prevent wrinkles

Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, has been controversial for quite some time. In the 20th century, women were often admonished that taking estrogen and progestin after menopause would not only ease hot flashes, but also keep their bones, hearts and brains healthy as well. This idea goes back at least to the 1960s, when Dr. Robert A. Wilson published Feminine Forever. In it, he argued that women could stay youthful, sexy and healthy by using HRT. Needless to say, many women loved the idea that they would be able to prevent wrinkles, avoid vaginal dryness and maintain their health.

The Women’s Health Initiative:

A study published in 2002 disappointed women and their doctors. In 1991, the Women’s Health Initiative assigned about 160,000 women to take HRT or placebo. The researchers wanted to learn how well the hormones worked to keep bones strong and prevent heart attacks. They were also collecting data on side effects such as breast cancer and endometrial cancer. To their surprise, the hormones increased the risk of heart problems and strokes. Although women taking HRT had stronger bones, those taking the combination of estrogen plus progestin had a higher risk of breast cancer. Those on estrogen alone were less likely to develop breast cancer. The investigators looked at many other factors, but they did not consider whether HRT could prevent wrinkles.

Will HRT Help Prevent Wrinkles?

Q. I just read your column that says taking calcium and vitamin D doesn’t strengthen bones. I didn’t buy the recommendation so I’ve never taken either. My theory is, if you want strong bones, run, walk, and jump up and down.

But at one time my OB-GYN doctor told me that if I wanted to keep strong bones and look youthful, I should take hormone replacement therapy. My doc up north said that was nonsense.

However, my two women friends who take HRT look fabulous at 70, whereas I started looking like the proverbial withered hag in my mid-50s after menopause. Coincidence? Genetics? I wish I had followed the advice of the first doctor. My bones are OK, but my face! What say you?

HRT Might Slow Skin Aging:

A. Hormone replacement therapy may slow skin aging and reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis (Piérard et al, BioMed Research International, Dec. 21, 2013).  That said, possible side effects such as blood clots, gallbladder disease, breast cancer and heart disease should be considered before starting HRT for cosmetic purposes (US Preventive Services Task Force, JAMA, Dec. 12, 2017). The usual recommendation is that HRT can be used to ease hot flashes. It is quite effective for that purpose. However, experts advise women to take the lowest effective dose for the shortest feasible time.

Recent research suggests that a set of facial exercises, practiced faithfully for eight months, may be able to help people appear more youthful (Alam et al, JAMA Dermatology, online  Jan. 3, 2018). Hopefully, these will become better known so that we can all reduce or prevent wrinkles without fear of serious side effects.

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  1. Jan

    I’ll soon be 75. At the age of 28 I was diagnosed with Hodgkins, stage II. After undergoing extensive radiation (1972), I was in remission and also in menopause. It was in my mid 30’s that I went on Estrogen…A complete hysterectomy in my early 40’s and continued on HRT (wothout progesterone). I have stayed on a low dosage (.05) for the benefit of my bones (osteoporosis) and heart. In recent years have cut back (2-3 pills a week) due to negative reports on estrogen. Without it I still have hot-flashes and related problems. ALL considered I feel that the benefits (for me) outweigh the risk.

  2. SC
    North Carolina

    I took hormones for 2 years until I heard they could trigger blood clots. It’s been 15 years since then. I have been using a moisturizer daily with sun screen. Never go into the garden or the pool with out a hat covering my face. And wearing sunglasses. When my mother retired to Florida, after a few years I was shocked that she had aged so quickly. I am now 82 and no one can guess my age. It’s not the hormone, but common sense.

    Ladies in the past centuries didn’t have the hormones, but protected their skin with natural products, hats and gloves and walked every day to get their food which was not genetically changed.

  3. Eileen
    Naples, FL

    I have been on bio identical hormones for over twenty years and I feel great..I use a patch and natural progesterone cream from Women’s International Pharmacy..I have my checkups with my GYN and will never stop using the hormones..

  4. Joyce

    I think it would be helpful to distinguish between HRT and Bio-Identical HRT. Two different holistic, alternative docs had me take varying doses over the years, but it was always bio-identical which I understand is like what the body makes.

  5. Kathy
    Dallas, Texas

    I never realized that my HRT has contributed to my youthful looks but perhaps after my ovaries atrophied, when I was in my early forties after a vaginal hysterectomy, my Endocrinologist put me on HRT. I am now 74, and people do not believe me when I tell them my age. I use the lowest dosage of a patch.

    • Judi
      Port St. Lucie, Florida


      Thanks for bringing up Bio-Identical Hormone Therapy, which I have been on since 2004. Any time I am around medical people I have to show my driver’s license to prove that I’m really 76 – and I sure don’t feel that old either.

      I got lucky to find an excellent doctor who specializes in HRT and a good compounding pharmacy.

      My husband is also using Bio HRT. Our doctor tests us every 6 months and makes adjustments when necessary.
      We don’t plan on ever stopping.

  6. Mary

    When I had my very first hot flash I went to the Dr. He put me on HRT. Yes, it did stop the hot flashes. But after reading all of the pro and cons as to what the meds do and what can happen to one’s body I took myself off and just handled it. Just by seeing all of the meds being advertised on tv, you wonder if it really is worth taking the drugs.

  7. Carlie

    I didn’t see a reference to the differences between bioidentical HRT including real progesterone versus synthetic HRT with progestin. YUUUGE differences!!

  8. Cathy M

    I am a 62 year old woman who has chosen to forgo HRT. My mother developed breast cancer twice and passed away two years ago after using HRT. I take a natural approach to menopause symptoms such as healthy diet and being active a few hours a week. For wrinkles I apply a coconut oil with essential oil lavender in the evenings for a night cream. I also use a hormone free vaginal moisturizer. I’m very satisfied with how I feel and look. I’m often told I look much younger than my years. There are other alternatives to HRT, and menopause does not have to be a time of suffering!

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