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You are here: Anti-Aging Skin Treatments > Topical Actives >

Progesterone, a hope for a safer skin-revitalizing hormone.

It has been established in several studies that topical estrogens produce significant skin improvements in women at or after the menopause, i.e. in women whose levels of estrogens are low. (See our article on topical estrogens.) While systemic effects of small amounts of topical estrogens appear to be rather small, some concerns remain. Oral estrogen replacement has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer in some studies. There are understandable concerns that possible systemic effects of topical estrogens, however small, might contribute to breast cancer risk.

Wouldn't it be great to have a hormone with similar skin benefits, but practically risk-free for topical use. Well, there may be such a hormone. In addition to estrogens, ovaries produce another class of hormones call progestins, most notably progesterone. The levels of progesterone also decline during menopause but replacing it does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer.

What if progesterone had a role similar to estrogens in skin health and could be used topically to prevent or partly reverse menopausal skin deterioration? A study published in The British Journal of Dermatology in September 2005 seems to point in that direction. This 16-week study in 40 women, conducted by Dr. Holzer and colleagues, evaluated the effects of 2% progesterone cream on function and texture of the skin in women at or after menopause. The study design was robust: double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized. The results showed 23% increase in skin firmness, 29% reduction in wrinkle count near the eye and almost 10% reduction of the depth of laugh lines. No serious side-effects were observed.

While this is a welcome finding, many questions remain. Will the results be confirmed in further studies? Could topical progesterone benefit pre-menopausal women as well? Or even men? Could a properly balanced topical formula combining estrogens and progesterone yield more skin benefits than either agent alone?

A prudent approach would be to wait till more studies are available before trying topical progesterone. However, when it comes to beauty, some people choose hope over prudence. Fortunately, if you give topical progesterone a try before definitive research is available, the damage, if any, is far more likely to be only to your wallet rather than your health. Whatever your attitude may be, talk to your gynecologist before trying any topical hormones.



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