What Women Need to Know About The Link Between Collagen and Estrogen
3 minute read
All women learn to expect certain things as we age and enter menopause.
From mood swings and hot flashes to weight gain and wrinkles, there are certain milestones we are trained to anticipate as we transition from our child-bearing years into the post-menopausal stage of our lives.
But what if there were ways to reduce some of the side effects of aging?
Though many women know what to expect as they move past menopause, most women probably don’t know that there is a simple way we can keep our skin healthy as we do.
The obvious—You’re probably aware of collagen(through the abundance of collagen-boosting skin-care products, collagen supplements, and other products). You also are probably aware that a decrease in your body's natural collagen production is one of the many reasons our skin begins to wrinkle and sag as we age.
The not-so-obvious—Your body’s estrogen levels and skin’s ability to produce collagen are directly linked. Menopausal estrogen deficiency and aging-related changes to the skin are directly connected.
In this post, Alloy is going to explore the link between estrogen and collagen so that you gain a better understanding of exactly how menopause affects your skin. Plus, we’ll explore several skincare solutions that will help you potentially reignite collagen production because—
As it turns out, one of the effects of taking estrogen via topical estriol creams or MHT is that it can increase your collagen levels even after menopause.
To understand the connection between declining estrogen levels and declining collagen production, it’s important to have strong working definitions. Let’s start the discussion by defining our key terms: what are collagen and estrogen?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein found in many organs and tissues—we’re talking bones, muscles, skin, tendons, and other connective tissues. In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body.
There are 28 different types of collagen, but all have a structurally supportive role in keeping your body’s tissues (skin included) firm and healthy.
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is an important hormone in the reproductive systems of male and female bodies. For our discussion, we’ll focus on estrogen in the female body.
A note from Alloy—gender identity and sex are fluid and exist on a spectrum. When we refer to male or female bodies, we are referring to sex assigned at birth.
There are three major forms of estrogen—
(E1) Estrone—Your body produces mostly estrone after menopause.
(E2) Estradiol—This is the most potent form of estrogen. Your body produces this form of estrogen during your active reproductive years.
(E3) Estriol—When you are pregnant, your body primarily produces the estrogen estriol.
How Collagen and Estrogen (and Your Skin) Change Over Your Lifetime
Let’s briefly explore how estrogen levels and collagen production change over a woman’s life cycle. After puberty, a woman’s estrogen levels will fluctuate naturally depending on their menstrual cycle. However, there is an overall downward trend until menopause. After menopause, our ovaries no longer produce estrogen.
Puberty to Early 30s
Puberty and the characteristic explosion of growth and development leads to an intense amount of estrogen and collagen production. Collagen production peaks during the late twenties or early thirties. Estrogen levels fluctuate based on the menstrual cycle.
Early 30s to Perimenopause
Collagen production begins to slow as a person enters early middle age. At this stage, a woman replenishes about 1.0% to 1.5% less collagen each year.
Also, some women experience perimenopause as early as their mid-thirties, where estrogen levels begin to decline despite normal fluctuations. However, most women won’t experience perimenopause until their 40s or 50s.
Menopause and Postmenopause
By the time a woman reaches menopause and the years beyond, her skin has experienced both extrinsic and intrinsic damage. Intrinsic damage comes from natural cell degradation resulting from aging and declining estrogen levels. Extrinsic damage comes from environmental factors, such as sun damage, smoking, or other external risk factors.
The Link: Both Collagen and Estrogen Levels Decline As You Age, and It’s Not a Coincidence
Directly following menopause, many women report a sudden increase in the rate and intensity of skin aging. As collagen production becomes compromised with age, the body produces thinner and weaker collagen fibers.
One of the direct connections between estrogen levels and collagen production is in estrogen receptors—specifically in the ERβ receptors located (estrogen beta receptor) on specialized “manufacturing” cells called fibroblasts, which produce collagen.
Fibroblasts need estrogen to find its way to the ERβ receptors to trigger collagen production. When your body has less and less estrogen, its ability to produce quality collagen becomes compromised.
