Beauty is an inside job. Expensive skin care creams and lotions aren’t going to fix imbalances within the body, which in its wisdom is constantly trying to maintain homeostasis. We look, feel, and function our best when hormones levels are balanced. Hormone excess and deficiency, including levels of thyroid hormone, can throw us off kilter physically, mentally and emotionally. Thyroid hormones also have a direct correlation to the health of our skin, nails and hair.
The Thyroid Gland
Thyroid hormones impact every cell in the body. The thyroid controls metabolism and the regulation of energy, is responsible for growth and repair, affects body temperature, and is essential for restful sleep, and optimal brain function. You’ll feel sluggish, bloated, fat, and foggy if yours isn’t working properly. Your tolerance to stress will be lower, and you’ll be mildly irritated all the time. If your thyroid is underactive, you’ll feel simply deplorable, and have an annoying array of chronic symptoms.
Hypothyroidism is one of the most common health problems. Women suffer from hypothyroidism significantly more than men because men have more receptors on their cells for thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland produces and stores critical hormones. It’s the CEO of the endocrine system and the thermostat of the body. There will be many downstream effects if the thyroid isn’t doing its job.
A normally functioning thyroid releases the right amount of hormones, based on the body’s needs, at any given moment. When this process doesn’t happen as it should, you’ll notice symptoms, including changes in your skin, nails, and hair. The best way I can describe having low thyroid is it’s like living in slow motion.
Skin, Hair, And Nails
Here are 5 signs your thyroid may be low:
1. Dry Skin
Too little thyroid hormone can cause the skin to become dry, itchy, and coarse. This happens as a result of decreased sweating, a lack of moisture in the epidermis, and a reduction in cell turnover. The skin regenerates more slowly when the cells don’t turnover at the rate they should. These changes in skin texture and moisture levels are one of the first signs of decreased thyroid function. The good news is that when levels are optimized, the moisture in the skin will return to normal.
Low thyroid isn’t the only cause of dry skin, but is a significant one. There are strategies that can help mitigate dryness, including using emollient-rich soaps and body washes that are free of harmful chemicals. Chemicals can irritate the skin, and contribute to dryness. Ditch the hand sanitizers, they are extremely drying and toxic.
Opt for moisturizers that don’t have a laundry list of ingredients, and are formulated with natural oils, such as coconut oil. These skin care products are amazing. Taking long baths and showers can dry out the skin, it’s best to keep them short, and keep in mind that hot water is more drying than is warm water. Using a humidifier in your room at night is a good antidote for dry skin. Check out this digital ultrasonic humidifier.
2. Hair loss and Premature Balding
They thyroid gland impacts the texture of the hair, along with the rate at which it grows. It’s normal to shed up to 100 hairs a day on the scalp, which is gradually replaced over time. Hypothyroidism can cause increased shedding, while slowing hair growth, contributing to overall thinning of the hair on the scalp. Adequate levels of thyroid hormone are necessary for hair to develop as it should in the hair follicle. Many people with low thyroid function notice hair loss while showering.
Inadequate thyroid hormone can cause the hair to become dry and brittle, causing it to break. Another telling sign of low thyroid is the loss of hair on the outer edges of the eyebrows. Hair loss can occur on the arms and legs, as well. My hair was extremely dry and coarse when my thyroid was low, but fortunately I didn’t lose any.
Micronutrient deficiencies caused by low thyroid, together with imbalanced cortisol levels and iron deficiency, all play a role in hair loss, hair texture, and degree of breakage. Have your thyroid levels accessed if you’re hair is getting dryer, is breaking, or is falling out in clumps. If hypothyroidism is the underlying cause, your hair will thicken up nicely once your levels are optimized, however it may take a few months.
3. A Dull Lifeless Complexion
If having dry, itchy skin weren’t enough, an under active thyroid adds insult to injury by making your face puffy, pale, and your complexion dull. And you know those horrid eye bags? They could be part of the picture too, making you look as tired as you feel. Not everyone with low thyroid will have bags under their eyes, Thankfully, I didn’t get them.
Puffiness and swelling is the result of fluid accumulation in the tissues. This excess accumulation is caused by low body temperature and inflammation, two hallmarks of low thyroid. Sluggish thyroid function may also cause bloating and swelling in the ankles. Excess fluid will drain when body temperature returns to normal.
An underactive thyroid can also make your skin more prone to acne and breakouts. Sadly, adult acne is a thing, and there is a direct correlation between acne and hypothyroidism. This correlation involves vitamin A, a critical nutrient for skin health and acne prevention.
Thyroid hormone deficiency impedes the body’s ability to convert cholesterol to steroid hormones, including DHEA and progesterone, the latter of which is critical for preventing acne. Thyroid hormone and vitamin A are both needed to produce progesterone. Supplementing with progesterone is not an adequate remedy for acne in itself, though. Thyroid hormones also need to be optimized.
4. Brittle Nails That Break
Your nails provide a peek into what’s going on internally in your body. Weak, soft nails, that break easily, can be the result of nutrient deficiencies caused by low thyroid. Low iron and deficient B12 are also implicated in nail health. Vertical ridges on the nails are characteristic of low thyroid, as are pale or yellowish-colored nails.
Thyroid hormones affect heme oxidation in the liver, which can cause iron levels to be low. This not only impacts the health of the nails, but can also cause hair loss. Insufficient thyroid hormone reduces acid in the stomach, causing nutrient and protein deficiencies. This is because stomach acid is necessary to break down food.
This scenario can lead to a vicious cycle – the thyroid gland needs protein and nutrients to produce hormones – but is unable to utilize the amino acids in food because of insufficient protein breakdown. The skin, nails, and hair all require protein for building, maintenance, and repair. Nails are made from layers of keratin, a fibrous structural protein that keeps nails strong and resilient. Inadequate protein results in weaker nails.
5. Low Energy
Low thyroid makes you tired, unmotivated, and depressed. How does this translate to skin health? For starters, it’s hard enough at times to drum up enough motivation to exercise when you feel well. When you’re exhausted, it’s almost impossible to stick with an exercise plan. Eating a nutritious diet often follows suit.
Pair this with poor sleep, and a low tolerance for stress, and you’ve got the ideal conditions for lackluster hair and a complexion to match. Exercise is imperative for boosting circulation, and for giving your complexion that radiant, healthy glow. The skin and nails need a steady supply of incoming protein and nutrients to be healthy.
When the thyroid is sub par, the body doesn’t extract nutrition from food or eliminate waste at the rate it should. This results in a negative feedback loop of fatigue, inadequate nutrition, sluggish energy production, and more fatigue. It can be a losing battle if your body is trying to run on inadequate thyroid hormone.
Hormones significantly affect how we look and feel. Both low and high levels cause problems. Imbalances, even slight hormonal imbalances, can cause symptoms, including changes in your skin, hair, and nails. If the symptoms I’ve mentioned correlate with what you’re experiencing, please consider getting your thyroid levels checked.
Did you know that thyroid function had such an impact on your appearance? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) healthline: Everything You Need To Know About Hypothyroidism
(2) Thyroid Advisor: Could Thyroid Problems Cause Skin Rashes
(3) Ray Peat: Thyroid: Therapies, Confusion, And Fraud
(4) healthline: Top 8 Vitamins and Minerals for Healthy, Strong Nails