Dryness, deeper wrinkles, and even pigmentation issues – menopause brings about a multitude of changes in your body, and that includes triggering what’s increasingly being nicknamed ‘menopause skin’.
With important conversations about menopause ever-increasing, discussions have not just centered around common symptoms such as hot flashes and low libido. Google searches for ‘menopause skincare’ have increased by 30 per cent over the past year in the UK alone, emphasising the very noticeable side effects for our complexions too.
Whether you are experiencing menopause, perimenopause (which tends to start in your 40s), or simply want to recognise the signs of menopause skin before it occurs, our expert guide can help you treat multiple menopause skin concerns, from dullness to fine lines.
This is what some of our most-trusted experts had to say about ‘menopause skin’:
Why is recognising ‘menopause skin’ important?
“Our skin undergoes some huge changes during menopause” says the consultant dermatologist Dr. Anjali Mahto. “The average age of menopause in the UK is 51 and this has remained stable over many years. However, as we live longer, the average woman may spend up to one-third of her life in menopause. Clearly this is a huge amount of time, so it’s important to be aware of how it might affect you, including changes to your skin.”
“Common changes that women notice are an increase in skin laxity, increased fine lines and wrinkles, dry and dehydrated skin, and an increase in pigmentation. Some women find they also suffer from breakouts and unwanted hair growth on the face,” explains the leading aesthetic doctor Dr. Sophie Shotter. In fact, “menopause is one of the main intrinsic and chronological skin ageing factors for women as it accelerates all ageing processes of the skin,” affirms the advanced facialist Mariam Abbas.
What are the key signs of ‘menopause skin’?
Dryness caused by falling oestrogen levels
A common symptom of menopause is falling oestrogen levels. This not only causes common side effects, such as hot flushes; it also has a massive impact on our complexions. “Oestrogens are essential for skin function and play a number of roles,” reveals Dr. Mahto. “They increase the production of ‘ground substance’ [skin-hydrating components] such as hyaluronic acid. They also increase sebum, water retention and improve barrier function. Reduced oestrogen levels will affect all of these. Receptors for oestrogen are most abundant in body sites such as the face, genitals and lower limbs, therefore dryness in these areas is most common.”
Solution: “For dryness, it’s important to provide the skin with extra moisture. I would advise using a fragrance-free body wash and moisturising your body daily,” says Dr. Mahto. When it comes to facial skincare, “an effective routine for menopausal skin incorporates products that employ humectants, emollients and occlusives, like glycerine, hyaluronic acid and ceramides to replenish and retain cell moisture,” recommends leading oculoplastic surgeon and aesthetics doctor, Dr. Maryam Zamani.
Wrinkles caused by a reduction in collagen
“Studies show that collagen levels reduce by as much as 30 per cent in the first five years of menopause due to a decrease in oestrogen levels which can lead to sagging and thinning of the skin,” reveals the consultant dermatologist Dr. Amélie Seghers. In fact, “collagen levels in the skin fall by about 2.1 per cent per year after the menopause,” according to Dr. Mahto.
Oestrogen is not the only hormone playing a role in ‘menopause skin’ either: “Progesterone [the other main ‘female’ sex hormone] is also thought to help prevent collagen breakdown. That is because progesterone can protect against MMPs [enzymes which are responsible for collagen and other protein degradation],” continues Dr. Seghers. “When levels of progesterone drop in perimenopause, this can contribute to loss of skin firmness.”
Solution: “Focus on ingredients that work by stimulating collagen production, such as [high-street available] retinol and [prescription-strength] tretinoin,” says Dr. Seghers. Dr. Zamani agrees: “Adding a retinoid is essential to brighten the complexion while helping increase cell turnover and promoting the proliferation of collagen and elastin. It’s also important to use regular sunscreen, as UV from the sun’s rays heavily contributes to collagen loss in the skin.
Dull, age-spotted skin due to decreased oestrogen
“Further changes that can be seen in the skin due to lower levels of oestrogen include a decline in melanin regulation, making the skin more prone to photodamage,” says Dr. Seghers. At the same time, a “slowing of your skin metabolism causes a reduction in blood circulation and oxygen supply to the skin, making the skin look sallow, while epidermal and surface conditions such as pigmentation irregularities and redness as well as rosacea from broken capillaries may also occur,” says Abbas.
