The body is a machine: you take in energy, process materials, and dispose of waste. There are chain reactions occurring constantly, some you’re aware of and some you aren’t. Take your hormones for examples.

“Hormones have a dramatic effect on hair, skin, and nails,” says dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington D.C. “Changes in our hormones—from puberty, pregnancy, menopause and even stress—drive the changes in our skin as we age.”

When estrogen is your dominant hormone it keeps your skin firm, tight, and smooth by increasing collagen. You skin will glow because it is hydrated (estrogen stimulates hyaluronic acid which attracts water molecules) and pimple-free (estrogen decreases oil gland activity and inflammation.)

But what about when estrogen levels decline? The week of your period, as you age, as menopause nears – what reactions happen during these times and what can you do to keep your skin smooth, firm, and glowing?

In Your 20s

What Happens to your Hormones:

Estrogen is at its peak, giving most women taut, even-toned skin, and their best complexion. The shift in hormone levels (estrogen declines, making testosterone dominant) around your period can lead to breakouts and blemishes, according to Rebecca Booth, MD, og/gyn, author of The Venus Week and cofounder of VENeffect Anti-Aging Skincare.

What It Looks Like:

More oil production, larger pores, and breakouts – particularly along the jawline. “The wild swing of hormones can be inflammatory, causing deep painful zits called cysts,” says dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington D.C.. For Some women this can happen any time of the month.

How To Treat It:

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A prescription for birth control pills will help balance your hormone levels, or medications like Spironolactone and Aldactone which counteract the effect testosterone has on your skin. For breakouts, Tanzi recommends using an acne mask with salicylic acid 2 to 3 times a week and using spot treatments as needed.

Clean & Clear Blackhead Eraser Cleansing Mask is a good choice because it has 0.5% salicylic acid.

In Your 30s

What Happens to your Hormones:

This is when estrogen levels can start to dip, which means collagen and elastin and hyaluronic acid levels decrease. The chain reaction makes cell turnover slow down which makes skin bounce back less easily from inflammation. Tanzi says the main things to look for are dryness and acne.

What It Looks Like:

Dryer, thinner skin, obvious traces of expression lines around your eyes and on your forehead. Age spots. Inflammatory conditions like rosacea and acne will flare up more.

How To Treat It:

Use products with retinol, a vitamin A derivative that thickens your skin by increasing collagen production. This smooths wrinkles and make skin plump and full again. Try to use these products at bedtime when your skin rests and repairs itself. Up your overall skin care, and start checking for signs more carefully.

In your 40s

What Happens to your Hormones:

With estrogen on its way out you can expect less firmness, elasticity, and moisture during this decade. Estrogen-related bone loss can also arise, and may affect your facial structure.

What It Looks Like:

Significant drying, dulling, and hollowing of the skin. More visible wrinkles, capillaries, broken blood vessels, and age spots. If estrogen-related bone loss is a problem, your face will appear more hollow and your eyes more sunken.

“Patients tell me, ‘my skin changed overnight!’ ” Tanzi says. “I used to think it was an exaggeration, but it isn’t—there are dramatic changes in the 40s, especially when it comes to loss of elasticity.”

How To Treat It:

If you get heavy periods and crazy-hot flashes Diana Bitner, MD, ob/gyn at Spectrum Health Medical Group, recommends birth control pills or an IUD called Mirena that has progesterone. She also suggests a low-dose estrogen patch during the week before your period. This evens out your fluctuating hormones.

Ensure you stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and eat a balanced diet of whole foods, low in sugar. Exercising will also help how you look and feel, inside and out.

In your 50s and beyond

What Happens to your Hormones:

Menopause comes and estrogens goes, leaving testosterone as the dominant hormone. Within the first five years you’ll lose a third of your collagen, moisture, and glow. Inflammation peaks, making your skin more vulnerable to damage from sun, smoke, and pollution.

What It Looks Like:

Skin thins, dries, gets loose, and deflates. Lines get deeper, pores stretch, eyes hollow and the lids may sag. Spider veins, age spots, and small benign bumps or skin tags may grow. The increase in testosterone also brings on peach fuzz on your cheeks, chin, and upper lip.

How To Treat It:

Your skin will hold less moisture with less collagen, so you’ve got to hydrate your skin. Ditch the harsh soaps, lower your shower temperature, and wash your face only at night to avoid dehydrating your skin. Choose a product with hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Hormone therapy is also a safe option for most women; it raises your estrogen levels just enough to alleviate the symptoms and make you feel younger.

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