How Hormones Impact Aging + 8 Tips for Aging Gracefully
I know we’ve been led to believe (cough marketing cough) to think we can slather creams and potions all over our face or inject botox to erase the years away, but I’m going to tell you the truth: aging starts on the inside.
Hormones, gut health and inflammation levels are influencing factors in the rate at which the cells age. Stress, sleep and nutrition play a HUGE role in how your skin looks (duh), but also in how it ages.
Your chronological age can be completely different from your biological age based on all sorts of lifestyle factors that have nothing to do with how many expensive serums you have in your medicine cabinet. Truth is, those expensive products won’t do much if your body doesn’t have the proper nutrients and hormones to rebuild and repair itself.
Now, it’s none of my business what you decide to put in and on your face, but like I’ve said before, I’m all about empowered decisions. I believe your skin is an amazing indicator of what’s going on on the inside.
Accelerated aging and premature fine lines and wrinkles can be your body telling you something is wrong. And if you cover it up, you run the risk of covering some essential clues and signs that something’s seriously up with your body.
I’ll be honest. I roll my eyes a little bit when women who are hormonally imbalanced or nutrient deficient tell me they spend hundreds (or thousands!) on laser treatments, facials, chemical peels and face products, yet continue to wonder why their skin still lacks luster.
your skin is an organ! And it’s not just there for aesthetic purposes. It protects you from your environment, acts as a barrier to the outside world, turns sunshine into Vitamin D, regulates your temperature using sweat and helps you sense the world around you (heat, cold, pain & touch). If you sense something’s up with it, it’s important to pay attention, because the health of your organs are a direct reflection of your overall health.
I know it can be tempting to see things like acne, aging, fine lines and wrinkles as “imperfections.” But I urge you to recognize that these are signs that you are ALIVE and to be thankful you are not a statue frozen in time.
We live in a society that idealizes perfection (hello, impossible) in order to make money off of you. Although it’s important to get things like acne and premature figured out (as there’s usually an underlying cause), don’t obsess or despair over your appearance. It’ll just leave you stressed, unhappy and in a negative headspace.
With this being said, here are some of the main things you can do to influence how your skin ages:
1. Protect Your Hormones
Balanced levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone play different roles in the way your skin functions.
Estrogen — increases collagen production, maintains skin’s moisture, influences the quality of elastin fibers (reducing wrinkles) and decreases wound healing time.
Progesterone — increases elasticity and firmness of the skin, maintains skin hydration and can help estrogen function more effectively
*Keep in mind that Progestin, synthetic progesterone, can mimic androgens and exacerbate acne
Testosterone — plays a role in collagen and skin elasticity, increases secretion of sebaceous glands (oil producing cells on the skin)
*Excess testosterone in relation to estrogen and progesterone can cause acne
Your hormones can influence everything. From mood, to fat loss, to brain function, to skin. This is why I’m so passionate about making sure hormones are optimized when it comes to working with my clients.
2. Be Fully Nourished
There are specific nutrients that are essential for maintaining healthy skin:
Magnesium – stress, birth control and high-sugar diets deplete magnesium. Magnesium is essential for DNA repair (aka maintaining the health of your cells). Foods rich in magnesium include: dark leafy greens, spirulina, kelp, seaweed, cacao, oats, bananas, nuts & seeds.
Vitamin C—is an antioxidant that fights free radicals (which can damage cells) and helps your body utilize progesterone more efficiently. You can find vitamin c in camu camu, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, bell peppers, guava, acerola, beet greens, grapefruit, strawberries, red and green bell peppers, kale, parsley, collard greens and turnip greens
Sulfur—plays a vital role in detoxification in your body and is a component needed in the production of collagen. Sulfur rich veggies include: cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, onions, garlic, Brussel’s sprouts, garlic and shallots.
Zinc— another important mineral that protects the integrity of our tissues can get depleted by insulin (high-sugar diets), stress, birth control and gut issues. Foods rich in zinc include: grass-fed liver, oysters, pecans, poultry, pumpkin seeds, ginger, legumes, seafood and mushrooms. If your gut is impaired, it’s important to supplement.
