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Informations sur l'œstrogène.

What Is Estrogen?

The hormone estrogen occurs naturally in women and is primarily known for its role in ovulation and fertility. However, estrogen is also involved in many other processes in the body and contributes to the well-being of the skin. In this article, you will learn more about the role of estrogen and the effects of its fluctuations.

Estrogen: Definition

Estrogens are steroid hormones. They are synthesized from cholesterol by mechanisms of steroidogenesis of testosterone. Estrogens can be divided into three groups: Estradiol, Estriol and Estrone. These predominantly female hormones are also produced in small amounts by men. In men, estrogens can affect the synthesis of gonadotropin, a hormone that stimulates gonadal activity.

In women, production of estrogen in the ovaries begins during puberty and continues until menopause. The amount of estrogen in the body increases until about age 20. There it reaches a peak and then gradually decreases. Most estrogens are synthesized by the ovaries, but some estrogens are also produced by other parts of the body, such as the liver. This "secondary production" is essential from menopause onwards. This is because from this point onwards the ovaries stop producing the hormone.

The amount of estrogen in women also varies during the menstrual cycle. This can be divided into three main phases: the menstrual phase, the follicular phase (pre-ovulatory) and the luteal phase (post-ovulatory). During the first phase, the estrogen level in the body is very low. It then rises very sharply during the follicular phase before reaching a peak at ovulation. Estrogen synthesis then falls before rising again in the luteal phase.

What Are the Tasks of Estrogen?

Estrogen acts at various levels in the body and has numerous roles, the most important of which are mentioned here.

  • Estrogen is involved in the development of secondary sexual characteristics

    From puberty onwards, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain. The secretion of FSH, a follicle-stimulating hormone, and LH, a luteinizing hormone, increases, which stimulates the maturation of the ovarian follicles and thus estrogen production. These act on the mammary gland and are responsible for the anatomical changes that occur during puberty. These include growth of the uterus, change in voice pitch and enlargement of the breasts.

  • Estrogens also contribute to the preparation for pregnancy

    Estrogen is also involved in preparing for pregnancy. It builds up the lining of the uterus so that the egg can implant. Just before ovulation, estrogen levels rise, which also leads to a sudden release of LH. This spike in luteinizing hormones triggers the bursting of the follicle containing the egg, and thus the expulsion of the egg through one of the two ovaries into the fallopian tube. After release, the egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus, where it remains for 24 hours, awaiting fertilization.

  • Estrogen plays a role in bone growth and development.

    According to several studies, estrogens are thought to have positive effects on bone formation in women and men by inducing the release of extracellular bone matrix proteins and the synthesis of growth factors such as TGF-β3. These, in turn, would be responsible for increased cell proliferation and differentiation. This could also be the reason why bones become more fragile after menopause.

What Effect Does Estrogen Have on the Skin?

Estrogen is able to stimulate fibroblasts. These are cells in the dermis that are involved in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin. Since they are found in the extracellular matrix, all three contribute to the well-being of the skin. Hyaluronic acid is a macromolecule that binds water in the skin, while collagen and elastin give the skin tone and suppleness.

Estrogen thus has a positive effect on the moisture content of the skin. This property has been demonstrated in studies of non-menopausal individuals at various points in the menstrual cycle and during menopause. After menopause and during menstruation, times when estrogen levels are at their lowest, people tend to have sensitive and sometimes dry skin.

Low estrogen levels can be associated with slow renewal of skin cells and impaired skin barrier function. This also promotes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as sagging of the skin.

Sources :

  • SKOUBY S. & al. Menstrual cycle and skin reactivity. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (1991).

  • STEVENSON J. & al. Role of oestrogen in the development of osteoporosis. Calcified Tissue International (1991).

  • THORNTON M. Oestrogen functions in skin and skin appendages. Expert Opinions on Therapeutic Targets (2005).

  • MILLINGTON G. & al. The menstrual cycle and the skin. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology (2015).


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