Having a glowing complexion is the holy grail, but often great skin comes from within. Today, we hear from skin expert and A-list facialist Abigail James about how to balance your hormones for fabulously healthy skin.
How do hormones affect our skin?
"Hormones are intrinsic factors, but they are hugely affected by extrinsic considerations. Part of the endocrine system, they play a vital role in the way our skin looks and feels. When our hormones are balanced we feel happy and healthy. Physically, we have vibrant skin, a good sex drive, regular monthly cycles, shiny hair and a steady body weight.
"Most of us think of the male and female hormones – testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone – when we hear the word ‘hormones’, but we have many others. I like to imagine that they’re all lined up in test tubes, each filled with the precise amount of hormone needed to maintain balance within the body. If one gets spilled, or another gets topped up, all of the others have to fight to retain overall balance. This internal struggle is what dictates the condition of our skin. Each of these hormones has a different impact upon the skin:
Oestrogen: the female hormone, which makes women’s skin dewy, hydrated, plump and youthful. The skin ages as oestrogen levels drop.
Testosterone: the male hormone that results in oilier, thicker skin and stimulates collagen production.
Androgens: are made of many male hormones but women have them too. They stimulate collagen production and make the skin stronger and oilier. These play a role in acne breakouts.
"An important gland that affects the skin is the thyroid. This makes two hormones that affect brain development, breathing, bone health, body temperature, weight gain or loss, muscle strength and metabolism. If your thyroid is overactive, you can become warm, sweaty and flushed. If it’s underactive, your skin may become dry.
"If you have an underlying hormone imbalance, there may not be a magic cream or potion that will fix your skin; however, there will be some lifestyles, treatments and products that will help you support your skin to keep it on track."
Common symptoms that indicate that your hormones might be out of whack include:
- Feeling lethargic
- Thinning hair
- Loss of sex drive
- Skin breakouts
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Mental fogginess
- Anxiety and feeling low
- Hot flushes and night sweats
12 Hormone balancing tips
1. Reduce toxins in the form of pesticides and certain plastics and household chemicals. Bisphenol is a chemical commonly used in water bottles and food packaging. Phthalates and PVC are found in some cosmetics and hair products.
2. Eat organic where possible. I realise that it costs more, but if your body is showing signs of toxic overload it might be an investment worth trying.
3. Cook food at home rather than grabbing pre-packed foods on the go.
4. Increase your intake of magnesium. The best way to get magnesium is topically, so try an oil or a spray.
5. Use a water filter.
6. Support your liver. As a key elimination organ responsible for metabolising hormones, it’s crucial that you keep it healthy. Do this by eating foods such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips and leafy greens.
7. Cut down on coffee. It tends to send hormones haywire, so switch to herbal teas. If you still crave the taste of coffee, try decaffeinated or roasted dandelion tea. And if you must have a coffee, drink it before 3pm as it will reduce its the impact. Always follow it with a large glass of water to help flush it through your body.
8. Consider cutting out alcohol. It puts extra stress on your liver and imbalances blood-sugar levels. Try not to drink on an empty stomach and match each glass of wine with one of water. Taking a vitamin B supplement the morning after will help your liver’s detoxification process. Chlorella is also a fantastic supplement to counterbalance the harmful effects of alcohol.
9. Avoid bad fats. Sunflower, corn and peanut oils are often included within processed foods. These are what I call ‘bad fats’. Foods high in omega-3 fats are ‘good fats’ that fight inflammation. These can be found in flax and chia seeds, cod liver oil and sea buckthorn.
10. Be wary of phytoestrogens. These are naturally occurring substances in plants that have hormone-like activity, found in foods such as soy. While some soy is good for us, too much can prevent the body from processing iodine, which is stored in the thyroid gland, breasts and ovaries and responsible for cell metabolism and supporting hormone balance.
11. Don’t exercise to excess. We’re not suggesting that you give up your gym membership and your fitness routine. Yet very strenuous cardio, repeated day in day out, can unbalance your hormones and affect your menstrual cycle. So everything in balance! Mix it up with some lighter swimming, walking, Pilates or yoga.
12. Take supplements of iodine, a trace mineral most of us are deficient in, found in seafood and seaweed; vitamin D3, found in cod liver oil; magnesium, which supports hundreds of processes in the body and often contributes to better sleep, and milk thistle, good for supporting the liver.
The healthy hormone shopping list
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Pine nuts
- Eggs – including the yolks
- Oily fish
Extracted from Love Your Skin: The Ultimate Guide to a Glowing Complexion by Abigail James, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Jenni Hare.
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