- Skin creams containing hormones like estrogen are being hyped as revolutionary technology.
- Some studies confirm estriol creams notably increase moisture levels, encourage collagen synthesis, and greatly improve skin elasticity and firmness
- Other equally legitimate studies report no noticeable improvements to the skin after six months of daily application.
Estriol added to anti-aging skin creams is a good example of a promising new technology you’d be wise to research before allowing your hopes to get too high.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest craze in facial rejuvenation – estrogen-based beauty products.
What is estriol?
Estriol is an estrogen, which along with estradiol and estrone, is one of three of the most commonly discussed female hormones. It’s produced by the placenta in high amounts during pregnancy and in much smaller amounts the rest of the time.
The weakest of all the estrogens, possessing just one-seventh the strength of estradiol, estriol has shown promise as an alternative therapy for many hormone-related issues, among them vaginal dryness and urinary incontinence problems during pregnancy. Its use as a therapy to combat facial wrinkles is a fairly new development.
Estrogens affect the skin by modulating key epidermal and dermal cells. Without the growth-promoting effects of estrogen, the skin would literally wither away. The especially thin skin common to the elderly is directly correlated to the lack of estrogens required to generate collagen, collagen playing a lead role in the quality of our skin and in maintaining a consistent thickness.
As we age we produce fewer of the hormones responsible for collagen maintenance and reproduction, which partially explains the reduced elasticity and smoothness of our skin as we grow older.
How do estriol skin creams work?
Estriol is an estrogen produced in the ovaries that has been used by menopausal women for decades. It’s typically employed as a supplement to combat vaginal dryness, prevent urinary tract infections (UTI), protect from breast and ovarian cancer, and more recently, to revitalize and protect the skin from visible signs of aging.
Estriol skin creams typically contain collagen, hyaluronic acid, and elastin, all ingredients that have repeatedly been proven effective at encouraging collagen production and decreasing the amount of oil produced, while simultaneously increasing elasticity, moisture levels and vascularization. Of course, the big question remains: Does it really work?
The answer is yes — to a point, and depending on who you ask. One study performed at the University of Vienna Medical School noted a marked improvement in skin elasticity and firmness after applying an estrogen-laced topical cream on a daily basis over the course of one six-month period.
The trial was conducted with 0.01% estradiol or 0.3% estriol on 59 postmenopausal women, and by the end of the first six months wrinkle depth and pore size had decreased by over 60% in both the estradiol and estriol groups. Skin moisture and collagen synthesis also increased significantly.
However, not all of the research into estrial creams has led to similarly positive conclusions. In 2009, for example, dermatologist Margaret E. Parsons, MD, FAAD from the University of California, studied a wide variety of estrogen skin creams and concluded that, at best, the results were mixed.
“Based on the research conducted thus far, it does not appear that topical or oral estrogens are a viable long-term solution for improving sun-damaged or aging skin,” Dr. Parsons stated at the conclusion of the study. “In my practice, I do not prescribe estrogens for skin rejuvenation because of the lack of consistent data to support their use and the known risks of prolonged estrogen therapy – including an increased risk of breast cancer.”
Yet another recent study examined whether low-dose hormone therapy improved the appearance of aging skin in 485 women who were five years post-menopausal on average. The study concluded that estrogen supplementation did not provide any notable improvements to the sun-damaged skin of these women.
Finally, one of the more significant studies of estrogen creams, recently documented in the International Journal of Dermatology, concluded that when women in their mid-fifties applied estriol cream to their face and neck areas for a period of 6-months, many age-related changes to the skin occurred.
The figures released reported that in 96% of the women, elasticity and firmness of the skin had improved along with a noticeable increase in skin moisture. For 89% of the study’s participants, a highly significant decrease in the depth of wrinkles was also observed.
At this point in time it’s reasonable to conclude that the verdict is still out on the efficacy of estriol creams as an antidote to dry, aging skin. However, given the amount of research supporting estrogen as a promising weapon in the struggle to revitalize aging skin, it’s probably wise to take a “wait and see” approach for the moment, before spending your money on what ultimately remains a somewhat controversial product.
Alleged benefits of estriol as a topical skin cream
Some studies indicate that increased estrogen levels in the body promotes:
- Thicker skin due to increased collagen production
- Decrease in fine lines and wrinkles
- Greater skin elasticity
- Increased vascularization
- Increase in moisture content
- Decrease in excessive oil production
Common side effects
While most women tolerate estriol with no side issues, others report experiencing one or more of the following:
- Tiny red marks on skin
- Dark patches on skin
- Memory loss
- Pain in the abdomen
- Leg cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Skin rash/sun allergy
Where to purchase estriol skin creams
Estriol has been in demand throughout Europe and Asia for nearly 50 years, where it’s primarily been used to effectively treat vaginal dryness and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
When purchased as a topical skin cream no prescription is necessary to acquire estriol in the United States. The numerous estriol creams on the market can be purchased at most pharmacies or through online vendors such as Amazon.
Estriol Skin Cream: Top Products
When looking to buy an estriol cream, it is important to keep your beauty goals in mind. While some creams offer estriol alone, many combine estriol with other common skincare ingredients like vitamin E and retinol. Other creams supplement the power of estriol with additional hormones like progesterone or estradiol. Your skincare needs and desires should always come first when shopping for the perfect estriol cream.