By Hilary Metcalfe
When we think of the endocrine system we typically picture the pineal, thymus, and adrenal glands, and perhaps even the pancreas comes to mind. But our dermis, the skin, is an endocrine organ too.
Our skin is in fact the body's largest protective endocrine organ and plays a crucial role in our overall hormonal health.
In this article, we'll explore the impact of oxidative stress from internal and external sources on female hormonal balance, and how dermal prebiotics can act as an important ally in your skincare routine for maintaining skin health and hormonal equilibrium.
But first, what is Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress is a natural part of the metabolic process. It occurs when there's an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS, but you might know them as “free radicals”) and the body's capacity to neutralise them with antioxidants. These antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione, are our body's natural defence mechanisms against oxidative stress.
In a healthy state, the body maintains a delicate equilibrium. However, when ROS production goes into overdrive or the body's antioxidant defences are compromised, this balance is disrupted. Over time, oxidative stress begins to take its toll, and its consequences manifest in both visible and often more concealed ways.
This balance is caused by both external and internal factors. These may include poor dietary choices, exposure to environmental toxins, underlying medical conditions, pollutants, and chemicals in our everyday environment. Lifestyle choices, such as alcohol, smoking, and drug use, can also contribute to this imbalance. However, it isn't limited to just physical health; it also ties into our mental and emotional well-being. Factors like psychological stress, negative emotional states (such as anxiety and depression), psychosocial factors (like social isolation), and sleep disturbances can all lead to elevated levels of oxidative stress.
It's a reminder that our physical and mental health are intricately connected.
Why should you care and how does it appear on the skin?
Excessive oxidative stress can fast-track the ageing process and contribute to various health issues. It can weaken the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections and diseases and is linked to a range of conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.
It is a common thread in various health conditions and can both result from and contribute to hormonal imbalances and skin issues.
Here's a simplified overview of how our hormones increase oxidative stress and some of the telltale signs:
- OESTROGEN DOMINANCE: high levels of oestrogen can lead to an overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and a depletion of antioxidants. You might might see it manifested as: melasma (brown patches on the face), hyperpigmentation, or increased skin sensitivity
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome): this is associated with hormonal imbalances, including elevated androgens (male hormones) and insulin resistance. You might might see it manifested as acne, excessive facial and body hair (hirsutism), and male-pattern baldness
- MENOPAUSE: The hormonal shifts during menopause, including a decrease in oestrogen levels, can lead to oxidative stress, which can impact the skin and contribute to ageing. You might might see it manifested as skin thinning, dryness, and decreased elasticity
- THYROID IMBALANCES: both hypo- and hyperthyroidism can disrupt the balance of the body's systems. You might might see it manifested as dry and coarse skin or warm and moist skin (it depends on the type of thyroid imbalance)
- ADRENAL IMBALANCE (Cortisol): chronic stress and adrenal imbalances can elevate cortisol levels. You might might see it manifested as acne, eczema, thinning skin, and impaired wound healing
- INSULIN RESISTANCE: often associated with conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, can lead to hormonal imbalances, including increased androgens. You might might see it manifested as acne, skin inflammation and impaired skin cell repair and regeneration.
- POSTPARTUM HORMONAL CHANGES: the hormonal changes that occur postpartum can lead to skin sensitivity and pigmentation changes, often accompanied by oxidative stress due to the body's adjustment to hormonal fluctuations. You might see it manifested as pigmentation changes, such as melasma.
- ENDOMETRIOSIS: can indirectly impact the skin due to chronic inflammation and hormonal fluctuations. You might might see it manifested as acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), or skin hypersensitivity
What can I do about it?
Recovering from oxidative stress involves a multifaceted approach that encompasses dietary changes, stress management, and lifestyle adjustments. In extreme cases, when oxidative stress has compromised your health and well-being, it may even require hormone therapy.
However, it's important to note that topical solutions alone cannot solve a systemic, emotional, or lifestyle-generated state of excessive oxidative stress.
A crucial step in recovery is cleaning up your skincare routine to eliminate possible external stressors. This includes avoiding chemicals, pollutants, synthetic fragrances, and ingredients like parabens and silicones that can strain the endocrine system. This skincare detox is an essential step in supporting your skin's recovery and overall health.
Addressing the visible effects of oxidative stress, such as hormonal acne, skin thinning, eczema, and premature ageing, can also provide emotional relief and boost self-esteem.
Choosing the right products that nourish your skin's strength, pH balance, and recovery can lead to noticeable improvements.
Dermal Prebiotics for Oxidative Stress
Much like prebiotics in the gut nourish "good" bacteria and support overall health, the skin also hosts a bacteria colony that plays a crucial role in our health and the body's first line of defence against oxidative stress: the dermal microbiome. This colony can benefit from prebiotics, just like our gut bacteria does.
Dermal prebiotics are emerging as a powerful tool in maintaining skin health and combating oxidative stress. They act as a balancing mechanism for the skin's microbiome, providing essential benefits:
- Nourishing Beneficial Bacteria: dermal prebiotics offer essential nutrients for the good bacteria residing on our skin's surface. This nourishment enhances the skin's natural defence mechanisms.
- Maintaining pH Balance: a balanced pH level is vital for healthy skin. Dermal prebiotics help regulate the skin's pH, preventing it from becoming too alkaline or acidic, which is crucial for the skin's protective function.
- Protecting Against Hormone Imbalance: a healthy dermal microbiome is better equipped to fend off bacterial and chemical invaders that may lead to inflammation and hormone imbalances induced by oxidative stress.
The SABI Solution…
Among the various dermal prebiotics, fructooligosaccharides, also known as "plant sugars," are a promising option. These prebiotics are found throughout The SABI Skincare Collection. They can be applied and absorbed topically, offering essential support for the skin's microbiome and hormonal equilibrium.
The SABI solution takes a holistic approach to treating hormone imbalances from the inside and out. It encourages a combination of lifestyle changes, recipes, all-natural herbal remedies, and skincare that nourishes the health of the skin's dermal microbiome with dermal prebiotics.
The intricate relationship between the endocrine function of our skin, skin health, and oxidative stress cannot be ignored. It's about both what you put inside your body and what you put on it. You can start on the outside and work your way in, benefiting from all-natural skincare and dermal prebiotics to support your skin's health and hormonal balance.
Hilary is the Co-Founder of the SABI, a Holistic Nutritionist, natural, whole foods Chef, product developer and advocate for women getting to know their bodies, cycles and selves better. Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Baja California, Mexico, she now lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands with her partner Kees and her dog, Flint.
HORMONAL & PROUD
Created as a brand to help women navigate the toughest moments of the hormonal journey, the SABI aims to change the narrative around our hormones from one of taboo, embarrassment and loneliness, to awareness and even pride. Much more than a wellness brand, SABI offers a carefully crafted line of products to carry you through your hormonal journey; a set of rituals, supportive tools, and ancient herbal remedies that have been tested time and again by women and now, backed by medicine. SABI is a blend of science and nature conceived by women who have experienced the joys and deep implications of bringing a child into the world, the pains of a heavy and difficult period, miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.
Here is an invitation to get to know your body and its cycles better and to really understand what is going on inside. Learn to use your hormonal cycle to your advantage no matter your stage of life, and know that you can always support and balance your hormone levels. Look for the right sources of information, know that there is help, and know that you’re supported.
- Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/
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