Your aging skin may be a window into how your brain is aging. So if you want to know whether misplacing the car keys this morning is a precursor to misplacing the car itself in the not too distant future, take a look in the mirror.

The biological reason that skin and brain age in similar ways is that in the early embryo, both skin cells and brain cells develop from the same kind of embryonic tissue (stuff called ectoderm).

German researchers claim that there is a very strong link between skin aging, brain aging and hormones. They are mostly interested in this for practical reasons: it is much easier to do a skin biopsy than poke around in a brain. But for us wrinkle warriors, it raises some interesting questions about age prevention.

Hormone decline say the researchers seems play a very significant role in aging. For example, low levels of estrogens have been correlated with profound effects on skin as well as alterations of brain functions such as cognition, learning and memory,

The full paper provides lots of useful background on skin structure and aging processes. A key factor is the sebaceous gland. Most of us associate sebaceous glands with acne and pimples. Basically, they secrete sebum that helps the skin retain moisture. But they do a lot more than that. Sebum lipids transport antioxidants in and on the skin, are involved in wound healing and protect against sunlight.

With advancing age the size of sebaceous gland cells tends to decrease as does their secretory output. This results in a decrease in the surface lipid levels and  the result is skin xerosis – the medical term for dry skin. This, in turn, is a major characteristic of aged skin.

The German research team speculates that since hormone substitution with estrogens seems to significantly reverse skin xerosis, sebaceous gland cells may be hormone dependent.

If you are anything like me, you are already scrutinizing every pore in the mirror each morning. Reading this may make you get paranoid that dry skin is an indicator of age related cognitive decline. But before you look into hormone replacement therapy, note that the researchers say: “Several studies have been conducted in an attempt to reverse the aging process and clinical signs by substitution of the serum hormone levels in older individuals, however the benefits of hormone replacement therapy, if any, are still controversial.”

Which is kind of frustrating. Some members of the Truth In Aging community are already believers in hormone replacement therapies and have been sharing their experiences on the Second Half of Your Life post (thank you ladies!). This is clearly a subject we need to have on Truth In Aging’s radar to keep abreast of new research into skin, aging and hormones. Watch this space (and do keep sharing any knowledge or first hand experience that you have).