Also called prasterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that is converted in the body primarily to androgens (male hormones), and to a lesser degree to estrogens. It is controversial as an oral supplement because long-term use has been associated with women developing secondary masculine traits, liver damage, disrupted menstrual cycles, and defects in fetuses. More superficial risks include hair loss, acne, and weight gain. Topically, research has shown that DHEA can increase collagen production and prevent collagen destruction by decreasing matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). Amounts as low as 0.3% seems to have an effect on improving the structural organization of the dermis of postmenopausal women and can also increase oil production, which can be beneficial for those with menopause-related dry skin. Studies have involved as many as 60 women, which isn’t a huge number, but more promising than earlier studies that were either not done double-blind or placebo-controlled or the studies involved a small number of subjects (Sources: The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, December 2008, pages 186–193; Maturitas, February 2008, pages 174–181; Drug Delivery, September–October 2005, pages 275–280; Journal of Endocrinology, November 2005, pages 169–196; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, November 2005, pages 1053–1062, and February 2004, pages 315–323; Gynecological Endocrinology, December 2002, pages 431–441; and www.fda.gov).
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