Dubai: We have all spent minutes, if not hours, in front of the mirror, pulling at the skin on our face, trying to iron out that subtle congregation of crow’s feet at the corner of our eyes, or stretching our necks to lift that visible droop around the jawline.
While sun damage and stress might cross your mind as culprits behind your skin woes, oestrogen, specifically a lack of it, is probably the last factor to make it to the list. Yes, the hormone responsible for development of the female reproductive system, childbearing and regulating menstruation is a major player when it comes to skin health.
What is oestrogen?
Dr Sara Elhadi dermatologist at Dermalase Clinic, Jumeirah, Dubai, explained: “Oestrogen and progesterone are two major female hormones responsible for the development of feminine characteristics in a woman. While oestrogen provides the gender specific feminine characteristics, progesterone regulates the menstrual cycle. The reproductive organs of a woman, such as ovaries, produce oestrogen.”
Bad skin outbreaks, hair fall, hair loss are some of the side effects when an individual suffers from oestrogen deficiency.
Symptoms of oestrogen deficiency
Dr Shireen Hussain, GP Dermatologist at Aesthetica Clinic, Dubai, elaborated: “Apart from reproductive functions, oestrogen is key to keeping your cholesterol in check, protecting bone health [for both men and women], brain health, like your mood, and tissues like the skin. When you are deficient in oestrogen, it reflects on our skin in the form of dryness, wrinkling and sagging — a condition that is dermatologically known as Oestrogen Deficient Skin (EDS).
Could oestrogen have something to do with early onset of menopause?
Dr Elhadi explained that low production of oestrogen by the ovaries, could result in premature menopause that could bring about a lot of fundamental changes in the health of a woman such as weak bones, bad skin and excessive hair loss. “Unfortunately, dietary and lifestyle stresses have pushed the menopausal age forward and women in their early 40s and even some in their mid to late-30s are experiencing oestrogen deficiency,” she explained.
Are stress and bad diet causing oestrogen depletion?
Dr Hussain further elaborated on the specific role played by stress and poor diet. “Many women worry about hitting perimenopause (transition towards menopause) in their prime. Young girls may be under stress triggered by worries over career or other social concerns. This may result in irregular or scanty menstrual cycle. This may not be perimenopause, but reduced production of oestrogen, which may be trigger a hormonal imbalance. Low oestrogen levels could also occur due to metabolic changes occurring with wrong food choices and poor diet,” explained Dr Hussain.
The best way to determine whether your skin is ageing normally or due to Oestrogen Depletion Syndrome is to consult your doctor who will run a few specialised blood and hormone tests, Dr Hussain advised.
How does lack of oestrogen accelerate ageing?
“Oestrogen regulates the production of collagen and elastin that can improve skin elasticity and thickness. Studies show how a decrease in these compounds can heavily alter tissue structure, causing sagging and wrinkles and interfering with wound healing. Oestrogen helps keep skin hydrated. So, when your moisturiser stops working its magic and your skin remains dry and dull no matter what cream you use, it’s your first cue to oestrogen deficiency,” said Dr Hussain.
Oestrogen deficiency also causes an increase in facial hair growth by up to 7 to 40 per cent in some women, with the worst-hit location being the chin, Dr Hussain pointed out. While oestrogen deficiency can lead to the growth of unwanted hair, it can also trigger hair loss from the scalp, she said.
“For dermatological issues caused by oestrogen deficiency, treatment doesn’t involve extreme measures such as hormone replacement therapy or medication,” said Dr Hussain.
The three-step simple procedure
Garden-variety symptoms of oestrogen deficient skin can be dealt with a smart three-step skin-care regimen, Dr Hussain said.
The first step is investing in products rich in hydrating ingredients that will not disrupt the outer layer of the skin: “Look for hydrating ingredients such as ceramides, triple lipids and glycerine. Even regular petroleum jelly is a great moisturiser for the body.”
This would involve incorporating some collagen stimulating ingredients into your facial skin-care routine for a tighter, elastic skin that does not droop or sag. “So, look for compounds like Vitamin C and retinol in your skin-care products. These are the main collagen-building ingredients. In fact, retinol is the most powerful anti-ageing ingredient,” Dr Hussain said.
Go for a Methyl Estradiolpropanoate (MEP) treatment. This procedure is still very new in the skin-care market and hard to lay your hands on in the Middle East.
MEP is a cosmeceutical agent, which soaks into the skin to stimulate oestrogen receptors in the same way that naturally produced oestrogen would. “It is actually a topical oestrogen that mimics the effects of the actual hormone without causing harm,” said Dr Hussain.
The natural way to replenish lost oestrogen
Once you have your skin-care routine down to a pat, the rest of the job can be completed without too much bother, by following a healthy diet and lifestyle that nurtures good skin.
“In-clinic procedures directly target the effects of oestrogen deficiency such as wrinkling and loss of collagen. But we can’t replace the hormone itself,” cautioned Dr Hussain. However, she suggested many procedures that could have an immediate impact on oestrogen restoration. “We have really powerful treatments such as ablative lasers that remove thick outer layer of the skin, threads to lift up the face from within, injectables such as botox, fillers and profhilo — a non-cross linked hyaluronic acid that hydrates the skin tremendously.
“A combination of all these procedures can effectively treat signs of EDS. However, ageing is a normal process, so don’t fret too much and embrace the process gracefully,” advised Dr Hussain.
Tips to balance oestrogen production through diet
Juliot Vinolia, Clinical dietician with Medeor Hospital, explained that natural diet and lifestyle changes could easily help replenish premature oestrogen depletion from the body. Women need to have a diet rich in plant-based oestrogens or phytooestrogens to help replenish their oestrogen naturally, apart from regularly exercising and cutting back on high-calorie processed foods. Such foods can wreak havoc with your hormones, causing imbalance that can trigger a metabolic syndrome resulting in obesity.
Ways to replenish oestrogen naturally:
• Bring your stress levels under control, meditate and start deep-breathing exercises.
• Eat a diet full of ingredients rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods such as flax seeds are your best friends who will reduce free radical damage and balance oestrogen levels.
• Exercise regularly to increase blood circulation flexibility and elasticity.
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While these are long-term strategies to revive your lack lustre skin and lay a strong foundation for good skin health, there are cosmetic treatments in the market that can correct the symptoms of EDS if you are on the hunt for more instant solutions.