Your body naturally produces the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in the adrenal gland. In turn, DHEA helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Natural DHEA levels peak in early adulthood and then slowly fall as you age. A synthetic version of DHEA is available for oral use, as a tablet, and a topical cream.Often touted as an anti-aging therapy, DHEA is also claimed to ward off chronic illness and improve physical performance.

The positive effects of DHEA on the skin have been supported by a number of studies, including both systemic (total body) and localized treatment methods. In 2000, Dr. Étienne-Émile Baulieu et al. conducted a study where 280 women and men, ages 60-79 years old, were given 50mg of DHEA by mouth daily for one year. A number of different outcomes were evaluated. With regard to skin, the results showed improvements in:

  • Sebum production
  • Skin surface hydration
  • Skin pigmentation
  • Epidermal thickness

The researchers concluded “a lack of harmful consequences” for the 50mg per day dose. However, like any other sex hormone, DHEA can have symptoms of excess if the dose is too high, such as:

  • Excessively oily skin
  • Acne
  • Increased facial or body hair
  • Breast tenderness

It is important to watch for these symptoms in order to adjust dosing levels.

Another study, conducted by Dr. Stephanie Nouveau et al., went the topical route, which allowed for a more directed approach and a lower dose of DHEA. Over the course of four months, 20 postmenopausal women applied a DHEA 1% (10mg/gm) cream to the skin on their face and hands. When compared to a group of 20 postmenopausal women who applied a cream with no active ingredient, Dr. Nouveau et al. found the topical DHEA tended to improve skin brightness and to counteract epidermal atrophy (a characteristic feature of hormone-related skin aging) as well as the papery appearance of aging skin.

DHEA and Vaginal Tissues

Vaginal atrophy is a common condition in postmenopausal women that often occurs with urinary symptoms and causes considerable discomfort. Typically, women with vaginal atrophy experience:

  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Burning of the vaginal and/or vulvar tissues
  • Painful sexual intercourse

Traditional treatments for these symptoms have included vaginal lubricants/moisturizers and vaginal estrogens. More recently, however, DHEA has also been shown to improve symptoms of atrophy. In a 12-week study by Dr. Fernand Labrie et al., involving almost 500 menopausal women, 6.5mg of DHEA was administered vaginally on a daily basis. The results of this study showed the following benefits:

  • Improvements in vaginal pH (which is important in preventing infections)
  • Improved skin thickness and color
  • Increased vaginal secretions
  • Reduced pain during sexual activity
  • Reduced vaginal dryness

DHEA blood levels remained well within the normal postmenopausal values.


As with all hormones, the key to optimizing DHEA is balance. While supplementing DHEA deficiency can have manifold benefits, it’s equally important to watch for symptoms of excess and to adjust dosage levels to fit individual needs. The studies discussed in this article—along with many others—indicate that, with the guidance of a healthcare practitioner, DHEA may be used to optimize skin health, particularly in inhibiting or even reversing the effects of aging.

Article taken from womensinternational.com.

As a precursor to certain hormones, DHEA has been reported by Medline Plus to improve quality of life, sex drive, and hormone levels in men suffering from insufficient adrenal function. However, additional clinical studies are needed in order to accurately support those claims. A study published in the Clinical Endocrinology Journal studied the effect of DHEA supplements on elderly men over 65 years of age. The results reported that DHEA increased cGMP, an indicator of nitric oxide production, and plays a protective role against cardiovascular disease. The men also reported increases in testosterone levels and decrease cholesterol levels from DHEA. Another clinical study in the Journal of Atherosclerosis reported an inverse relationship with DHEA and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The results found that healthy DHEA levels in men may be associated with atherosclerosis prevention.

Effective Dosage

Research studies have reported effective doses from 25 to 200 mg of DHEA per day for up to one year. A topical cream containing 5 to 10 percent DHEA has also been studied and effective for up to four weeks.

Drug Interactions

Individuals diagnosed with diabetes should be monitored by a physician while taking DHEA because it has been reported to effect blood sugar levels. DHEA may increase blood clotting and cause drug interactions with patients taking anticoagulants or anti-platelet medication, according to Medline Plus. Men who take drugs for thyroid disorders, high cholesterol and endocrine abnormalities should also consult their physician before taking DHEA.

Adverse Effects

Oral DHEA supplementation at recommended doses have been reported to have very few side effects, according to Medline Plus. The most common side effects of DHEA in men include nasal congestion, acne, headache, irregular heartbeats and fatigue. Male users have reported some hormonal side effects like breast tenderness, testicular wasting, aggressiveness and gynecomastia. DHEA supplementation may increase the risk of prostate cancer and alter thyroid hormone levels and adrenal function in some men.

Article taken from livestrong.com.

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