, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 297-311
Date: 21 Aug 2012

Estrogen and Skin

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Abstract

Aging of the skin is associated with skin thinning, atrophy, dryness, wrinkling, and delayed wound healing. These undesirable aging effects are exacerbated by declining estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. With the rise in interest in long-term postmenopausal skin management, studies on the restorative benefits that estrogen may have on aged skin have expanded. Systemic estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) has been shown to improve some aspects of skin. Estrogen restores skin thickness by increasing collagen synthesis while limiting excessive collagen degradation. Wrinkling is improved following estrogen treatment since estrogen enhances the morphology and synthesis of elastic fibers, collagen type III, and hyaluronic acids. Dryness is also alleviated through increased water-holding capacity, increased sebum production, and improved barrier function of the skin. Furthermore, estrogen modulates local inflammation, granulation, re-epithelialization, and possibly wound contraction, which collectively accelerates wound healing at the expense of forming lower quality scars.

Despite its promises, long-term ERT has been associated with harmful systemic effects. In the search for safe and effective alternatives with more focused effects on the skin, topical estrogens, phytoestrogens, and tissuespecific drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) have been explored. We discuss the promises and challenges of utilizing topical estrogens, SERMs, and phytoestrogens in postmenopausal skin management.