After years of smiling and laughing (or teeth clenching and brow furrowing in the case of the last few years), you may have started to notice lines becoming ingrained in your face. Hello, wrinkles. Wrinkles are an inevitable part of the aging process, but beyond being the product of emotional expression and too much sun exposure, there’s one main culprit behind the emergence of these not-so-welcome lines: hormones.
Back to Basics: What Are Wrinkles?
Wrinkles are a natural part of the aging process, the result of a slowdown in your body’s production of collagen and elastin which causes your skin to become thinner and drier. As the fat that once plumped up the deep layers of your skin diminishes, your skin becomes looser and more prone to developing those characteristic fine lines.
Beyond the normal experience of aging, there are a few factors that can cause this process to accelerate resulting in fine lines ahead of their time.
The Effect of Sun Exposure
Sun exposure is our best source of vitamin D, which is essential for balanced hormone production and overall health. But spending too much time basking in the UV rays will accelerate your skin’s aging process. In fact, studies show UV exposure may be responsible for 80% of the visible signs of aging on your face. This happens because ultraviolet radiation can cause DNA changes in the skin, which then lead to premature aging.
Too Much Sugar Is Also a Bad Thing
We know sugar can cause inflammation, but too much can also cause glycation, or a reaction that happens when there is too much glucose present in the skin fibers. These excess sugar molecules latch onto collagen and elastin, making these two proteins rigid and causing them to lose their ability to keep the skin firm and supple. The result is cellular acceleration of aging that dehydrates the skin and causes wrinkles and sagging. In short: no fun.
And Then There Are Your Hormones
Wrinkles + Low Estrogen
Studies show that the best way to protect your skin from signs of aging is to keep your estrogen levels balanced. Estrogen is responsible for your body’s natural collagen and elastin production (it’s also what creates the “pregnancy glow”). Estrogen helps keep your skin hydrated, plump, and protected. If your skin is prematurely aging, low estrogen levels could be to blame.
Wrinkles + Menopause
As you enter menopause, the hormones responsible for plump, glowing, and hydrated skin decline. Lower estrogen levels lead to a decrease in the production of collagen and elastin, slowly breaking down the thickness of your skin. DHEA, known as the anti-aging hormone, manages oil production. When its levels drop, your skin begins to lose some of its ability to maintain natural hydration, causing drier skin. Lower progesterone, the anti-inflammatory hormone responsible for elasticity and glowing skin, results in a duller complexion.
A 1997 study of 3,875 postmenopausal women found estrogen supplementation helped aging women have younger looking skin and also helped maintained skin’s collagen production, thickness, elasticity, and ability to retain moisture.
Wrinkles + Stress
Not only is stress bad for your health, it also wreaks havoc on your skin. We’re not talking about stereotypical clenched jaws and furrowed brows carving lines in your complexion. Turns out, stress can age you at the cellular level. One study found an increase in cortisol production depletes collagen 10 times more than any other tissue, leading to thin, wrinkle-prone skin. Progesterone, the anti-stress hormone that helps boost skin elasticity and circulation, is also depleted when your body experiences stress and increased cortisol.
Lifestyle + Diet Changes That Can Keep Your Skin Plump
Aging and the decline of hormones as you age may be impossible to avoid, but there are some lifestyle changes you can make to protect your skin from premature aging and collagen degradation. A few simple lifestyle changes are:
Supplement with Black Cohosh: Black Cohosh has been shown to be an effective supplement for those who have low estrogen levels or are in menopause. Black Cohosh contains phytoestrogens, which can help to balance natural levels in the body.
Incorporate healthy fats into your diet: Fats help your body produce hormones. When your hormones are balanced, so is your skin. As nutritionist Christine Cronau told Grazia Magazine, “Our cell membranes are made mostly of fat, particularly saturated fat, which we tend to demonize the most. In fact, at least 50% of the membrane is made up of saturated fatty acids. If we are low fat, our cell membranes become weak and the cells cannot stay plump and hydrated; they shrivel like prunes as the fluid literally leaks out.”
Stay hydrated: This may seem obvious, but the key to preventing premature aging is proper hydration. A 2015 study found that high water intake had a positive effect on skin hydration and dermatological age prevention. Studies also show that drinking lemon balm tea can help boost skin’s elasticity.
Skincare Ingredients That Can Protect Against Wrinkles
In addition to the lifestyle changes you can incorporate into your daily routine, there are some topical skincare actives that can help prevent wrinkles and help you age gracefully. Typical ingredients that claim to fight wrinkles, like retinols, can be harsh on your skin and hormones, but there are hormone-safe alternatives that are just as effective. Here are our go-tos:
Sea Fennel Extract: Commonly referred to as “retinol of the sea,” this marine plant extract is rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to help boost hydration, stimulate the skin’s own ceramides, and increase oxygenation to the skin. This superhero plant is rich in vitamin A and C, which naturally boost skin’s collagen production and cellular renewal.
Hibiscus Fruit Extract: This floral extract has been shown to rehydrate skin for up to 72 hours. It also contains loads of antioxidants which protect against environmental damage (which can cause premature aging) and prevents the breakdown of elastin.
Copper Lysinate: This is an amino acid complex that diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen and elastin production in the skin. It also restores plumpness by improving the skin's density and firmness (doing double duty in reducing the appearance of wrinkles).
More than an indicator of age, wrinkles are a symbol of a life well-lived. Focusing on the health of your skin and optimizing your hormones just may be the key to embracing those smile lines when they do eventually appear.