From Skin to Sex Drive, Doctor Explains 6 Hormones That Affect Whole Health

Imbalanced hormone levels can cause issues like bone loss, hyperpigmentation, and fatigue. Get the facts about women’s hormone balancing from a doctor.

Woman kneeling in sand on sunny beach. Hormone imbalance symptoms in females can be things like acne to low sex drive and more. These six hormones affect health and wellbeing across your whole body

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Woman kneeling in sand on sunny beach. Hormone imbalance symptoms in females can be things like acne to low sex drive and more. These six hormones affect health and wellbeing across your whole body

Hormones rule our health much more than most people realize, including mood, sleep, sex drive, energy, weight, skin, bones, and digestion. As a doctor who has been helping people with hormonal imbalances for the last 22 years, I’m now on a mission to help more women gain more control over their health by understanding their hormones.

6 Hormones That Affect Your Skin, Sex Drive, and Mood

Hormones rule the body—but how do you know if you’re in balance or out of whack? Dr. Cates explains the symptoms and effects of hormone imbalance in women.

1. Estrogen

hormone imbalance symptoms in females Estrogen  | Four women holding each other wearing colorful pink, purple, and orange coats.

Estrogen is well known as the hormone responsible for women’s curves and the ability to reproduce, but it also plays a major role in protecting the brain, bones, skin and heart. Estrogen levels decline over time, especially after age 40, when women get close to menopause. Women whose ovaries are removed go through surgical menopause, no matter their age. Levels also decrease at other times, such as before puberty and just after pregnancy. Throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen levels dip at certain times.1

During these times when estrogen levels are lower, it can make skin drier, less elastic, and more fragile. It can also cause hot flashes, insomnia, mood changes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Over time, women may experience bone loss and cognitive issues due to estrogen loss.

On the other hand, high estrogen comes with its own set of problems. Women who are pregnant or on birth control pills generally have higher estrogen levels and are more prone to melasma (hyperpigmentation).

The key with estrogen, like all hormones, is balance. While symptoms of estrogen imbalance are common, they may be a sign of a larger health issue. Many times, it’s possible to restore balance naturally through lifestyle or habit changes. The goal of hormone balancing is to be free of symptoms like melasma, mood swings, insomnia, hot flashes, irregular cycles, and vaginal dryness.

If you are concerned your estrogen levels may be low, talk with your doctor about ways to support hormone balance naturally.

Eating certain phytoestrogens such as flaxseed, non-GMO soy, and rhubarb may help support your estrogen levels. Mindfulness activities and yoga may also help since ongoing stress tends to suppress estrogen production—including in young women.

2. Testosterone

Testosterone is a hormone that affects women - hormone imbalance symptoms in women include fatigue, acne, low libidio, bone loss and more Woman in workout clothes stretches in front of graffiti wall.

While most people think of testosterone as a hormone just for men, women also make and need it. In women, testosterone is made in the ovaries and adrenal glands, helping to protect bones and the brain. It also is a factor in energy levels and mood.4

When it comes to skin, testosterone stimulates the sebum-producing glands to protect skin with natural oils, but excess sebum production can lead to acne. Hormonal changes during puberty and menopause may affect testosterone and metabolism, leading to acne-prone skin. Often, women are surprised to see acne in their 40’s and 50’s, which is typically due to hormonal changes.5

When testosterone is low, women may experience decreased sex drive, brain fog, mood changes, fatigue, thinning and dry skin, muscle loss, and reduced bone mineral density. Women who tend toward low testosterone include those on hormonal birth control and those approaching or experiencing menopause. To support healthy testosterone levels, exercise can go a long way. A healthy diet with plenty of protein and healthy fats (such as from eggs, nuts, legumes and wild salmon) is also crucial.

3. Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid hormones affect women. It's important to balance the different types of hormones including estrogen, testosterone and more - Cup of coffee on a table.

Triiodothyronine (T3) released from the thyroid gland is the active thyroid hormone, which comes from Thyroxine (T4), and supports metabolism, energy and mood.