Solution: “It is never too late to start using daily sunscreen,” reaffirms Dr. Seghers. “If pigmentary changes are already seen, prescription creams containing hydroquinone could be recommended for certain patients,” says Dr. Seghers. Or, for a non-prescription option, “a key ingredient for brightening a dull complexion and diminishing sunspots is Vitamin C,” suggests Dr. Zamani. “It supports with fighting against free radical damage that causes oxidative stress and skin ageing while brightening the skin.” For inflammation, the experts also frequently recommend trying a niacinamide serum, which also boosts overall skin quality and tone.
Increased risk of skin cancer due to impaired immune function
“During menopause, the skin itself becomes thinner, wound healing is delayed and the immune function of the skin is reduced,” explains Dr. Mahto. “The skin becomes more vulnerable to both benign and cancerous growths so it’s a good idea to remain vigilant of any skin changes.”
Solution: “Any non-healing spots or sores, new or changing moles, or any other growths should be reviewed by a GP or dermatologist. Booking in for a yearly check-up is a good idea to ward against any potential issues,” advises Dr. Mahto
Are there ways to prevent ‘menopause skin’?
To some degree, yes, you don’t just have to accept the onset of ‘menopause skin’: “Hormone replacement therapy can help to reduce some of the noticeable skin changes caused by hormone level fluctuations, if you recognise your symptoms as those of perimenopause,” says Dr. Shotter. “Collagen banking from a younger age using treatments like microneedling, skinboosters or energy-based devices can help to maintain better collagen levels in perimenopause too. However they won’t altogether prevent changes from happening, maybe just soften their impact.”
Why might some women experience ‘menopause skin’ more than others?
“Each individual will experience the effects of menopause a little differently, especially when considering extrinsic lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, exercise and environmental exposure – which all have a huge impact on how the skin ages,” reveals Abbas. “For example, a person with high sugar consumption may show more signs of collagen glycation; smokers may show signs of more dull and sallow skin because of the lower oxygen levels and the free radical damage coupled with the depletion of vitamin C. Although intrinsic ageing such as decreased oestrogen levels, bone shrinking and collagen degradation is inevitable for each individual who goes through menopause, genetics will determine how exactly the skin ages.”
What lifestyle changes can help with ‘Menopause Skin’?
“Don’t underestimate the importance of focusing on how you are looking after your body as well,” says Dr. Shotter. “Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, and incorporating regular exercise into your lifestyle are all essential parts of looking after your skin from the inside out.”
“I advise my patients to consider a consultation with a nutritionist around this time in their lives to help them understand their body’s changing needs. But there are some basic supplements which I believe all women should be taking – Vitamin D3 (at least 2000IU per day, but many people need much more than this), a probiotic and Magnesium are a good place to start. I’m also a fan of taking collagen peptides to help provide the body with the building blocks to make its own collagen as well as Vitamin C to boost immunity and again support collagen production.”
Can tweakments help with ‘Menopause Skin’?
Aesthetic ‘tweakments’, aka non-surgical procedures, are becoming an increasingly popular option for tackling stubborn signs of ageing that might accelerate during menopause, such as deep wrinkles and age spots. However, there’s not one single tweakment for ‘menopause face’ and it really depends on your own individual concerns (as with your traditional skincare regime).
“It’s hard to give a single, one-size-fits-all solution, so focus on what is your main problem,” explains Dr. Seghers. “Is your skin too dry? You might want to consider injectable moisturisers such as Profhilo. If the brown sun-induced spots on your face are of concern, you might want to consider IPL or BBL. And, if you want to focus on tightening your skin, you might consider microneedling, Morpheus8 or Ultherapy.” Dr. Shotter also highly recommends skin boosters: “I’m a big fan of injectables, particularly HArmonyCa™ for this stage of life, as it can really help restore volume and collagen.”
Our Tweak of the Week column contains some tried-and-tested suggestions to look into, should you wish, but it’s important to remember that these tweakments can have differing amounts of downtime (aka the amount of redness, peeling, bruising or swelling you can expect). So, do your research and see a highly-qualified practitioner (rather than just the cheapest). Our quoted experts here are a very strong starting point.
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Lead image credit: Varana