A new cream from the experts in aesthetic endocrinology contains hormones for a fresh, youthful complexion. Deutsche Welle interviewed professor Dr. Bernd Kleine-Gunk on using hormones to fight cellulite and wrinkles.
DW: How can hormones contribute towards a youthful appearance?
Prof. Dr. Bernd Kleine-Gunk: We can basically distinguish between two areas where skin ageing is concerned. Exogenous factors such as sunlight age the skin. Endogenous processes are those which occur within the body. Genetics plays a role here, but so do hormone levels. It's a fact that hormone deficiency encourages the skin to age. Mucous membranes dry out during menopause for many women. Creams containing estrogen are used to combat vaginal dryness, but they don't just affect the vagina - they affect the skin in general. If you introduce hormones into the body, the skin's circulation improves. It has a better structure throughout all the layers, and the changes are visible.
What effect do hormone cosmetics have on the body?
First of all, estrogen causes the skin to store water. This thickens the skin and makes small wrinkles disappear. And different forms of estrogen stimulate collagen and elastin, which are basically the skin's scaffolding. The breaking down of collagen is a very important factor in ageing. Estrogens are also vasodilators. They widen the blood vessels, which improves circulation throughout the entire body, including the skin. And if skin gets a better blood supply it appears rosier, making it look younger, fresher and healthier.
Can androgens help to combat cellulite?
Androgens do help against cellulite. It's also the reason why fat men have no cellulite. Men's fatty tissue has a different microarchitecture. Their connective tissue has more of a diagonal structure, but this can be encouraged using hormones. Androgens can be applied to women's skin where cellulite occurs. It only works with certain androgens though - ones which don't immediately convert into other substances - but they can produce really great results.
So the vertical connective tissue we typically see in women can be reformed using androgen cream to give it a diagonal structure?
Yes, the structure of connective tissue is gender-specific because of hormones. So it can also be influenced by the use of hormones.
Therapies which introduce hormones into the body artificially are controversial because of their possible side effects. Is that true of hormone cosmetics?
It's important to use specific hormones. Estrogen is largely used for women's hormone replacement therapy. The form of estrogen known as estradiol is taken orally in pill form. We use estriol for hormone cosmetics. It's absorbed by the skin but it doesn't affect the breasts or the endometrium. So it doesn't increase the risk of breast cancer, or cause breast tenderness, or thicken the uterine lining or cause hemorrhages etc. It really just stays in the skin and in the membranes.
Do the androgens applied to the skin affect the the body's hormone balance?
The androgens are partially absorbed into the blood, which means it's important that hormone cosmetics are only available on prescription and are only administered by doctors. They should only be used in moderation.
So will hormone cosmetics be available in drugstores?
No, because they contain medical ingredients they'll only available on prescription. But the cosmetics industry has long recognized how effective hormones are. Creams like these would leap off the shelves.
Prof. Dr. Bernd Kleine-Gunk is a gynecologist and president of the GSAAM (German Society of Anti-Aging Medicine). He runs a gynecology practice in the Bavarian city of Fürth. http://www.kleine-gunk.de/
Interview: Dorothee Grüner