Hormonal Disorders & Skin Health
by Courtney Freeman, Licensed Esthetics Instructor
Skin health, in its complexities, is tied to so many distinct and precise factors throughout the human body. Estheticians must understand the many avenues for which consultations must be based on, in order to assist their clients in today’s modern and scientific world. Like never before, clients yearn for their service providers to have a thorough education and deep understanding of many underlying causes. So much of a proper client consultation is rooted in complex, yet simple, education that a client can listen to and understand. A thorough understanding of the endocrine system and hormone balance is essential in today’s thriving esthetics market.
The Endocrine System & Skin Health
The endocrine system is a series of ductless glands that secrete hormones that communicate with many parts of the body. The endocrine system is exceptionally interesting - as so much of these glands truly affect not only our skin health, but our energy levels and the possibility of “male pattern characteristics” in females. It is important to send clients to the correct physicians that can assist these individuals with the regulation of hormone disorders, but also with an understanding that lifestyle and nutritional factors can provide very positive outcomes - given the individual and other health or genetic factors. The endocrine system is an information signal system, much like the nervous system - however, the endocrine system effects are slow to initiate and prolonged in their response. Additionally, when one endocrine gland is experiencing any unbalancing, there is a large possibility that another may follow suit. The connection of discussions between the endocrine glands is absolute - and Estheticians can assist their clients in understanding that hormonal health is a direct reflection of long-term anti-aging in females.
The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, secretes trophic hormones - which cause other glands to make hormones. The pituitary gland is the “command center”, so to speak, of the endocrine system. Several important trophic hormones are secreted from the pituitary gland and make their way to the ovaries in females, which are both extremely important for ovulation and childbirth. Follicle-stimulating hormone, also known as FSH, is secreted by the pituitary and essentially plants the “seeds” involved in ovulation during puberty and beyond. Luteinizing Hormone, also known as LH, is another very important trophic hormone that is needed to actually release the egg from the ovum in order to have children. Because the pituitary gland also secretes MSH (melanocyte-stimulating hormone) from its intermediate lobe, it is exceptionally important for Estheticians to understand the connection with the possible loss or disconnection, rather, of any trophic hormones that actually need to occur in females. If any trophic hormones released by the pituitary are not functioning properly, or sometimes not at all due to genetic predispositions or health issues, the skin can be a target to over stimulation of melanocytes, or hyperpigmentation.
Hormones secreted by the pituitary gland help control growth and metabolism - which is the job of the thyroid gland, located in the neck and consisting of two lobes. The primary influence of the thyroid is the regulation of the body’s metabolic rate, or energy levels, along with the body’s capacity to synthesize protein. The thyroid must function at its most healthiest state, as it produces the hormone calcitonin, which plays a large role in calcium homostasis. Calcium regulation is important for bone health, among other roles. Interesting ways to keep the thyroid functioning properly are to watch the body’s iodine and tyrosine levels - as they play a direct role in the health of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), hormones secreted by the thyroid. It has been found that radioactive isotopes of iodine can actually be used to treat thyroid cancer.
The diseases of the thyroid are often, and unfortunately, well-known - as many Estheticians discuss these imbalances with their clients that suffer with thyroid disorders. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces excess amounts of its hormones. Graves’ disease is a cause of hyperthyroidism - with symptoms including eye bulging, fast heartbeat, weight loss, poor tolerance of heat, irritability and moodiness, myxedema (darkened skin on the skins that become thick and red/brown with a bumpy texture), and sleeping problems. Hypothyroidism is most often caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, another autoimmune disease, in which the thyroid lacks sufficient amounts of its hormones and can cause nodules and/or cancer to develop.
The pancreas is well-known as the glandular organ of the endocrine system to regulate insulin and assist with digestion of nutrients into the body. The pancreas must function correctly in order for the correct enzymes to effectively break down carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids - which is crucial for ridding the body of internal inflammation, which can actually be a source of hormonal imbalances all together. Of course, the most popular understanding of the pancreas has to do with its diseases - Type 1 & 2 Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes occurs typically as a childhood-onset disease, in which the pancreas does not produce insulin all together as a birth defect. Type 2 Diabetes is a lifestyle alteration in which the individual throws their own insulin secretions into decline through poor eating habits. Diabetes is a glucose metabolism disease characterized by chronic hyperglycemia - which means that there is excessive amounts of glucose circulating through the blood plasma. Pancreatic issues can be a factor in throwing off other endocrine glands, which can ultimately spiral into several different hormonal imbalances throughout the body.
The understanding of the adrenal glands is fascinating to the Esthetician for many reasons. The adrenal glands look like little “hats” that sit on top of the kidneys, and are made up of a medulla and a cortex. The adrenal cortex produces three types of steroid hormones: mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and adrogens. Mineralocorticoids help to regulate blood pressure and electrolyte balance. A type of glucocorticoid is the popular cortisol - which serves as our “stress” hormone. Understanding and regulating excessing stress is important for the regulation of the adrenal glands. The third steroid hormone, androgens, are the female’s only natural source of the male hormone, testosterone. This fact is important for many Estheticians, as high testosterone levels in female cause male pattern characteristics such as excessive hair growth on the chin and upper lip, hyperpigmentation, and cystic jawline acne. The regulation of adrenal gland levels are imperative for proper skin health - and can be a source of understanding for those treating acne or hormonal hyperpigmentation. The medulla of the adrenal glands produces adrenaline and noradrenaline, producing the “fight or flight” response in the body during intense situations.
