Susan Merenstein, Pharmacist/Owner

(412) 586-4678

Human-Identical Hormones for the Skin


Estrogen’s skin-enhancing effects are well known. It stimulates collagen production and a moisture factor known as hyaluronic acid. Aging decreases both estrogen and collagen, which seem to coincide with peri-menopausal menopausal symptoms. By using topical application of estrogens, some aging may be reversed. As part of a skin hormone program we recommend Estriol 0.3% or Estradiol 0.01% cream.

Research found that elasticity and firmness was markedly improved after a period of 6 months, and wrinkle depth and pore size decreased by 61-100%. In addition, skin moisture, type III collagen and the number of collagen fibers all improved dramatically. With all these external benefits no systemic absorption was found, and therefore no estrogenic side effects occurred.

From studies done it has been found that at the end of a six-month clinical trial, marked improvement of skin aging symptoms was noted.

  • Clinical improvement of specific skin parameters was evaluated and was seen in 9-19 weeks with estradiol, and 7-17 weeks with estriol.
  • Improvement in skin elasticity and firmness was noted after 13 weeks with estradiol and 11 weeks with estriol.
  • Improvement in skin moisture was noted after 9 weeks with estradiol and 8 weeks with estriol.
  • Improvement in wrinkle depth was noted after 16 weeks with estradiol and 17 weeks with estriol.
  • Reduction of pore size was noted after 19 weeks with estradiol and 16 weeks with estriol.

*All of the above improvements appeared in 61-100% of cases.

In more detail wrinkle depth reduction was significant with estradiol and HIGHLY significant with estriol. Side effects were more prominent with the estradiol group than the estriol group (this study was done on peri-menopausal women). Both estradiol and estriol showed significant effects on increasing collagen fibre and striking increases in collagen III. This is why skin was firmed and wrinkles reduced. Type I collagen is predominantly in adult skin while type III is predominant in fetuses but is distributed about the body.
In conclusion, various structures involved in skin aging are under hormonal influence. So far, estrogen compounds and, in particular estriol represents a new and promising therapeutic approach to skin aging in peri and menopausal women.


Estrogen is an important hormone for maintaining skin elasticity. The effect of local estriol treatment on abdominal skin was examined in 14 postmenopausal women for three weeks. Six control subjects received a cream without estriol. The application of estriol for this short period of time resulted in thickened, better-oriented, and slightly increased numbers of elastic fibers in half the patients using the estriol cream, compared to no change in the placebo group.

Topical use of estriol was effective for the treatment of premenstrual acne as measured by number of skin lesions and thin-layer chromatography sebum-determination from treated and untreated areas. In another study, topcial estriol administered via iontophoresis was compared to tretinoin (trans-retinoic acid) iontophoresis for treatment of acne scars. Eighteen women were treated with estriol iontophoresis twice a week for 3 months. The results were compared with a group of 28 patients (19 women and 9 men) who received tretinoin iontophoresis according to the same schedule. Improvement of acne scars was observed in 93% of the tretinoin group and 100% of the estriol group. Typical side effects of dry skin and retinoid dermatitis were observed in the tretinoin group but in none in the estriol group.

DHEA - Dehydroepiandrosterone-The anti-stress “mother of all hormones” DHEA is found in human skin. DHEA is converted into estrogen and androgen-like metabolites found only in skin. Enzymes that convert DHEA to estrogen also decline. Women who take both estrogen and testosterone have skin that is 48% thicker than women who don’t take either hormone. DHEA is converted to both estrogen and testosterone, providing the benefits of both hormones.

Skin is such a specialized organ that it has its own immune system. Sunlight and aging suppress immunity, immunity affects health, and melatonin and DHEA affect them all. Sunlight affects hormones. It decreases melatonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, and increases cortisol, serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. Studies show that both DHEA and melatonin are absorbed by skin when applied topically. A study from CHUL Research Center (in Canada) shows that the activity of DHEA applied topically is 85-90% greater than when taken orally (in rats at least). In a properly formulated gel or cream there are enough hormones to benefit the skin without providing enough to escape into circulation.

A study published in the Journal of Surgical Research showed that topically applied DHEA has the ability to protect skin’s delicate blood vessels. Researchers found that if DHEA was applied after a serious burn, the blood vessels underlying the burned area are protected. The mechanisms involve anti-inflammatory actions, preventing destructive white blood cells from gearing up, prolonging the healing process, and causing edema to last longer. This apparently helps save tissue.

DHEA preserves the ability of skin to react to cancer-causing, skin-destroying pollutants in air, food and water. DHEA also has antioxidant action and keeps chemical carcinogens from binding to DNA. At the Fels Research Institute and Temple University, some rodent studies indicate that cancers cannot get started if enough DHEA is present.

