Human growth hormone (HGH) is often professed as a phenomenal anti-aging remedy that can help your skin look years or even decades younger.
But in reality, the effects of growth hormone on your skin won’t be as miraculous as you might have hoped.
Skin improvement is just one of the many benefits you can expect from the therapy. Besides, treatment with HGH is only available for people with medical conditions such as growth hormone deficiency (GHD).
Individuals with GHD will also experience improved body composition, increased energy levels, and reduced risk of fractures thanks to adequate HGH therapy.
In this article, you will discover all about the effects of HGH therapy on dermatological problems and how your hormones may impact the appearance of your skin.
How do hormones affect your skin?
HGH is just one of the hormones which can affect your skin and face. Other hormones that significantly impact human skin include estrogens, testosterone, progesterone, and thyroid hormones.
For example, estrogens and the growth hormone stimulate the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, which help the strength, elasticity, and hydration of the skin.
On the other hand, studies report that thyroid hormones regulate the proliferation of the skin cells in both the derma and the epidermis. Besides, they prevent the excessive production and accumulation of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and fibronectin.
Furthermore, progesterone and testosterone stimulate the sebum-producing structures in your skin called sebaceous glands. Sebum is the oily substance produced by your skin glands that moisturize and protect your skin. Growth hormone, thyroid hormones, and testosterone also regulate sweating.
These hormones have different effects on your skin as you age. For example, the rapid increase of progesterone and testosterone during puberty leads to increased sebum production, oily skin, and acne in both females and males.
The hormonal production eventually normalized during adulthood which leads to the resolution of the acne. As women enter menopause, the decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels can reduce elastin, sebum, and hyaluronic acid production. Thus, the skin becomes thinner and dryer as you age.
Furthermore, your body becomes less effective in producing collagen and other molecules that help the integrity of your skin. Other negative factors include tobacco smoking, exposure to UV light, etc.
Can hormone imbalance cause skin problems?
Several hormone deficiencies and endocrine conditions can lead to skin problems, such as acne, wrinkles, or changes in pigmentation. Examples include deficiencies of thyroid hormones, estrogens, cortisol, growth hormone, and others.
For instance, patients with low thyroid levels experience a build-up of hyaluronic acid in their skin, leading to the development of a condition called myxedema.
On the other hand, low cortisol levels in the case of adrenal insufficiency can affect skin pigmentation. It leads to excessive production of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which binds to the pigment-producing cells in your skin and stimulates them to produce more melanin. This leads to whole-body hyperpigmentation.
An imbalance between estrogen and testosterone levels usually occurs during menopause because estrogens decrease rapidly, which can lead to a relative excess of testosterone.
Without the suppressive effects of estrogens, testosterone and other androgens can lead to excessive sebum production and acne. The condition is also known as menopausal acne.
An imbalance between estrogen and testosterone also occurs in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The excess of androgens in PCOS can lead to acne, increased body hair (hirsutism), oily skin, and excessive sweating.
Both too high and too low GH levels can have a negative effect on your skin and face
Growth hormone deficiency can lead to thin, dry skin. One study compared several skin parameters in women with a form of acquired GHD called Sheehan’s syndrome to healthy controls. Women with GHD had reduced skin hydration and decreased sebum production. There were no differences in the pH or the temperature of the skin.
In addition, women with GHD due to Sheehan’s syndrome also often develop fine wrinkles around the mouth and eyes as a clinical sign of the condition. Some studies also report that GHD may contribute to reduced skin elasticity.
There is no evidence suggesting that GHD may cause hyper or hypopigmentation. On the other hand, excessive levels of GH can lead to changes in pigmentation.
For example, McCune-Albright syndrome, which manifests with growth hormone excess, also leads to the formation of hyperpigmented lesions on the skin.
How does HGH help skin?
Research reports that growth hormone can help increase the thickness of your skin by increasing collagen production in the derma. These effects occur because HGH stimulates the function of skin cells called fibroblasts, which normally produce collagen.
Collagen is the main component of the connective tissues in the human body. The role of the connective tissues, such as the skin’s derma, is to provide strength, support, and elasticity.
Various factors such as aging and sun exposure can slow down and disturb natural collagen production. Reduced collagen synthesis contributes to reduced skin elasticity and thickness, which can lead to crepey skin and wrinkles. Thus, HGH therapy can increase the thickness of the skin, improve its strength and elasticity.
Yet, research does not report on how long it takes for HGH to improve skin. Since it takes at least a month of HGH therapy to reach a peak in the levels of IGF-1, which mediates the effects of growth hormone on the skin, then it may take at least 2-3 months of therapy or longer until there is a noticeable increase in skin thickness.
Because of these effects, HGH is often promoted as an anti-aging treatment that can help crepey skin, reverse wrinkles, make the skin smoother and more elastic.
Yet, the effects of HGH therapy appear to be limited to the derma and do not reverse the thinning of the epidermal layers of the skin. Studies report that adequate and long-term HGH therapy doesn’t fully reverse the symptoms of thin and dry skin in patients who have had GHD since childhood.
Furthermore, HGH therapy is effective only when administered via injections. That’s because HGH cannot get through the skin. It lacks transdermal absorption due to the protein structure of the growth hormone. Therefore, HGH-containing creams or gels are not an effective method for HGH therapy.
Due to the benefits of HGH on cell proliferation and collagen production, the therapy has been investigated for tendon and skin injury recovery.
For example, it may help skin healing after wounds and burns. Studies in children with severe burns report that therapy with HGH injections led to 25% quicker recovery on average.
HGH therapy may be able to speed up the healing of other tissues made primarily of collagen, such as tendons and ligaments.
HGH effects on the face
HGH is one of the main factors affecting the growth and development of your skull’s facial bones and your facial appearance.
Research reports that children with untreated growth hormone deficiency end up with smaller facial bones and altered appearance compared to those who receive HGH therapy.
Since bone growth ceases in adults, maintaining normal growth hormone levels via HGH therapy is not likely to affect your facial appearance.
Yet, if you are exposed to high GH levels for prolonged periods of time, this can lead to an increase in the thickness of the skeletal tissues in your body, including your facial bones.
In adults, this leads to the development of a condition called acromegaly, which manifests with an enlarged face, hands, and feet.
The bones of the jawline and the brows become more prominent. Structures made of cartilage such as the nose and the ears also enlarge.
According to research, patients with acromegaly also experience skin changes such as ticker and oily skin, formation of skin tags (acrochordons), and increased sweating.
Once HGH levels return to normal, skin thickness will likely decrease and return to normal. However, other signs of acromegaly, such as coarsening of the facial appearance, ticker bones, and enlarged cartilage, are permanent.