Some other necessary skin nutrients include vitamin e (needs selenium and vitamin c to be absorbed), selenium, vitamin a and omega-3’s.
3. Avoid Low-Protein Diets (+make sure you’re digesting protein well)
Amino acids can be like a repair treatment from within. Creatine, carnitine, glutamine, arginine, methionine and glutamine help stimulate the cells to produce collagen and elastin. They protect the cells and repair damaged DNA. Sources rich in amino acids include: grass-fed meats, pastured poultry, wild fish, bone broth (made from quality bones), collagen powder and high-quality dairy products.
Amino acids can be found in small amounts in plant foods, but you would have to eat tons and tons to mimic the nutrient density found in animal foods. This is one of the many reasons I don’t like a vegan/vegetarian diet for women. It ages you quickly!
It’s not enough to just eat it. You have to make sure you’re digesting it well. I commonly see Low hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) in my clients, which can hinder breaking down and absorbing the amino acids from your food. If you have a hard time digesting protein rich foods, check your stomach acid levels. Digestive bitters, fermented foods like sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and ginger can all help stimulate the production of HCL.
4. Avoid Low-Fat Diets
Essential fatty acids are ESSENTIAL for maintaining healthy function and appearance of skin. Both EPA and DHA play a role in keeping your skin glowing and healthy.
My favorite animal food sources include grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, grass-fed butter and cod liver oil.
My favorite plant sources include olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, nut butters, coconut products and coconut oil.
Keep in mind that plant and animal fats, although both highly beneficial, play different roles in the body. It’s important to include both types for optimal health. If you have a hard time digesting fats, know that Hydrochloric Acid and gut health also plays a role in fat digestion.
5. Lower Stress
Yes, girl. Stress can wreck your skin. When we’re stressed out, our body pumps out stress hormones, including cortisol. In the presence of cortisol, our body uses up nutrients like magnesium, selenium and vitamin c much quicker than when we have normal levels of cortisol. Our skin can really suffer in the face of stress, so it’s important to manage our external stress well.
But what about INTERNAL stress? Certain internal stressors like inflammation, hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance and gut issues (bacterial imbalance, fungus and parasites) are a stressor to the body. It’s important to get to the root cause of internal stressors and get them cleared up, so your body can focus on rejuvenation and repair instead of being in a constant state of fight or flight.
Refer to the point above. Lack of sleep is a stressor to the body and can influence your ability to create hormones like progesterone and estrogen. Gut issues, nutrient deficiencies, emotional stress, inflammation an HPA Axis dysfunction (known properly as “adrenal fatigue”) can all contribute to poor sleep.
I doubt I need to prove this to you. Have you every looked in the mirror after a poor night’s sleep and thought “WTF!?”, ya me too.
7. Eat Anti-Inflammatory
Excessive intake of inflammatory foods like refined sugar and wheat has been shown to be stressors on both the gut and the cells. They deplete us of essential nutrients and don’t offer much nutritional value. Dairy can also be a potential cause of inflammation, especially if one is intolerant. Lastly, inflammatory seed oils like canola (also known as rapeseed and cottonseed), soybean oil, safflower, sunflower and grapeseed oils can increase inflammation in the body due to their high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio.
It’s important to eat an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of high quality protein, green veggies, healthy fats and gentle, non-gluten carbohydrates.
8. Look at the Ingredients in Your Products
This seems like common sense, but slathering chemicals you can’t pronounce on your body and face day after day seems to be the in thing right now?
Your body absorbs 60% of anything that it is exposed to. Once absorbed, it makes its way into the bloodstream, which then has to be filtered by the liver. Guess what one of the many jobs of the liver is? To act as a storehouse of nutrients. Your liver uses essential nutrients like selenium and magnesium during the detoxification process. Chemical exposure depletes us of nutrients and messes with our hormones, which absolutely affects our skin.
Notice I didn’t say aging in itself is bad. Aging is a privilege, because being ALIVE is a privilege. Our current culture and society sees aging as a flaw and markets it as such because guess what? The 216 billion dollar anti-aging industry wouldn’t be that big if women just embraced getting older. Women can age gracefully by taking care of their bodies and hormones and embracing who they are at every season of life.