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You've heard the buzz, but are hormone treatments really an "anti-ageing silver bullet"?

Image: iStock.

There’s a chance you’ve heard a bit of buzz about hormones and anti-ageing over the past few years.

To be more specific, the use of hormone supplementation and treatments to combat the physical side-effects of getting older, particularly the appearance of skin.

According to UK newspaper The Telegraph, some private doctors are giving women prescriptions for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) — containing hormones like testosterone and progesterone in ‘bioidentical’ form — as an anti-ageing therapy. Apparently, some view testosterone as “the new Botox, but better.”

“Medics now believe it can lead not just to younger-looking skin, but also to increased energy and sex drive; a triple whammy of holy-grail benefits for the middle-aged woman,” the newspaper reported last year.

With a spiel like that, you can see why people might be taking an interest in this topic.

There have also been reports of human growth hormone (HGH or GH) being used to replenish hormone levels that have dropped through ageing, in order to restore them to a more ‘youthful’ state of health (and beauty). In a 2012 article exploring the popularity of HGH in Hollywood, Vanity Fair described GH as “the love child of Viagra and Botox.”

Watch: Meghan Ramsay discusses the side-effects of low self esteem. (Post continues after video.)

“When administered appropriately, it is said to smooth wrinkles, reduce body fat, and increase lean-muscle mass and bone density, while also improving one’s libido, mood, and overall sense of vitality—to the point that the recipient both looks and feels years younger,” the magazine reports.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s because it probably is.

Dr Sonia Davison, an endocrinologist at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, says there’s no proof that these hormones have the intended anti-ageing or beautifying effects they’re being used for.

“We don’t really understand the direct relationship between ageing and hormones on skin. We only know what happens with hormones as we age – gradual decrease in male type hormones such as testosterone from even 18 years, and a rapid fall in oestrogen levels around menopause,” she explains.

"There are serious concerns about the misuse of [hormonal treatments] and potential risks." (Image: iStock)
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"An excess of male hormones can lead to acne or oily skin. Some women anecdotally report that they have better skin on HRT [hormone replacement therapy] but there is no real evidence to support this."

Although Dr Davison wouldn't comment on whether the use of GH and other hormone treatments for anti-ageing is present here in Australia, she says there are "serious concerns" about their misuse and the potential risks.

"This is a controversial area and there is no evidence to support the use of these hormones in this context, and there may be serious side effects from misuse," she explains.

"Some people have a need for GH treatment or for testosterone but this is a specialist Endocrine area and not without controversy."

Among women, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is commonly used to manage symptoms of menopause — like vaginal dryness, hot flushes, sweats and joint aches — when they begin impacting on a woman's quality of life. (Post continues after gallery.)

HRT usually involves replenishing the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, but a low dosage of testosterone is sometimes used to address issues like fatigue and loss of libido.

While there are benefits of testosterone-only therapy, there are risks too. It's been linked to a heightened risk of oily skin and acne, excess hair growth and irritability, and even an irreversible lowering of the voice in more serious cases. Some research suggests it could increase the chance of breast cancer.

No form of testosterone therapy for women is officially approved by the TGA for use in Australia, and it's a topic of ongoing research.

There's no denying that the idea of using hormones to combat the effects of ageing is an appealing one.

"The anti-aging industry tells people that these hormones will make you young again, that they'll reverse years of aging. And this is a total ruse," Boston-based doctor Thomas Perls said in an interview with Good Morning America.

"Part of it is that people equate hormones with youth, and so they think, by getting these drugs, they're going to be young again."

Have you ever considered an "anti-ageing" treatment?

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