Tune In: How Hormones Influence Hair Growth, Skin Health & More
Hormones are a complicated, complex topic. Our endocrine system spans the entire body, involves multiple organs, and includes dozens of hormones. But it's so important to understand how they control the body—not just because of your overall health and mood but because they dramatically influence the hair's, nails', and skin's appearance.
"If we get your hormones on track, then the rest will unfold the way it's supposed to unfold in your life," she tells me. "Our hair, skin, weight, muscle mass, and all this other stuff is tied back to our hormones. If you can get to the root of it, then you can save yourself so much money and time."
It's an episode full of great information, but in the meantime here are a few of my favorite insights.
Understand that the endocrine system is deeply intertwined
When the word "hormones" gets thrown around, the most common association is our reproductive hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, and so on. While these play a huge role in our reproductive health, skin, hair, and mood—they're only one part of the endocrine system.
"When we're talking about the endocrine system, we're talking about the key organs and the hormones that are secreted in a network. I would almost imagine a spiderweb that is interconnected, but you have different command centers that are driving what the body's supposed to do," she explains. "So you've got everything from your hypothalamus, which sits in the brain, to your pituitary, to your thyroid, to your ovaries and uterus. The bones and the muscles are also part of the endocrine system because those are secreting hormones too."
When you start to think about how many parts of the body pIay a role in hormone health, you can understand how interdependent our organs are.
"That network of all those different organs and the different messengers they're putting out are all interrelated and interconnected," she says. "If you're going to mess with one hormone over here, it's like a domino effect. It's going to have an impact downstream."
Understand it's a journey not a destination
Often when we talk about hormones, we often talk about how we need to "balance" them. By this, we simply mean that the hormones are all working as they should and are in harmony. However, balance shouldn't be thought of as an end destination, but a journey.
"It is possible to have balanced hormones as a person who is constantly shifting," she says. "There's some common themes and patterns, but there's also a lot of individuality within that."
She goes on to explain the key themes to pay attention to: "Every woman should know what the right diet is for her. Everyone should know what their nutrient pitfalls are. Everyone should understand the importance of restful sleep. And everyone should understand the role of the environment," she says.
Take, for example, endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our environment.
"We know that endocrine-disrupting chemicals are everywhere," she says. "They are shifting our baseline hormone state to one that is very estrogen dominant, meaning that we're holding on to metabolites of estrogen and androgens, which is responsible for a lot of what we see in the mirror. This is why we might have bloating, acne, hair loss, or premature aging."
Keep an eye on the mirror
When you're dealing with hormone issues, your body will send many signals that something's wrong in the body. But one of the easiest signs to identify is your appearance.
"The minute you see changes in hair—whether it's hair loss, a change in hair texture, or a change in hair moisture—that's a great sign that there's been a shift in your hormones," she explains. In fact hair shedding is connected to many hormone imbalances, notably an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.
Or nails that are dry and hard to grow can be an indication of hormone issues: "If your nails are breaking and brittle, then you want to think thyroid," she says.
And as for the skin: "Everything from acne to eczema to psoriasis, these are all things you need to look at within the context of your hormones," she says.
But it's not just skin conditions. Premature aging can be a sign that something's off. "Early wrinkling and skin sagging can be caused by hormone loss. We need the hormones estrogen to build collagen, replenish the skin, and to aid in skin turnover," she explains.
Tune in to hear more:
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.