By Rebecca Booth, M.D.
The phenomenon of beauty is both aspirational and inspirational. We can see it in the simplest of flowers, a midnight star scape, a stark desert landscape, and certainly in our faces. Mother Nature designs feminine beauty with something added…attractiveness, a design with purpose. That purpose is the promotion of the species, and hormones are the power tools of human attraction.
Sexual hormones affect every aspect of the mature human body. From the time we are deemed mature “enough,” Mother Nature endows us with almost magical effects carried out using tiny molecules that act on receptors embedded in our body tissues from the tips of our toes to the tops of our heads. There are hundreds of hormonal chemicals that act like parts of an orchestra in the symphony of our physiology, but the main hormones guiding human attractiveness are estrogen and testosterone.
In a maturing woman the relationship of estrogen to the other hormones is designed to fluctuate, one of the biggest challenges for a woman across the month and across her lifetime. There are many strategies to find balance in the fluctuations, but understanding how estrogen affects various areas of our aesthetic is vital to understanding the design of feminine beauty.
Hormones and Skin
One of the most attractive features on a woman’s face is beautiful, clear, elastic, glowing skin. This is not optimized without estrogen. The cyclic nature of estrogen results in an ebb and flow of effects on skin from puberty on, and an eventual decline in skin collagen that mirrors declining fertility, beginning in the mid to late twenties and accelerating with perimenopause, menopause and beyond. In reality – we have a boost of estrogen and an accompanying stronger collagen matrix when we are designed to be most attractive – during the fertile years. There truly is a biological clock to the skin.
Like other parts of the body, estrogen carries out its effects on skin through tiny receptors that are present throughout a woman’s life in both the dermis and the epidermis. Estrogen has a powerful effect on all types of cells that make connective tissue elements such as collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. When estrogen peaks, such as with what I call the “Venus Week” (the days right after a woman’s period and leading up to ovulation), the cells in skin are stimulated to make more of these elements, resulting in a clear, glowing complexion. The secret is that during the Venus Week estrogen not only stimulates a glow, but also keeps testosterone in check by shrinking pores. If estrogen and testosterone are out of balance acne results and the changes can be dramatic, especially if the hormonal system is a little awkward as during early puberty and in perimenopause.
Nutritional strategies to optimize the glow of healthy skin include a diet high in plant estrogens, known as phytoestrogens. These can be found in some of the healthiest foods on the planet, such as seeds, nuts and legumes, and can help inspire the skin and stabilize the designed variations due to fluctuating hormones. Topical phytoestrogens like those found in the VENeffect Skin Care line, can mimic the positive effects of estrogen on skin, transforming a cyclic nature of skin to a more consistent glow throughout a woman’s life; this is what we call the “Venus Effect.”
Hormones and Hair
We know that we have good and bad hair days, but the relationship of hair and hormones is not well understood by many physicians and beauty experts. Every hair follicle is packed with hormone receptors. Estrogen encourages anagen, the growth phase of scalp hair. During pregnancy many women credit vitamins for hair growth, but in truth the growth is dramatic because of estrogen. Postpartum, perimenopause, and menopause can be tough for scalp hair in women, even eyelashes can be affected by becoming thinner and finer. Paradoxically, estrogen inhibits unwanted body hair, both by making the body hair shaft finer and less visible, and also by binding and keeping testosterone in check, another example of the intricate interplay of these two hormones on the aesthetic.
Testosterone encourages pubic and underarm air, as well as lubricating the scalp and skin with sebum – our natural body oil. When the hormones are in harmony the combination of lubricity and hair growth is a win for gorgeous hair. If the balance of estrogen and testosterone is off, testosterone can stimulate scalp hair loss in both men and women. The key here is achieving balance and prolonging growth; much in the way that estrogen does so during pregnancy. Nutritional, supplemental, and topical treatments can help mimic the positive effects of estrogen on hair, and even reduce unwanted body hair.
Metabolism and the Waist-to-Hip Ratio
The classic curve of a woman, a small waistline and rounded hips, is a known anthropologic attraction. Estrogen literally manipulates a woman’s metabolism in a way to make fatty deposits form easier around the hips, and fat to melt around the waist using receptors that facilitate the classic feminine shape. Estrogen lowers the need for insulin, making it easier for women at peak fertility to process carbohydrates and achieve a small waistline. This is the main reason that an hourglass shape is so attractive, it signals fertility as it is a sure sign that estrogen is on board. Foods packed with phytoestrogens can help maintain the waist-to-hip ratio as well as stimulate good bone collagen to maintain height.
Vitality and the Venus Effect
Glowing skin, long shiny hair, and a curve in the waistline are all elements designed by nature and sculpted with estrogen to help define feminine attractiveness. Using healthy strategies, you can extend what we call the “Venus Effect”, going beyond beauty to optimize vitality.
About Rebecca Booth M.D.:
Rebecca Booth, M.D. is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist who has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and is co-managing partner in one of the largest OB/GYN practices in the southeast, Women First of Louisville. She is a nationally recognized expert in hormonal wellness and author of The Venus Week: Discover the Powerful Secret of Your Cycle…At Any Age (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2008). She, together with her sister Cecil Booth, founded an anti-aging skin care line, VENeffect, with a breakthrough phytoestrogen technology to replenish lost elasticity and luminosity. She has appeared on The Today Show and been extensively featured in leading women’s magazines including O: The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Glamour Shape, Prevention, and Self. She is a contributor on TheHuffingtonPost.com and has been published in leading medical journals. Dr. Booth earned her medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She resides in Louisville, Kentucky.