How do hormones affect the skin and hair?

Hormones play a large role in skin and hair health. Although women normally have androgens (male hormones), excessive levels can cause a variety of symptoms including acne and hair loss on the scalp.

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Hormonal acne is often most prominent on the jawline, but can be found anywhere on the face. Hair loss is commonly found with elevated androgens and is characterized by thinning on the frontal scalp extending back to the crown. The most common complaint is widening of the hair part. Although androgens can cause thinning of the hair on the scalp, they are also associated with unwanted hair on the face. These hairs are typically on the chin, but can also extend onto the cheek. This condition is called hirsutism.

Can taking oral medicines help balance out hormones and ease these effects?

Oral contraceptives, also known as birth control pills can be used to normalize hormones. In many patients, oral contraceptives reduce acne. In some patients, they can even help to reduce facial hair and reduce hair loss on the scalp. Spironolactone is another oral medication that is used to improve hormonal acne and reduce hair loss on the scalp.

Do hormonal treatments have a negative impact on a person's health? Do they have side effects?

The side effects of oral contraceptives include: blood clots, high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. These side effects are most common in older women and women who smoke.  Other side effects include: breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain and irregular bleeding. Although these side effects are possible, oral hormonal therapy are usually well tolerated in most women.

Topical estrogen also has side effects. If you are prone to melasma and dark patches on the face, topical estrogens can make this problem worse.