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Hormonal Vulnerability and the Spa Professional

By: Geoffrey Redmond, MD
Posted: June 24, 2008, from the February 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

The term “hormonal vulnerability” refers to the situation in which a woman’s body—and mind—react uncomfortably to her own hormones. Hormone problems tend to be subtle and, thus, frequently are misinterpreted as psychological when lab test results come back normal. The reason for this abnormality is not due to the hormones themselves, but how the individual woman’s body responds to them. Also, many females who consult doctors about symptoms due to hormonal vulnerability find that their concerns are not taken seriously, and they often are offered ineffective treatment options. As a result, many of them turn to nonmedical or alternative treatments for relief.

Hormonal conditions have dramatic effects on the skin and hair, in addition to impacting both physical and mental well-being. Indeed, a majority of clients who seek help from spa professionals do so because of hormonal vulnerability, although it is not usually recognized as the underlying cause. Professionals in these fields often find themselves assuming the role of an unofficial counselor or therapist regarding common female medical problems. Understanding prevalent female hormone problems can prove valuable for spa professionals. Although I do not suggest that anyone without medical training should presume to give specific medical advice to clients, I do believe that estheticians and other spa professionals can meet their clients’ needs better if they are informed about the problems that can result from hormonal vulnerability.

Hormonal effects

According to the author’s research, as many as 80% of women suddenly find that the hormones they previously were able to ignore have become a disruptive presence in their lives. This occurs most commonly between the mid-30s and mid-50s, although the problem can begin as early as the teen years and extend into the 60s. A number of hormonal difficulties tend to manifest concurrently so that, unfortunately, women who experience one symptom are likely to have several.

The many hormones in a woman’s body produce different effects, and hormonal vulnerability can influence four areas of life: appearance, physical well-being, emotions and sexuality.

Appearance. Many women have skin and hair that are overly sensitive to the effects of testosterone on the sebaceous glands and hair follicles. Among these vulnerable women, this hormone is the underlying cause of oily skin and acne, as well as hirsutism, or unwanted facial and body hair. Alopecia, or severe hair loss, before age 40 is most commonly due to a vulnerability to testosterone. When the onset is in the 40s and 50s, declining estrogen levels are the most frequent cause of thinning hair. Stress or poor nutrition rarely are to blame.