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What your skin tells you about your hormones
What your skin tells you about your hormones
Base Medical Team avatar
Written by Base Medical Team
Updated over a week ago

You can slather on all the creams and serums you can get your hands on, but if you are dealing with skin issues such as oily skin, dry skin, or acne, there’s a good chance that your face is trying to flag a hormone problem for you.

Thanks to the skin being the largest organ in the body, the impact hormones have on your skin can be pretty visible. But even though you can see the problem doesn’t mean you’re able to know or understand exactly why it’s happening. Here’s a look at what your skin says about your hormone levels, including how to optimize your hormones for healthier skin head to toe.

What your skin tells you about your hormones


Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you identify hormone imbalances and live a healthier life.

What hormones cause oily skin

When the impact of hormones on the skin is discussed, there may be an assumption that it’s primarily a concern for women. Yes, women do deal with some hormonal hurdles when it comes to their menstrual cycle (more on that below), but hormone imbalances can affect both men and women.

This is especially true when it comes to oily skin. When the skin’s sebaceous glands produce too much sebum (aka, oil) the result is oily skin - a combination of sebum, sweat, and dead skin cells. Basically the kitchen sink of everything you don’t want stuck on your face.

So what kicks sebaceous glands into overdrive? Excess androgen hormones, a group of sex hormones. One androgen in particular known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can stimulate sebum production.

Oily skin can be a cyclical issue, too. Men may deal with oily skin more due to higher levels of testosterone, while women may find their skin is oily after ovulation, when progesterone is higher in the body.

What hormones cause dry skin

For dry skin concerns the main hormone at play is estrogen. Coined as the reproductive hormone, low levels of estrogen can result in less skin collagen and moisture.

That’s because estrogen is responsible for increasing acid mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid in the skin. These are natural substances that lubricate joints and other tissues in the body, preventing the skin from losing moisture and drying out. Without enough estrogen, your skin struggles to retain the moisture it needs to stay flake-free.

What hormones cause acne

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association acne affects 50 million people each year, making it the most common skin condition. Acne can be caused by many external factors, but one big trigger is hormonal acne, which can affect adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.

Acne happens when pores are clogged, trapping dirt, oil, and sweat. When androgen hormones like DHT result in oily skin, acne tends to sprout up close behind as the oil prevents pores from breathing.

Another hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) can lead to hormonal acne. CRH impacts the body’s response to stress, and as part of that regulates sebaceous gland function which controls how much oil the skin releases. High dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a male sex hormone found in both men and women and elevated testosterone can also present skin problems. Both of these hormones increase the activity of oil glands, making them culprits for acne.

With so many hormones that could be responsible for a skin condition like acne, Base’s at-home test can measure which hormones may be affecting your stress levels and as a result, your skin.

Common life changes that can affect your skin

Your hormones are the primary factors when it comes to your skin, but why or how they get out of whack in the first place is a separate issue. Certain lifestyle triggers like stress (and the excess cortisol that comes with it), lack of sleep, or even a change in diet can spark an imbalance. However, there are physiological issues that affect hormone levels in both men and women --- and contrary to what you might have thought, they don’t end at puberty.

Menstrual cycle

Acne, psoriasis, atopic eczema and skin irritation may be an issue as a result of your menstrual cycle. This happens due to the shift of estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries are the primary source of estrogen, and during a menstrual cycle estrogen increases and peaks a day before ovulation, when it then decreases rapidly. This might cause you to have a natural glow (hooray!) or period of healthy-looking skin during the first half of your cycle. However, testosterone is also high around the time of ovulation, which could make it harder for estrogen to balance out your complexion.

Once a woman ovulates and progesterone takes over, this can cause those sebaceous glands to produce too much oil, leading to oily skin and acne. Even if oily skin isn’t an issue, the sudden dip in estrogen may lead to an increase in dry skin.

By regularly monitoring your hormone levels during different times of your menstrual cycle, you can understand how your skin may be reacting to an imbalance or deficiency.


Just like during a woman’s menstrual cycle, hormones plummet in menopause. The problem is, they don’t increase naturally because you’re no longer ovulating which was a driving force for estrogen production. It’s that lack of estrogen that makes it difficult for skin to retain moisture, leaving behind dry, aging skin that now wrinkles a little easier. And while estrogen drops (and stays that way) testosterone does not. This can create a hormone imbalance that may lead to unwanted facial hair above the lip or whiskers under the chin.

Male hormones that can impact skin

Although men don’t have to deal with quite as many life changes as women do, they still age, and with that comes hormonal imbalances. In fact, men go through a type of menopause of their own, often referred to as andropause. This is when testosterone levels decline, approximately 1% every year after the age of 40. While a gradual step down, over time low testosterone can lead to dry skin or exacerbate conditions like psoriasis and other forms of irritation.

Adrenal fatigue is another side effect of aging. When this happens hormones like cortisol, DHEA, and other androgens may decline, which can lead to hyperpigmentation or a dry, dull complexion.

Thyroid conditions may also come into play with male aging (as it can for women, too). Hyperthyroidism and/or hypothyroidism can result in coarse, dry skin because of too much or too little thyroid hormone in the body.

Can optimizing your hormones help improve your skin?

Understanding how your hormones affect your skin and which hormones you may have an excess or deficiency in can help you adopt lifestyle habits that will restore balance and improve your skin in the process. By analyzing your blood or saliva, you can understand how and why your hormone levels fluctuate when they do.

For those with elevated cortisol levels that lead to oily skin, magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and legumes can help the body cope with stress. Cortisol uses up magnesium as it spikes, so by increasing the amount of magnesium in the body cortisol levels may be able to stabilize.

If a hormone imbalance is caused by a thyroid condition, a diet filled with vitamins B12, D, and selenium can help equalize hormone levels. Fill your kitchen with nuts, dairy, eggs, meat, and fatty fish like salmon to offset any thyroid conditions wreaking havoc on your skin.

When it comes to menopause and/or estrogen deficiency, antioxidants may help get that glow back. Bright-colored fruits and vegetables are key to keeping skin from looking dull and dry. As for other hormone dips like DHEA and progesterone, supplements may help with any deficiencies in addition to improving skin hydration.


Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you identify hormone imbalances and live a healthier life.

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