The effects of female hormones are relevant to the metabolism of skin and hair, changes in body composition, and alterations of the subcutaneous fat distribution throughout life. When female hormones become deficient or are produced in excess, different problems may arise in these tissues and some of these problems, i.e., obesity and cellulite, display gender-specific components. Therefore, a new field in hormone research known as ‘aesthetic endocrinology’ is gaining more interest.
Because female hormones are small molecules, they can be transported into the skin by topical application when properly formulated. This possibility allows them to be used in aesthetic endocrinology to achieve local effects at specific sites. A review of the current data suggests it is legitimate to recommend estrogens, either orally or topically, in order to counteract the aging of the skin after menopause. Natural, biologically identical estrogens of course, are preferred as they mimic women’s own physiology most ideally. Although a total reconstitution of juvenile skin cannot be achieved through this method, a slowing in the skin aging process is a reasonable expectation.
Cellulite occurs to varying degrees on the thighs and buttocks of many otherwise healthy women. Among the many purported treatments for cellulite, only a handful has been tested in clinical trials. Studies investigating herbal anti-cellulite pills have been conducted on visible cellulite in the thighs. The combination of conjugated linoleic acid and the herbal treatment had the most beneficial effect in as many as 75% of the women, in one study2. The appearance of the skin improved significantly and thigh circumference was reduced by an average of 0.88 inch. Another study compared the effect of topical retinol (vitamin A) to a placebo formulation in a randomized trial. After 6-months of treatment, skin elasticity was increased by 10.7% while viscosity was decreased by 15.8% at the retinol-treated site3. The changes seen in this study represent the result of a direct or indirect modulating effect of topical retinol on cellulite, improving the resting tensions inside the skin leading to a smoother skin surface.
A third study (double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled), was conducted with 46 healthy female volunteers in order to test an anti-cellulite product containing retinol, caffeine and ruscogenine. An evaluation of different parameters related to cellulite appearance, i.e., the skin macrorelief, the dermal and hypodermal structures, the skin mechanical characteristics, and the cutaneous flowmetry was assessed using several non-invasive methods. This combination of different evaluation methods resulted in the demonstration of significant activity of the anti-cellulite product versus baseline and showed its superiority versus the placebo in skin macrorelief (decrease of the “orange peel” effect) and an increase in cutaneous microcirculation4. By using a combination of methods, it was possible to detail the activity of this anti-cellulite product and to show superiority of the product in comparison with the placebo.
1.Gruber CJ, Wieser F, Gruber IM, Ferlitsch K, Gruber DM, Huber JC. Current concepts in aesthetic endocrinology. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2002 Dec;16(6):431-41.
2.Birnbaum L. Addition of conjugated linoleic acid to a herbal anticellulite pill. Adv Ther. 2001 Sep-Oct;18(5):225-9.
3.Pierard-Franchimont C, Pierard GE, Henry F, Vroome V, Cauwenbergh G. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of topical retinol in the treatment of cellulite. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2000 Nov-Dec;1(6):369-74.
4.Bertin C, Zunino H, Pittet JC, Beau P, Pineau P, Massonneau M, Robert C, Hopkins J. A double-blind evaluation of the activity of an anti-cellulite product containing retinol, caffeine, and ruscogenine by a combination of several non-invasive methods. J Cosmet Sci. 2001 Jul-Aug;52(4):199-210.
Eric R. Braverman, M.D.
Dr. Braverman is a Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University and NYU Medical School, did brain research at Harvard Medical School, and trained at an affiliate of Yale Medical School. He is acknowledged worldwide as an expert in brain-based diagnosis and treatment, and he lectures to and trains doctors in anti-aging medicine.