Menopause and Its Effects on Aging Skin
By Jackie Washington, Licensed Aesthetician
Dry, dehydrated skin, hot flashes, and loss of firmness and elasticity. These are symptoms that anyone can experience but are much more prevalent during menopause. Once you begin to notice these changes, you may find yourself in front of the mirror pulling your skin up and out from jaw to temples asking “what’s going on and why is this happening to me? Is it time for botox or a laser treatment?”
The truth is, the primary hormones that govern the onset of menopause, progesterone and estrogen, have been on a gradual decline since the ages of 35-40. Once menopause sets in (on average around age 51) these hormones take a sharper decline in their rate of production, making the symptoms of aging skin more obvious to the woman going through it firsthand. Let’s look at the most frequently voiced skin related concerns women experience during menopause.
Wrinkling, loss of volume/sagging- Collagen and elastin are proteins that give the skin its firm and elastic structure. As female hormones decline so does collagen and elastin production, giving way to deeper wrinkling, sagging and thinning of the skin.
Dry Skin- Our skin naturally produces Hyaluronic Acid and sebum (oil). HA is responsible for binding water to the skin cells, and sebum locks in the HA and naturally lubricates the skin. HA is now being produced less, so our skin’s ability to retain water starts to decline along with the ability to produce oil like it had previously. In turn, we experience a noticeable uptick in dryness.
Compromised Skin Cell Renewal - The natural repair function of the skin starts to slow down, which results in slower cell turnover time. This can lead to a visibly textured appearance highlighting any fine lines and wrinkles you’ve accrued over time. As cell recovery goes into low gear, menopausal skin is more prone to acquiring sensitivities - bruising happens easily, wound healing takes longer, and rosacea may develop or worsen. <<click here to jump to rosacea article>>
Acne- An increase in testosterone can trigger the skin to produce more oil, contributing to breakouts. During times of increased mental or emotional stress, the hormone cortisol ramps up as well, which can cause inflammation and lead to more breakouts.
Sun Damage- The cumulative effects of the sun become more visible in the form of hyperpigmentation (sun damage), commonly referred to as age spots, liver spots and freckling.
Hair Growth & Hair Loss- Shifting hormones play a direct role in hair loss and hair growth. You may notice that your eyebrows and eye lashes seem to be disappearing. On the opposite side of the coin, the lip, cheeks and jawline seem to be sprouting more hair than usual.
Unless you’re a skin care guru, it’s hard to know exactly what to change in your regimen to counteract these issues. Additionally, the sheer number of products available can seem daunting. Luckily, there are some effective skin care strategies and common ingredients that could help minimize the effects menopause has on your skin.
Retinoids- Retinoids have a reputation for building collagen and thickening the deeper layer of skin. Retinols help target wrinkling, loss of volume, hyperpigmentation and sun damage by speeding up cell turnover.
Pigment Correctors- Aside from retinoids, actives such as kojic acid, licorice root, hydroquinone, and glycolic acid can help exfoliate the skin and clear sun damage.
Hyaluronic Acid/Peptides- HA and peptides are humectants that bind moisture to the skin cells. A rich moisturizer with these ingredients can help alleviate dryness and plump up the skin.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids- AHA’s such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid and azelaic acid can be useful when combating acne, since they travel deep into pores and dissolve dead skin cells.
SPF- Consider using a broad-spectrum sunscreen even on cloudy days to prevent further sun damage.
Hair Removal- Waxing, laser and electrolysis are methods of hair removal that can help keep excess hair growth in check.
Menopause is just another phase in life where it’s common to evolve your skin care routine, the same way you may have done with previous milestone markers. Perhaps it was melasma from pregnancy or rosacea that showed up in your 30’s and so on. The good news is with some general knowledge and TLC we can glide through the quirks of menopause with glowing skin.