clients quickly feel the benefits to their skin.
You can help to balance food reactions by supporting digestive health and the microbiome that lives there. Include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha daily, plus a rainbow of different plant foods of all colours, every day.
Here at The Family Nutrition Expert, we are experts in supporting women through the menopause, helping you to assess your functional hormone balance with DUTCH testing. Do get in touch if you need further support.
Skin Health From The 60’s and Beyond…
There should be more stability after this age, as hormone levels become more balanced and less in a state of flux. Skin sensitivity should reduce now, with less outbreaks of conditions such as roseacea.
Some women find at this age that their skin can feel a bit lifeless or dull, which can be caused by changes in blood circulation and collagen production. As bone density changes, this can also alter the shape of your face.
What to do: Exercise, particularly weight bearing exercise like walking, gentle jogging, yoga and Pilates. This can help to support bone health and maintain muscle mass. You can also invest in weight resistance bands to build strength and stronger muscles without putting additional strain on your joints. Face yoga can also help to keep the facial muscles toned.
Keep feeding your skin from the inside out… a beautiful natural glow comes from a healthy, varied diet full of lots of different plant foods and healthy fats. Include cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil to dress salad and veggies every day, eat un-roasted nuts and seeds plus avocado and oily fish. Incorporate every colour of the rainbow into your diet, to help reduce oxidative stress on the skin.
Want to find out more?
As you can see, the skin undergoes gradual changes over the course of each decade. These changes certainly impact the way the skin can look and feel. You may not be able to turn back time, but you can still help to delay natural ageing by getting the basics of skin nutrition right.
If you’d like to learn more about how to naturally maintain fresh skin and boost circulation, Gurjit is offering bespoke skin packages, to include one to one natural skin health tutorials and face yoga programmes to address your specific skin needs. You can apply to work with Gurjit or Catherine here.