What Low Estrogen and Collagen Levels Mean For Your Skin
So, we know that estrogen is a key factor in helping your skin produce healthy collagen. What happens as your body no longer produces the necessary estrogen that helps fibroblasts produce collagen?
Here is what most women experience—
Decreased Skin Elasticity
A woman’s skin becomes less elastic as her body produces less collagen and elastin fibers. The collagen produced after menopause is thinner and weaker than collagen made during youth. Both intrinsic and extrinsic aging contributes to decreased skin elasticity.
Not only does the skin become less elastic, but the thickness of skin decreases with age. Older skin has less collagen, and that collagen is weaker—therefore, your skin’s ability to remain full and thick is reduced.
Estrogen plays a role in your skin’s ability to retain moisture, too. Estrogen increases acid mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid in your skin, while also improving the vascularity of the skin, which helps prevent it from drying out. It may also play a role in helping your skin maintain the stratum corneum barrier, which is the outermost layer of skin.
Your skin is more prone to wrinkles for the same reason your skin becomes thinner and less elastic after menopause—stunted collagen production. It cannot bounce back as effectively because the existing collagen is more delicate and thinner.
Compromised Wound Healing
Collagen is an important structural component for blood vessels, too. Lower collagen levels can reduce the amount of blood your body can deliver to a wound site. That, coupled with drier, more fragile skin, means that wounds take longer to heal.
Topical Estrogen Can Help Menopausal Women Retain Skin Collagen
The evidence is clear that topical estrogen appears to have a beneficial effect on skin thickness and elasticity and collagen when given at menopause. Numerous studies suggest that post-menopausal women can reverse many negative skin effects associated with menopause by using topical creams that contain estrogen.
Alloy offers several products that help estrogen-deficient skin produce more collagen. Check out our M4 Mega Miracle Menopause Moisturizer, a topical estriol face cream containing glycerin, vitamin E, and oleic acid.
Skin Benefits of Topical Estrogen
As mentioned earlier, your skin is full of estrogen receptors (ERβ). These receptors can be found on specialized cells called fibroblasts, which play an important role in producing collagen.
Topical estrogen helps revitalize collagen production and can lead to the following benefits for older women—
Helps Maintain Skin Rigidity
Increases Dermal Thickness
HRT Helps Retain Skin Moisture
Can Help Reduce the Appearance of Severe Wrinkles
Can Help Skin Wounds Heal Faster
Don’t Forget Other Ways To Care For Your Skin As You Age
Remember, both intrinsic and extrinsic damage ages your skin! Taking topical or oral-route estrogen helps postmenopausal women’s skin remain healthy, but it’s only half of it. You should also avoid extrinsic skin damage to ensure your skin remains as healthy as possible.
Always Wear Sunscreen
By now, this is a no-brainer. You should always use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 as part of your daily skin care routine.
Using moisturizers helps your skin retain moisture and prevents dryness and damage from harsh soaps. Consider using a mild cleanser instead of strong soap to prevent skin damage.
Consider Your Diet
Diets low in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium can result in a variety of health problems, including dry skin. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, and vegetables are dense with micronutrients that can help prevent your skin from becoming too dry.
Watch What You Put On Your Skin
Skin-care products loaded with fragrances and alcohol can sap moisture from your skin, resulting in unnecessary damage. So, be sure to always check the ingredients list on the back of the packaging!
Help Your Skin Age Gracefully With Alloy’s Topical Estriol Cream
We got you—Alloy is a women-owned menopause care and resource center. We offer safe, gentle, and plant-based bioidentical hormones to relieve menopause symptoms. When it comes to treating estrogen-deficient skin, we’ve got your back!
Check out our topical estriol face cream, M4 and reclaim your youthful, radiant skin. Take our M4 assessment to find out if our M4 Mega Miracle Menopause Moisturizer is right for you.
Curious about other menopause solutions we offer?
Fill out our MHT assessment and receive a personalized menopause symptom treatment plan from our menopause-trained doctors.
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