Women who have low levels, or hypothyroidism, may experience fatigue, constipation, hair loss, weight gain, irregular menses, infertility, dry skin and a reduced ability to perspire.

On the other hand, women who have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) may have symptoms such as weight loss, rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, and irritability, as well as warm, sweaty, and flushed skin.

If you’re having symptoms or think your thyroid hormones are out of balance, talk with your doctor about thyroid testing. The tests to ask for are TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), Free T3, Free T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies. Testing can show if you have an imbalance and if you have thyroid antibodies, which indicates an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.2

4. Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone that affects women and can trigger hormone imbalance symptoms - Woman applies makeup and skincare in mirror with towel on her head.

During times of stress, the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. When chronically elevated, cortisol can lead to insomnia and a slew of other health issues. Though too much of the hormone can be damaging, cortisol does play an important role in the body. It helps support our immune system, regulates inflammation, and helps balance blood sugar and blood pressure. When we don’t have enough cortisol production in the morning, it can make it hard to wake up.

When cortisol surges during stressful situations, we may notice increased sebum production, triggering acne and other inflammatory skin problems, like eczema and rosacea. When we have high cortisol levels, we may also experience sugar cravings.3

Cortisol levels change throughout the day, which means energy and mood will fluctuate accordingly. Cortisol levels can change seasonally, as well, with studies showing higher concentrations in winter and early spring, and lower levels in summer.3

Some simple adjustments can help support the adrenal glands in their production of cortisol. Try exercising in the morning, when cortisol levels should be at their highest, and mindfulness practices later in the day, such as journaling or meditating, when cortisol levels should lower as we transition towards bedtime. You may also want to try taking adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha.

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5. Insulin

The hormone insulin in women regulates blood sugar - Colorful fruit platter with dragonfruit, apple, strawberry, oranges, grapes, and walnuts.

Insulin is released from the pancreas and helps the body regulate blood sugar, which is important for energy, metabolism, and overall health.7

When blood sugar often increases from eating excess forms of sugar and refined carbohydrates, the risk for insulin resistance increases. When this happens, insulin doesn’t function the way it’s designed. When sugar stays in the bloodstream rather than being used for energy, glucose can bind to proteins in the body and cause glycation issues. In the skin, this means glucose binds to collagen and elastin, making them more rigid and leading to accelerated wrinkles and sagging skin.6

Getting your insulin, fasting glucose, and hemoglobin A1C tests can help determine if you have insulin resistance. The CDC considers blood glucose levels below 99 mg/dL to be “normal,” and I recommend my patients to aim for fasting blood sugar to be in the 85 to 90 mg/dL range. If fasting blood sugar is measured at 100 – 125 mg/dL, it’s already considered “pre-diabetes.” It’s wise to be proactive and start making lifestyle changes before fasting blood sugar levels increase above the normal range.8,9

To support balanced blood sugar, ensure you’re eating plenty of fiber and healthy protein and fats and minimize high-carbohydrate foods and those containing sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

6. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone in women that affects sleep - Woman waking up or going to sleep in bed with white sheets.

When working optimally, melatonin is released from the pineal gland when the sun goes down, which helps us fall asleep at night. When there’s light (artificial or natural), melatonin production drops, triggering wakefulness.10

But melatonin isn’t just for sleep. Melatonin also provides protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, certain types of cancer, mood disorders, premature wrinkles and PCOS. Melatonin also appears to have a protective role against ultraviolet radiation and mitochondrial dysfunction, so be sure to get a good night’s sleep and consider taking a melatonin supplement.11,12,13

Melatonin supplements come in a range of dosages and forms, but the most common is 0.3 to 5 mg in a chewable tablet, liquid drops, or swallowable capsule. While melatonin supplements are generally safe to take and side effects are uncommon, some people experience nightmares, headaches, nausea, and agitation. As with any supplement, and particularly with hormones, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider for a customized treatment plan.14

It’s all about balance. The good news is that your body is wise and simply needs the right tools. That’s why I wrote my new book Natural Beauty Resetto help you address underlying issues and restore balance so you can feel energized and resilient. After all, that’s precisely how we’re designed—with our hormones working in harmony.

