3 Surprising Hormone Triggers That Mess With Your Skin

mbg Beauty Director By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
3 Surprising Hormone Triggers That Mess With Your Skin

When we think of the myriad things that affect the skin, perhaps things like diet, moving your body, drinking water, and so forth also come to mind. But one of the biggest influences on the skin is our hormones, as they influence so much of our overall health.

On some level, you likely understand that hormones affect our skin, whether that's acne during puberty or skin flare-ups as part of a monthly cycle. But it's not just the sex hormones that change our complexion; several other hormones do so as well. And on this week's episode of Clean Beauty School, I spoke about this with hormone expert and board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D. In it, she shared how dealing with hormones is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor, but there are things we can all pay attention to. 

"I think it's so valuable to understand you are unique—we have a lot of similarities, but your particular situation may not fit neatly into a box," she says. 

Here, three major hormone triggers that mess with your skin:

1. Stress

We often talk about how stress messes with the skin here at mindbodygreen. And the reason for this all comes down to cortisol, the stress hormone. "Cortisol, our primary stress hormone, is one that significantly affects the skin. So when we stress out, our brain sends a signal to our skin, and cortisol is generated. This has some of the biggest impacts you see, especially from an aging perspective," says Barr. 

"Cortisol plays a significant role in our collagen and elastin," she says. "So those supportive tissues in the skin really give us that supple youthful appearance. Well, cortisol breaks those tissues down, so you'll see accelerated fine lines and wrinkling. But the other thing is that it also impairs repair." Read: Not only does cortisol hurt your skin; it stops the recovery too. 


2. Sleep

Again, we talk at length about the importance of a good night's rest—for the skin, body, and mind. As far as the skin goes, we often note that skipping rest can cause sallow skin, dark eyes, and a lackluster complexion. But perhaps the most dramatic way it affects the skin is limiting repair—and this comes down to melatonin

"Melatonin is critically important for your skin and plays a significant role in skin repair from environmental exposure, UV light, stressors, pollution, and so on. We know that production is only at night—so sleep hygiene is crucial for your skin," says Barr. "If you're not resting, you're not generating that melatonin, and your skin isn't repairing itself."

3. Products

Of course, products affect your skin! But did you know that they also influence hormones? Yes—endocrine disrupters can dramatically influence our skin health. "A lot of preservatives in beauty products can irritate the skin and cause endocrine disruption," she says. Endocrine disrupters are ingredients that disrupt your normal hormone balance. This can happen in a variety of ways: First, they mimic your body's natural hormones, then they influence your hormone receptors. Or they can block your natural hormones from reaching those hormone receptors. Finally, they can simply increase or decrease the normal levels of hormones that you have in your body. 

But this becomes even more dramatic when you take into account that your skin can actually produce its own hormones, too. "Our skin actually has the ability to generate cortisol, adrenaline, the sex hormones, and so on," says Barr. "So the skin is very unique in that it can receive information circulating throughout the body, and it can produce these hormones as well!"

The takeaway. 

Hormones influence our bodies in countless ways—skin included. These are just three of the ways that hormones affect our skin; for more information on the others, tune in. 

If you're looking for more engaging beauty conversations, listen to our new beauty podcast, Clean Beauty School. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

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