Hormones, Cellulite & Skin Aging

Hormones play a dominant role in the health and integrity of the skin matrix, and specifically the formation of cellulite. Estrogen may be the most important hormone responsible for the initiation and aggravation of cellulite. Additionally, other stress hormones, including insulin, cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, parathyroid hormones, and prolactin, all participate in the development of cellulite.

In humans, it has been found that these stress hormones (which often are elevated in hypothyroid and over active adrenals) cause structural and functional changes that attribute to skin aging are more visibly evident in signs of cellulite.

Estrogens especially, have significant effects on skin physiology and the modulation of epidermal keratinocytes, dermal fibroblasts and melanocytes, as well as the hair follicle and the sebaceous gland.

This article will explain how stress hormones lead to cellulite and skin aging along with what to  do in order to significantly delay these processes, namely by the reduction of estrogen, prolactin, and other stress hormones.


Estrogen: One of the basic postulates as to why men do not get cellulite (as commonly) as women has to do with estrogen. Women have significantly higher levels of estrogens than most men; however, men can also experience the revenges of estrogen dominance.

Cellulite is induced by the hormone estrogen in a few ways. First, understand that a major function of estrogen is to breakdown the collagen in the cervix at the time of delivery to allow the passage of the baby. So, estrogen has the primary purpose of deteriorating collagen, and collagen degeneration just so happens to be a a root cause of cellulite.

Here is a step-by-step play of how estrogen leads to cellulite:

  1. Estrogen stimulates skin fibroblasts to make collagenase, which is an antagonist to collagen causing it to break down – this starts the cycle of cellulite formation.
  2. There is a deficiency of collagen in presence of cellulite – without sufficient collagen fibers, the fat cells “escape” the tightly formed skin matrix and appears on the skin surface.
  3. Overtime, the fat cells hypotrophy (grow) and stimulate preadipocytes to develop to form new adipocytes or fat cells.
  4. Estrogen then stimulates the preadipocytes to form new adipocytes and the more fat you have, the more the ovaries are stimulated to produce estrogen – creating a vicious cycle between excessive estrogen and fat accumulation.

Estrogen also increases the response of fat cells to anti-lipolytic alpha receptors (preventing fat breakdown and loss) and stimulates an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which leads to fat growth – this occurs mostly in the thighs and butt.

Prolactin: Prolactin is referred to as the “nursing hormone”, as it is necessary for the production of milk and lactation. However, this hormone in excess can be detrimental to the health of the skin and is the true culprit behind hair loss. In essence, prolactin is very inflammatory, which leads to AGEs and the breakdown of collagen.

Excess estrogens and prolactin usually go hand in hand. So while estrogens start the cellulite process, prolactin worsens it. Specifically, it makes cellulite more visible because it increases water retention in the fatty tissue, which leads to the visible growth of the cell, resulting in a more ‘lumpy’ appearance. Also, prolactin slows the metabolism, specifically the ability to metabolize fat, which can result in an increase of free fatty acids, causing a metabolic stress in the body that increases stress hormone and inflammation – all which attribute to the degeneration of the skin.

Also, elevated levels of prolactin reduce testosterone and progesterone, both which are important fat burning hormones. So, as these hormones decrease, fat accumulates more easily, making cellulite even more visible.

Insulin: Celulite is basically a symptom of poor metabolic function. Each of the hormones associated with cellulite, are really associated with hypothyroid and metabolic stress. One of the key stress hormones associated with these condition is insulin. Women who are insulin resistant are usually also estrogen dominant, and hypothyroid. Insulin is usually high when a person has a poor ability to oxidize glucose (they don’t metabolize sugar well). This increases insulin and also hormones such as adrenaline, parathyroid, and cortisol.


The cure to cellulite is a systematic one, which would ultimately involve the restoration of metabolic function, balancing the hormones (especially estrogen dominance) and optimizing thyroid function.

The hormones associated with cellulite as key players in the “sickness field” – so whether a person is dealing with obesity, diabetes, cancer, early aging, fertility issues or any other “sickness” there are usually a few key, biological players involved. Therefore, the remedy – to be overly simple – would be very simply, to be healthy. In other words, there is disease and there is wellness; most health problems are just a symptom of disease, and there is a specific biological make up one wants to be in to be well.

That being said, here are a few things to do to not only improve or cure cellulite, but to improve your metabolic function and overall health:

Optimize Liver Function: Estrogens and most other hormones are metabolized by the liver. In fact, the LIVER is the most important in the body, hence its name…So in the case of any hormonal imbalance, there is often and underlying liver impairment. The Chinese and Ancient Greeks were wise in this way; they traced all health issues back to the liver. While many of us enjoy complexity, the fact of the matter is, truth is always in the direction of simplicity. I could send you down a rabbit hole and wild goose hunt remedying your symptoms, or I could advise you refine your approach and simply take care of the health of your liver. If the liver is healthy, the Liver (you), will be healthy.

Some simple things you can do to improve the health of the liver would be to first and foremost stop abusing it. Our Western culture covertly promotes the abuse and junking of the body by selling us a million quick-fixes for our bad habits. Not only is this not efficient for achieving health, it is expensive. So, before you go and spend a lot of money on the latest Liver Detox kit, just commit to discontinuing any abuse to your Liver. This includes the obvious toxic agents and behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, junk food, overeating, chronic emotional suffering, toxic relationships, staying up too late, constant partying and sleep neglect.

Keep in mind, the word de-tox literally means “to come off poisons”.

Other things that are helpful to the liver is deep sleep, bitter foods, green foods, gelatin, healthy digestive function, quality proteins, fresh citrus, and laughter.

Avoid PUFAs: Polyunsaturated fats increase estrogen in the body. These two ubiquitous carcinogenic factors closely interact with each other, and there are many ways in which they can be modulated. PUFA increase the activity and available of free estrogens from the serum proteins in tissue cells. To learn more about PUFA and what you can do, read this earlier blog.

Eat Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous vegetables contain a compounds such as glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, and sulforaphane, which help with the proper metabolization and elimination of estrogens in the body. My favorite way to consume these are in ferments, which increases their digestibility, improves digestive function and the bioavailability of the medicinal compounds. Nettle is also great for improving estrogen metabolism

Supplement with Progesterone: Unlike estrogen, progesterone is very beneficial to the skin, topical progesterones have been shown to influence skin thickness by stimulating collagen synthesis, maturation and turnover in study. Estrogen administration increases hyaluronic acid synthesis by 70%, leading to increased dermal water content, which means smoother more hydrated skin. Progesterone also promotes reduces wound size and stimulates matrix deposition in both human and murine skin. Further more, it provides some protection against photo aging and increases skin elasticity and collagen synthesis, which restores the youthful appearance of the skin. This is a good progesterone product.

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