When Allie Egan started having severe dry patches, her dermatologist’s diagnosis was contact dermatitis. Despite treatment, the patches never went away – until, years later, a hormone workup for a fertility test revealed a form of hypothyroidism called Hashimoto’s disease, which, it turned out, was a cause not only of infertility, but also of those dry patches.
Now, says Egan, “I want to bring this power of understanding hormonal health to others.” In 2020, she founded Veracity, a skincare brand that uses hormone testing to create personalized regimens.
The body’s endocrine system is more extensive than most people realize. “Hormones affect our memory, cognition and mood, and over time they can alter our metabolism,” says Gwendolyn Floyd, co-founder of Wile, a brand of wellness hormone supplements. “They control the quality of sleep and may even contribute to heart problems.”
They also affect how we look, says Joel Evans, an obstetrician-gynecologist and director of Connecticut’s Center for Functional Medicine. “Hormones have a huge impact on how we look, perhaps more than any other system in the body,” he says. “Imbalances can cause acne, hair loss, facial puffiness and bloating.” The skin serves as a barometer for hormone fluctuations, says dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, who often orders a thyroid panel and measures sex hormones (LH, FSH, DHEAS, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) for patients in her practice in New York City.
For women, estrogen is often named because it aligns with important life transitions. It rises during puberty, explodes during pregnancy, and plunges during perimenopause and menopause. “Estrogen is vital for women’s health,” says Elsa Jungman, a French skin specialist. And it has a significant effect on skin function. The skin is lined with estrogen receptors and its thickness changes during the menstrual cycle. Skincare brands like Payot and Typology have created products based on the idea that our diets need to change accordingly. When estrogen drops in menopause, the skin feels the impact. “That means less hyaluronic acid and collagen, so more lines and wrinkles, dryness, and loss of elasticity,” says Jungman.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is also often invoked. But while many assume their cortisol is high, Veracity data showed that there are just as many women with low levels, a sign of adrenal fatigue, which can also affect the skin, Egan says. “When cortisol is overloaded, you produce more sebum, which leads to acne,” she says. “But with lower cortisol, you see slower healing. So that may mean that there aren’t many new flare-ups, but the ones you have aren’t going away.
Growing information about the negative effects of endocrine disruptors in personal care products is part of the reason hormones are now part of the skincare conversation, says Alexiades. So is the growing interest in our overall personal health metrics. Although many brands are still embracing a single model, the future of skincare may be a much more holistic concern.
This story appears in the February 2022 issue of City & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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