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Is Your Skin Hormonal?

Zits. Brown spots. Sagging. Forget PMS--now you can blame your hormones for bad skin, too.

Timelines

Estrogen is stored in fat, so severe dieters will look older, faster, warns Fields. Aside from hyaluronic acid production, estrogen also affects collagen and elastin levels. And hormonal dips thin the skin, making it less pliable and more prone to wrinkling. "After age 30, you're losing 1 percent of your collagen a year," says Fields. "Peptides, growth factors, and retinols will help rebuild the collagen, but elastin is difficult to replace." Elastin is responsible for—you guessed it—elasticity, so skin becomes looser and less flexible over time. "Facial wrinkles occur when the skin becomes too big for the tissue underneath," explains Kaplan. The first place you'll start seeing fine lines is around the eyes (the periorbital region), where skin is the thinnest. When peptide-fortified eye and face creams are no longer enough, Kaplan recommends lasers and injectable fillers to plump out the padding.

Slacking Off

In the decade leading up to menopause, testosterone finally drops as much as estrogen. You'll see less acne, but the deepest layers of your skin will start to thin and sag. Also, early hormone-related bone loss collapses facial structure, squaring off formerly rounded eye sockets (causing dark circles under the eyes) and increasing skin slackening. Going on and off the Pill makes things worse, warns Fields: "Skin looks more juicy when you're on the Pill, but if you're playing around with it, your face will get dehydrated and drop earlier." However, topical applications of plant-derived estrogens (phytoestrogens like soy, green tea, and wild yam) are safe and can help firm up the face. "If you start applying phytoestrogens in your 40s," says Boston dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch, "I'd bet money that it would help prevent much of the sagging that occurs after menopause."

Once hormone production grinds almost to a halt (hello, menopause!), skin changes dramatically all over your body. "Thirty percent of your collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause. As a result, not only will your face fall, but you'll also see more cellulite—your hormones are gone and your body turns to Jell-O," says Fields. "Forty-year-olds still look good, but even Demi Moore will turn to gush." Stay tuned for Demi's solution (because you know that at age 47, she won't go down without a fight).

Originally published on February 1, 2010

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