Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and the most vulnerable to the elements, including temperature, humidity, dry air, toxins, pollution, and other irritants like dust and pollen. It not only protects your insides from all of this stuff, it also communicates what’s happening on your insides, and is a great indicator of your overall health—including your hormone health.
So when you try to combat skin problems like dryness, acne, eczema, etc. with topical treatments alone, you’re treating the symptoms, but not the actual problem. It’s like if the check engine light in your car came on, and you just put masking tape over it instead of taking it to your local mechanic. You’re not fixing the problem—just doing your best to ignore it.
The bottom line is, the BEST way to treat skin issues is to start from the inside-out: by balancing your hormones.
Here are SEVEN ways to improve your hormone health for healthy, beautiful skin.
I talk about stress a ton, because it can wreak havoc on your body and hormones on so many levels. A big reason for this is a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is usually referred to as our “stress hormone” because our body releases it in response to any kind of stress on the body. But that’s only part of the story.
When we feel stressed, our body responds in all kinds of ways. We may feel our heart racing, our breathing rate may increase, and we may have trouble thinking clearly. All of this is thanks to cortisol—and there’s more.
Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands and controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. Almost ALL cells within the body have cortisol receptors, which means cortisol impacts our whole body. Cortisol can control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, impact inflammation, and also memory formulation. It affects salt and water balance, controls blood pressure, and even supports the developing fetus during pregnancy.
Essentially, cortisol has a dramatic impact on most of your body’s critical functions, not the least of which is the health of your skin.
When cortisol levels get too high, they interfere with the production of all of your body’s other hormones (more on those later), which totally throws your skin off balance.
So your FIRST GOAL when working on problem skin is to reduce stress as much as possible. Easier said than done, right?
Here are some tips:
Practice managing your daily stressors with tools like restorative yoga, long slow walks in nature, hot baths, massage, and whatever else brings your unique soul pleasure! Any changes you can make, even small ones, will have an impact.
Getting at least 7-9 hrs of sleep—consistent, adequate, and unmedicated sleep is critical. The adrenal glands have a specific circadian rhythm that they adhere to. Cortisol is highest first thing in the morning which naturally wakes us up and gets us out of bed, and then levels begin to naturally fall throughout the day until they are at their very lowest levels around 10:00pm. When we stay up late, we force the adrenals to start working again to produce cortisol. Beyond exhausting the adrenal glands, this will also exhaust other elements of the endocrine system, taxing your body (and your skin) even further.
The goal is to wake up without an alarm feeling refreshed. I suggest sleeping in a dark, quiet room. Remove all electronics and gadgets, and get to bed early. Engaging in some daily exercise outside will help you get better quality sleep as well—and exercise is also GREAT for managing stress!
So when your cortisol is too high, and your endocrine system gets thrown off balance, two critical hormones are affected: estrogen and testosterone.
Estrogen is a key hormone that prevents the signs of aging skin — it regulates collagen levels in your skin. Too little estrogen results in all of the most common signs of aging skin: lines, wrinkles, sagging, and dryness.
Testosterone (or androgen) levels in both men and women are also affected when the rest of your endocrine system is off balance. An excess of testosterone causes your sebaceous glands to produce more sebum—an oily substance designed to keep the skin soft. If this gland produces too much sebum it the skin follicles can get clogged with oil, dirt, and dead skin cells, which leads to acne.
An under active thyroid is one of the biggest culprits of extremely dry skin, partly because of a reduced ability to sweat, which is a telltale symptom of hypothyroidism. In fact, a study on hypothyroidism published in 2012 found that dry, coarse skin affected 100 percent of participants. (If you’re also experiencing fatigue, weight gain, low sex drive, PMS, or irregular cycles and you haven’t already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, make sure you talk to your doctor or contact me for additional help).
On the other hand, an overactive thyroid can cause the opposite effect—warm, sweaty, flushed skin, acne and extra greasy skin. If you think your thyroid might be the culprit of your skin issues, check out this post, this post, and this post for more info on how to balance thyroid hormones.