DHEA turns on oil production by the skin. In a skin cream DHEA can be very effective in increasing skin oil production on dry skin.

Melatonin - Melatonin is another antioxidant that protects against UV radiation.A group at the University of Zurich has shown that topical melatonin gives excellent protection against sunburn if applied before sun exposure. In another study published in Brain Research Bulletin, melatonin levels rose 6 hours after burn injury, and then fell to normal.

Melatonin is synthesized in the skin and of course by the pineal gland deep in the brain in response to darkness. In low concentrations melatonin causes skin cells to proliferate.(In large amounts, it stops proliferation). People with psoriasis and atopic eczema do not have normal melatonin secretion. Instead of peaks, they have valleys. With psoriasis, melatonin peaks in the day when it shouldn’t, and patients have little at night.

Progesterone - Progesterone is the most protective hormone the body produces and is NOT just the hormone of pregnancy. It is the natural complement to estrogen, helps the thymus gland, is essential for immunity and brain function, improves memory, has antidepressant activity, helps relieve many types of arthritis, improves the efficiency of the heart, maintains cell oxygen levels, helps asthmatics, reverses osteoporosis, stimulates new bone formation, and is an excellent skin moisturizer. It has been sold for over 35 years as a skin moisturizer. Most users find their skin becomes softer and more elastic, and as a result course wrinkles and lines become less apparent over time. Natural progesterone cream reverses acceleration of the skin’s aging process and helps to maintain a youthful appearance. Natural progesterone can also help dry skin and brown spots on the hands and arms.

Pregnenolone- Although DHEA is our most abundant, naturally occurring hormone in the human body, the real “Mother Hormone” is Pregnenolone, not DHEA. Pregnenolone is a natural hormone made from cholesterol in our adrenal glands. It is the precursor to all steroid hormones, including progesterone, estrogens, testosterone, the cortisones, and DHEA.

Clinical studies have shown that Pregnenolone provides safe estrogen replacement therapy for women, enhances mood and behavior, improves long term memory and mental acuity, assists in reducing the effects of aging, improves sleep quality and reduces night time restlessness, actually aids in repairing degeneration of the myelin sheath, aids the liver and brain in detoxification processes and can reduce fatigue and stress.

A double blind placebo controlled study has shown that Pregnenolone can improve the skin’s quality and elasticity, reducing wrinkles and other symptoms (age spots, etc.) of decreased Pregnenolone production. {Sternberg TH, LeVan P. Wright ET. The hydrating effects of Pregnenolone acetate on the human skin. Curr Ther Res 1961; 3 (11): 469-71} Many people have noticed a “face-lifting” action, which may be due to improved circulation to the skin, and by an actual contraction of some muscle-like cells in the skin.

Thyroid hormone - Like most hormones in our body, as we age less thyroid hormone is available and the gland producing the hormone becomes sluggish or irregular. A patient with dry, flaky, sluggish skin, who may be overweight, always cold, with a low libido, anxiety, foggy thinking, and hair loss, may have a thyroid deficiency. Nutrients and foods which support the thyroid are: sea vegetables, seafood, fish, iodized sea salt, and natural thyroid preparations, or RX Synthroid or Armour Thyroid, when needed, reverse this form of skin aging.

To find out how you can access these hormones, visit our Gentle Hormone Restoration page and our Testing Kits!


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2a. Saral y, et al. Protective effects of topical alpha-tocopherol acetate on UVB irradiation in guinea pigs: importance of free radicals. Physiol Res 2002; 51: 285-290, 2002.

2b. Nusgens B, et al. Topically applied vitamin C enhances the mRNA level of collagens I and III, their processing enzymes and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase 1 in the human dermis. J Invest Dermatol 2001; 116: 853-859.

3. Fitzpatrick RE, et al. Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage. Dermatol Surg 2002 Mar 28 (3): 231-6.

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10. Lee KS, et al. Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone on collagen and collagenase gene expression by skin fibroblasts in culture. J Dermatol Sci 2000 Jun;23(2):103-10.

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2. Ryoo YW, et al. The effects of the melatonin on ultraviolet-B irradiated cultured dermal fibroblasts. J Dermatol Sci 2001 Nov;27(3):162-168.

13. Fischer TW, et al. Melatonin reduces UV-induced reactive oxygen species in a dose-dependent manner in IL-3-stimulated leukocytes. J Pineal Res 2001 Aug;31(1):39-45.

14. Manuskiatti W, et al. Hyaluronic acid and skin: wound healing and aging. Int J Dermatol 1996 Aug;35(8):539-44.