Clients with Cushing’s Syndrome deal with many visual characteristics such as abnormal obesity but with thin arms and legs, reddish stretch marks, a round red face, weak muscles and bones, acne, and fragile skin that heals poorly. Individuals dealing with Cushing’s Syndrome will deal with high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, moodiness, and headaches. Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by excessive cortisol-like medications such as prednisone or a tumor that produces excessive cortisol by the adrenal glands. In the case of a pituitary ademona, a tumor, it is then known as Cushing’s Disease. A firm understanding of this disorder by Estheticians is crucial in setting timelines for healing - from protocols for chemical peels or laser services. The understanding of how acne can be a factor in this disease will explain the timeline of expectations for Estheticians treating it. Because most cases can be treated and cured, Estheticians will want to follow the directions of the overseeing physician as well as follow the nutrition and lifestyle choices of the client for ultimate, long-term results.
Clients with Addison’s Disease are those in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones. Esthetics characteristics include darkening of the skin - especially in sites of friction, vermillion border of the lips, genital skin, and other areas. Muscles weakness, lightheadedness, sweating, changes in mood, and craving for salt due to low sodium are other symptoms. Because hyperpigmentation can be one of the most rewarding yet difficult skin conditions to treat, it is important for the Esthetician to take Addison’s Disease into account when treating skin darkening. Although difficult and time consuming, hyperpigmentation can be treated effectively through progressive chemical peels, laser treatments, and the use of ingredients such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, licorice root, abrutin, and ascorbic acid.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is characterized by hirsutism (excessive body and facial hair from hormonal fluctuations), acne, and hyperpigmentation. PCOS is rooted in the non-secretion or unbalanced secretions of FSH and LH from the pituitary gland, which are crucial for the ovaries to properly function in females. When the ovaries are unable to ovulate properly, ovarian cysts can occur. Due to and in conjunction with cysts, an unnatural occurrence of androgens (male hormones) appear in the ovaries for females. High androgen levels are the source of the male pattern characteristics, such as excessive hair, acne, and darkened skin. According to many sources, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome cannot be cured, but can be treated with lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise - along with anti-androgen medications and birth control pills. When realizing a client has PCOS, the game plan and consultation for services such as laser hair removal are changed - as the course of treatment would either change with the additional usage of medications, or halt all together. If the signs of PCOS are not treated, one would not be able to effectively clear the client completely with electrolysis or laser hair removal, due to the androgenic hair growth as a source.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Natural hormone replacement therapy is an alternative to medicinal supplementation, which can have adverse reactions or negative side effects. HRT is any form of therapy using naturally occurring hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen for females, to supplement areas in which the individual is low. In the ovaries, a very specific level of estrogen and progesterone is needed for women, in order to prevent common symptoms associated with menopause, for example. The treatment is also thought to prolong life and reduce incidence of dementia. Natural estrogen or progesterone therapy can often be compounded locally at a pharmacy specializing in that specification. A physician or medical advisor from the compounding pharmacy or clinic would place the client on the set amount needed.
Internal Inflammation & Lifestyle Cures
The inflammation cascade is an ever present topic of conversation for those intrigued by the mere thought of prolonging life. What is it to actually “reverse” aging? The science behind what internal inflammation does to our bodies is imminent. Through the obvious hormonal fluctuations and decline in proper functioning of necessary organs or glands, to the build-up of mucus and glucose molecules within our gut - it is no wonder our ratio of free-radical damage versus antioxidant support is off kilter. Balancing hormones and improving the overall health of the body lies primarily in the intake of organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are the key factor of internal anti-aging and ridding the body of toxins. When the lymphatic system can drain the body of unnatural toxic build-up at its optimum level, the hormones will balance out and improve exponentially.
Estheticians can utilize amazing information to inform their clients of ways to balance their hormones naturally, which can reap the rewards of beautiful skin. Drinking as much water as possible throughout the day is part of equalizing the internal levels within our glands - and also is part of the three items cells need to survive and flourish. Nutrition, oxygen, and water are three parts of a simple life source for nourished cells. Skin cells, in particular, are easier to break down via chemical peels if the cells are somewhat healthy. Cells are primarily made up of protein structures through ribosome components and other organelles throughout the cytoplasm. What this means is that Estheticians can and should incorporate lifestyle education into their consultations, along with the proper suggestion of experts that can assist them in their journey. Cellular health is directly connected with the health of hormone balancing, which reflects a multitude of skin disorders.
The endocrine system is vast and complex, yet extremely interconnected with areas of the body that are vital for living a full life. The Esthetician can learn and appreciate the endocrine glands in simple and effectives ways, in order to educate their clients on the direct connection between hormone imbalances and skin intolerances. Thus, the skin is a direct reflection of what is going on internally within the body. Being able to pinpoint the root of a problem, with the help of an overseeing physician, can assist consumers in balancing the correct procedures and lifestyle changes that can affect the outcome of esthetics protocols.