Woman applying serumWoman applying serum

A Practical Guide to Hormone-Informed Skincare Wisdom from the founder of Eli Health

By Marina Pavlovic Rivas

When I first founded Eli I was looking for a way to have the necessary data about my own body to manage my health. What I didn’t expect was how starting a hormonal health company would be like discovering a hidden map, revealing the intricate connections between our health and daily lives. What started as a personal quest evolved into a shared mission as I met scores of women with unanswered questions about their hormonal health. The stories were endless, but what tied them together was the understanding that hormones affect every area of our lives. 

In the four years since I have deepened my appreciation for the delicate dance of hormones and their far-reaching effects. This knowledge has reshaped my daily routines. I now emphasize choices that nurture my hormonal health – a vital component of lifelong well-being. For someone who has grappled with eczema since childhood, a mindful skincare routine is essential. Mine is now additionally enriched with insights from hormonal health.

The Skin-Hormone Connection

The skin is the body’s largest endocrine organ. This means that it produces hormones, including small amounts of cortisol, and during perimenopause, it takes over estradiol production from the ovaries. All this to say: the skin needs to be protected diligently. 

Feedback Loop Between Skincare and Hormones

In the dynamic feedback loop between our skin and hormones, what we apply topically can affect our hormonal balance, and our hormones, in turn, profoundly influence our skin’s health. Key hormones like progesterone and cortisol, which regulate sebum production, can lead to variations in skin oiliness during different phases of your cycle or under stress. Recognizing this interplay is essential for safeguarding our skin and supporting our hormonal well-being.

Less is more

To safeguard our skin, it’s crucial to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These substances, often found in cosmetics and household items, mimic natural hormones, disrupting the delicate hormonal balance. Protecting our skin also involves maintaining its barrier – and yes, this includes the often-repeated advice of wearing SPF.

Being vigilant about EDCs means going beyond labels like ‘clean,’ ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘non-toxic,’ as they don’t always guarantee safety. You can use those keywords as filters on shopping websites to narrow your choices but remember, it’s the ingredients that truly matter. Knowing what’s in your products is the key to protecting both your skin and hormonal health.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the average woman uses about 12 different products daily, exposing herself to a staggering 168 chemicals. It is facts like these that motivated me to simplify my routine by eliminating unnecessary products. Streamlining your skincare routine by cutting out non-essential products and opting for multi-functional ones – like a single product serving as lipstick, blush, and eyeshadow – not only reduces chemical exposure but also aligns with a hormone-friendly lifestyle. A practical example from our team: a mother who shares her hair care products with her baby, minimizing the number of ingredients she has to ensure are safe. 

Optimize based on your hormones.

Once you have safe products to use, you will also want to know when to use what. Progesterone, a hormone that fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle and influences oil production in the skin, is higher post-ovulation, during pregnancy, and even in non-menstruating but ovulating phases like breastfeeding. This might necessitate different skincare routines for different times of the month. Keeping track of your hormonal levels, not just your menstrual cycle, can significantly enhance your skincare effectiveness. Similarly, cortisol, known to increase oil production, links stress management directly to skin health.

To build your routine, prioritize caring for your skin barrier by using SPF and avoiding UV light exposure. Mitigate exposure to EDCs by being mindful of ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, and fragrances. For more information, consult the EWG Skin Deep database or similar tools like OnSkin and filter by product or ingredient. To optimize your skincare regimen, monitor daily and monthly fluctuations in hormones like cortisol and progesterone. This will establish the feedback loop necessary to remain responsive to your skin’s needs, tracking the effects of your routines on your hormones and vice versa. Remember, skin care is essential for hormonal healthcare, and you deserve both.