That old myth about how eating chocolate causes pimples actually is rooted in a little truth—although it’s not the chocolate that’s the problem, it’s the sugar.
When we eat a diet high in sugar, it can increase our insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream to control the conversion of carbohydrates into a type of sugar called glucose, which is the main energy source used by cells.
When everything is working like it’s supposed to, the release of insulin is tightly regulated in order to balance food intake and the metabolic needs of the body. This is a complex process, and other hormones found in the gut and pancreas also contribute to maintaining this balance.
When we eat, glucose is absorbed from our gut into the bloodstream, raising blood glucose levels. This rise in blood glucose causes insulin to be released from the pancreas so glucose can move inside the cells and be used. As glucose moves inside the cells, the amount of glucose in the bloodstream returns to normal and insulin release slows down, and so on and so forth throughout the day as you use up energy and eat to replace that energy.
Hormones released in times of acute stress, such as cortisol (see above) and adrenaline, stop the release of insulin, leading to higher blood glucose levels to help cope with the stressful event.
So spikes in blood sugar (insulin) and stress (cortisol) send all kinds of confusing messages to your endocrine system (including your thyroid) resulting in wildly fluctuating levels of hormones, including testosterone, estrogen AND the regulating hormones governed by your thyroid.
These mixed messages mean that your body is constantly producing either too much or too little of the hormones that keep your skin’s delicate balance in order.
Keeping your blood sugar balanced throughout the day is a key way to make sure your skin gets exactly what it needs, and nothing it doesn’t.
A nourishing, balanced diet ensures stable blood sugar levels, and also all the critical nutrients that give your cells (including skin cells!) everything they need. Balanced blood sure and healthy cells mean means healthy hormones AND healthy skin!
You’ll want to stick to whole, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods: wild-caught fish and seafood, grass-fed and grass-finished meats, healthy fats and oils, a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, fermented foods, bone broth, and plenty of filtered water—drink half your body weight in ounces of water EVERY DAY!
Here’s an example of what your meals should look like:
There are many different supplements that can help balance your hormones and keep your skin healthy. I’ve listed several of my favorites here, but if you have questions and want more, let’s talk!
One critical way your skin cells become damaged is through free radicals (i.e. inflammation). When antioxidant levels in the body are lower than those of free radicals, due to factors like poor nutrition or lots of incoming toxins, the immune system is overloaded and aging occurs more rapidly. My favorite all-in-one supplement to get a hearty dose of antioxidants is Detox Antiox (Take 2 capsules per day.)
I also highly recommend liposomal glutathione on a daily basis. Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants naturally produced in the body, as it protects virtually every tissue. (Take 5 pumps under the tongue and hold for 20 seconds per day.)
Adding CoQ10 is also key. Ubiquinol has been shown to inhibit DNA oxidation (damage from free radicals), which is a big culprit of causing aging in skin. (Take 1 capsule per day.)
Cells need to have a steady and constant supply of oxygen in order to function properly and stay healthy. This process is called oxygenation, and it’s affected by many factors, including your nutrient intake. Iron deficiency is one of the more common types of nutrient deficiency, and can lead to anemia, which means you don’t have enough red blood cells to transport and incorporate oxygen into cells. Taking chelated iron is helpful for improving skin cell quality and Vitamin C helps with iron absorption, and should be taken at the same time. (Take 1 capsule of each per day).
Remember that your cells, and therefore your skin, are damaged by toxin exposure, which include chemicals that can be found in cosmetics (like lotion and other topical skin treatments), plastics, pesticides, cigarettes, etc. These chemicals (especially things you put directly on your skin) are also endocrine disruptors, which disrupt the delicate balance of your hormones.
In addition to drinking LOTS of clean filtered water to keep your body and skin hydrated, and flush toxins from your system, you’ll want to make sure everything you put ON your skin is safe and toxin-free.
I want to hear from you—leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!
What are your most persistent skin problems?
What natural remedies have worked for you?
Spread some healthy skin lovin’! I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about your skin health? Schedule a consultation with me!