*Affiliate disclosure: Our team researched far and wide to find safe and clean bakeware options you’ll love using for all kinds of sweets and treats. If you make a purchase after clicking our links, Organic Authority may earn a commission, which goes a long way to support the good work our team does and reduces the number of ads we serve (as well as our Valrhona Chocolate habit).

Sources:

[1] “Who We Are,” Endocrine Society About Us Page, https://www.endocrine.org/about-us.

[2] Trevor Cates, “How Your Thyroid Reacts to Skin Care Ingredients,” The Spa Dr., https://thespadr.com/thyroid-harmful-skin-care-ingredients/.

[3] Åshild Bjørnerem, Bjørn Straume, Pål Øian et al., “Seasonal Variation of Estradiol, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate in Women and Men,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 91, no. 10 (2006): 3798–3802, doi:10.1210/jc.2006-0866.

[4] Michael R. McClung, “The relationship between bone mineral density and fracture risk,” Current Osteoporosis Reports 3, no. 2 (2005): 57–63, doi:10.1007/s11914-005-0005-y.

[5] Daniele Santi, Giorgia Spaggiari, Giulia Brigante et al., “Semi-annual seasonal pattern of serum thyrotropin in adults,” Scientific Reports 9 (2019), doi:10.1038/s41598-019-47349-4.

[6] Trevor Cates, “The Scary Facts about Sugar and Your Skin,” The Spa Dr., https://thespadr.com/the-scary-facts-about-sugar-and-your-skin/  

[7] Roger Persson, Anne Helene Garde, Ase Marie Hansen et al., “Seasonal variation in human salivary cortisol concentration,” Chronobiology International 25, no. 6 (2008): 923–37, doi:10.1080/07420520802553648.

[8] Lars Berglund, Christian Berne, Kurt Svärdsudd et al., “Seasonal variations of insulin sensitivity from a euglycemic insulin clamp in elderly men,” Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences 117, no. 1 (2012): 35–40, doi:10.3109/03009734.2011.628422.

[9] Adam G. Tabák, Christian Herder, Wolfgang Rathmann et al., “Prediabetes: A high-risk state for developing diabetes,” Lancet 379 (2012): 2279–90, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60283-9.

[10] Xiaoying Xu, Xiaoyan Liu, Shuran Ma et al., “Association of Melatonin Production with Seasonal changes, Low Temperature, and Immuno-Responses in Hamsters,” Molecules 23, no. 3 (2018): 703, doi:10.3390/molecules23030703.

[11] Azade Shabani, Fatemeh Foroozanfard, Elham Kavossian et al., “Effects of melatonin administration on mental health parameters, metabolic and genetic profiles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,” Journal of Affective Disorders 250 (2019): 51–56, doi:10.1016/j.jad.2019.02.066.

[12] James M. Olcese, “Melatonin and Female Reproduction: An Expanding Universe,” Frontiers in Endocrinology 11 (2020): 85, doi:10.3389/fendo.2020.00085.

[13] Gail A. Greendale, Paula Witt-Enderby, Arun S. Karlamangla et al., “Melatonin Patterns and Levels During the Human Menstrual Cycle and After Menopause,” Journal of the Endocrine Society 4, no. 11 (2020), doi:10.1210/jendso/bvaa115.

[14] Epperlein S;Gebhardt C;Rohde K;Chakaroun R;Patt M;Schamarek I;Kralisch S;Heiker JT;Scholz M;Stumvoll M;Kovacs P;Breitfeld J;Tönjes A; “The Effect of FGF21 and Its Genetic Variants on Food and Drug Cravings, Adipokines and Metabolic Traits.” Biomedicines. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33805553/ 

Dr. Trevor Cates is author of the USA Today bestselling book Clean Skin From Within and founder of The... More about Dr. Trevor Cates

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