How does the menopause affect your skin?
The menopause is a time of significant change for your body. But the fluctuating hormone levels that initiate it can also result in significant changes to your skin.
The term ‘menopause’ has come to be synonymous with so many things. But officially, it simply means the end of a women’s menstrual cycles. It’s usually diagnosed/defined as 12 months after the final period occurs (typically between the ages of 45 to 52). The perimenopause – or menopause transition period – usually begins several years before. The hormonal changes that take place during both menopause and perimenopause can have a dramatic effect on your body, your weight, your mood – and the appearance of your skin.
What happens to the skin during menopause?
The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones. The ovaries stop producing as much oestrogen and progesterone, and stop releasing eggs. This has lots of implications for all sorts of bodily functions, and can trigger many different side-effects including hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain and trouble sleeping. You’re also likely to experience noticeable changes to how your skin looks and feels.
Everyone is different, but common skin concerns during the menopause and perimenopause include dryness, dullness, hyperpigmentation, sagging and increased sensitivity. Most of these can be attributed to declining levels of oestrogen. For example, oestrogen levels are linked to the production of collagen – the main connective tissue that basically holds us together. Often referred to as the skin’s “scaffolding”, collagen can decline by up to 30% in the first few years of menopause, resulting in sagging skin, more pronounced lines and wrinkles, and general skin crepiness. Oestrogen also plays a role in maintaining elastin levels. When these drop, skin loses its natural volume and “bounce”.
Skin oiliness often changes during menopause and perimenopause. That’s because oestrogen also plays a role in sebum production. As oestrogen levels drop, it’s common for skin to become drier, duller and thinner – in fact skin dryness is one of the key clinical changes during facial ageing post-menopause. It’s quite common for skin to become less able to retain water during and after the menopause, as natural hyaluronic acid levels drop and the lipid barrier becomes disrupted. In addition to feeling dry, your skin might also look/feel tight, itchy and flaky, especially after showering or swimming. Finally, as your oestrogen to testosterone ratio declines during menopause, some women experience unwanted facial hair growth and even menopausal acne.
How to look after your skin during menopause
The good news is there are plenty of skincare products and ingredients that can alleviate the skin concerns that are commonly experienced during menopause. A few careful tweaks to your routine really can make a world of difference.
Start by switching to a gentle cleansing balm. Great skincare – at any age and stage – begins with regular, effective cleansing. Emma Hardie’s Moringa Balm with Cleansing Cloth is a firm and enduring favourite. This ‘spa in a jar’ formulation deep cleanses without drying. A blend of essential oils helps to condition and rejuvenate skin. It smells amazing, too.
Face serums deliver a potent shot of ingredients to your skin, and are packed full of powerful actives that penetrate deeply and efficiently. Evaluate your main skin concerns, and choose a serum that’s created specifically to address these. For example, if you feel your skin needs a hydration boost, look for a serum that contains Hyaluronic Acid – a powerful humectant that attracts and binds water to the skin. We like SkinCeuticals’ H.A Intensifier. This multitasking corrective serum amplifies the skin’s own hyaluronic acid levels to boost hydration, plumpness and firmness. If you’re concerned about dullness, restore your natural glow with a brightening serum such as Medik8’s C-Tetra. Featuring Vitamins C and E, this fast-absorbing antioxidant formula brightens and balances, stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, and combats both sun and pollution-induced damage.
During/after menopause, skin loses its ability to hold onto moisture. So swap any lightweight moisturising gels and lotions for richer, more nourishing creams. Swissline’s Cell Shock Luxe-Lift Rich Cream is perfect for dry, dehydrated and mature skin. This rejuvenating formula is designed to diminish the appearance of multiple signs of ageing, including wrinkles, sagging, dryness and loss of volume. Key ingredients include pure marine collagen, colloidal gold, silk protein and bio-mimetic growth factors. These help to boost collagen synthesis and tackle cellular damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.
All-round anti ageing
One of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients available is Retinol, a type of Vitamin A. So it’s well worth incorporating this into your skincare regime during menopause, if you’re not already using it. Retinol is all about renewal. It stimulates the production of collagen, and helps to minimise the appearance of lines and wrinkles. It also effectively decongests pores, counters dark spots and pigmentation, and improves texture and tone.
If you’re new to Retinol, start with a low concentration and phase in application gradually, to minimise any potential irritation. Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 1 is a great entry-level Vitamin A formula. Made with stabilised retinol, it’s fast acting but effective. Other strengths are available once your skin is ready to progress.
It’s well known that hot flashes are a common side-effect of the menopause. Avène’s Eau Thermale Water Spray is a great way to cool down, and tackle all sorts of redness and sensitivity. Avène specialises in sensitive skin, and each product (including this spray) features Avène’s Thermal Spring Water – a unique active ingredient that’s been clinically proven to soothe skin irritation. This portable spray cools, comforts and counters itching. It’s also ideal for use after facial aesthetic treatments and hair removal.
If you’re sleeping poorly due to menopause and feel it’s showing in your face, a restorative mask can help to reduce signs of fatigue. The Organic Pharmacy’s Honey & Jasmine Mask is an excellent nourishing option, deeply hydrating and enriched with antioxidants. If you prefer an overnight treatment, try Avant’s Anti-Ageing Glycolic Lifting Face & Neck Mask. This formulation works deep within the skin while you sleep to exfoliate, resurface and rejuvenate. Brightness is boosted, lines and wrinkles appear diminished, and elasticity is restored.
Last, but by no means least, do not forget about sun protection. A daily sunscreen is an absolute must at any age, all-year round, to protect your skin against UV damage and premature ageing. Heliocare’s portfolio combines high-level SPFs with advanced antioxidant protection, plus DNA repair enzymes. We like the 360 Water Gel SPF50+. It dries to an invisible matte finish, making it ideal for layering with other skincare and/or makeup products.