The Effects of Menopause on the Skin
For something that affects half of the global population, we really don’t talk about menopause enough.
And yet the effects of this significant hormonal change can be wide-ranging. Many of these can be health-related, but menopause can also affect our appearances. There are plenty of guides to dealing with various skin conditions, and plenty of products targeted at them too. But what about menopausal skin?
Dr Sonia is a GP with a special interest in dermatology (@dermgp) who has partnered with Faace to open up this important conversation. With their help, we’re lifting the lid on all things menopause.
So, let’s start at the beginning...
What is menopause?
The Menopause Charity describes it as ‘the time when you stop having periods and can no longer get pregnant naturally. This occurs because your ovaries stop producing eggs and, as a result, levels of the hormones they produce (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) fall.’ This is usually diagnosed when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. So, when does menopause start? It can vary, but the average age of menopause for women in the UK is 51.
What is early menopause and perimenopause?
Early menopause is a term for women who have reached menopause before the age of 45. Whereas perimenopause refers specifically to the ‘build-up’ to menopause.
As Dr Sonia (@dermgp) explains, ‘Many women start to experience shifts in hormones that send their periods haywire in the years leading up to menopause. This phase is called the perimenopause – women can start experiencing changes in their menstrual cycle, skin and mood changes during this time.’ After all, such a significant change in our bodies is unlikely to happen overnight.
And what are the symptoms of perimenopause? There are a few, but they usually include lighter or more irregular periods as you approach this stage of life. If you’re ever concerned, you should always speak to your GP.
What are the main symptoms of menopause?
Symptoms will vary from person to person. The Menopause Charity lists the main symptoms as ‘hot flushes, aches and pains, and bladder or urinary problems, or psychological symptoms, such as mood swings, anxiety and brain fog.’ These symptoms can last anywhere between a few months and several years.
How does perimenopause and menopause affect the skin?
Unfortunately, there are a number of potential ways these hormonal changes can disrupt our skin. As Dr Sonia explains, the main ones include dryness, fine lines & wrinkles, acne & rosacea and discolouration.
‘The nosedive in hormones during the perimenopause results in skin dryness which is one of the commonest reported symptoms. This dryness not only affects the skin on your face but also vaginal dryness which can be quite uncomfortable. It is really important to look for skincare ingredients that hold moisture into the skin to help during this phase.’
FINE LINES AND WRINKLES
‘There is a drop in collagen levels, and you might notice fine lines and wrinkles that seem to have settled in overnight! Itchy skin is often noticed during this time too, again usually caused by drier skin due to loss of oestrogen and collagen.’
Acne and Rosacea
‘Perimenopausal skin can become more sensitised and respond unpredictably to ingredients. You may also start to notice that your skin is more prone to acne that’s reminiscent of your teenage years! A lot of women experience hot flushes and redness of the skin and many develop rosacea.’
‘Women of colour may experience discolouration and hyperpigmentation, a concern I often see in my clinics. Those pesky dark circles may even become more apparent.’
What products help treat menopausal skin?
As with any ageing skin, the key seems to be hydration, protection (SPF all the way) and lots of antioxidants. Dr Sonia also recommends ‘ingredients that boost collagen and control sebum levels to prevent flares of acne.’
The best ingredients for menopausal skin:
- Glycerin and hyaluronic acid (both help skin to retain moisture)
- SPF (helps to protect against pigmentation and further discolouration)
- Tyrosinase inhibitors for pigmentation (e.g. kojic acid)
- Vitamin A/retinol (for improved skin quality, counteracting sebum/acne and helping with dullness and fine lines)
- Antioxidants like vitamin C
What are the best ways to treat the skin at perimenopause stage vs during the menopause?
‘Skin can be very unpredictable and sensitised during the perimenopause phase due to the changing levels of oestrogen. I would advise introducing vitamin A/retinoid to normalise and regulate the healthy functioning of the skin cells, as well as hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump.’
‘The skin can get much drier and more sensitive/rosacea prone when you reach menopause so steer clear of abrasive treatments and deep scrubs. You should be looking to use gentle products with antioxidants which can help protect against environmental stressors and continue to use products with ingredients that help with the skin barrier (ceramides). Look for products labelled non-comedogenic and containing niacinamide if your skin is particularly breakout-prone during this period.’
Is the impact of menopause different for women of colour?
‘Women of colour can experience discolouration and hyperpigmentation, a concern I often see in my clinics. Some women experience more pigmentation on their face, called melasma, which can be quite tricky to treat. A new study in the US has found that Black, Asian and Latina women go through the menopause earlier than white women. Symptoms, including hot flushes and vaginal dryness, are also usually more intense and prolonged, research suggests.’
What advice do you have for women experiencing symptoms of perimenopause/menopause?
‘Do not shy away from speaking to your GP about it as there are several treatment options! Menopause is not an illness, but a life transition we go through and there are so many things that can be done to make this transition smoother and easier. I think it’s really important for people to understand their bodies, talk openly about their experiences and get the help they need, when they need it for a smooth transition!’
Hopefully you’re feeling a bit more clued up on menopause than you were before, and if you’re currently going through it, just know there are a number of options to help remedy whatever symptoms you’re dealing with. Just remember, this is not medical advice and if you have any questions or concerns, you should always speak to your doctor.
If you found this helpful, check out our Online Beauty Counter, where you can find more expert advice and insider tips, including our ‘concerns’ pages, where we tackle specific skin conditions like fine lines, acne and dehydration.
OR, get stuck right in with our selection of skincare to suit every need.