Comprehensive Guide to Menopause Skincare: Rejuvenate and Protect Your Skin
by Heather Smith on Sep 15, 2023
Navigating menopause is a journey, and guess what? Your skin is along for the ride. Whether you're going through surgical menopause at a younger age or experiencing these changes later in life, this guide has got your back.
It's no secret that hormones are the puppet masters here. They can make your skin dry, bring on wrinkles, and—surprise, surprise—even cause acne. But don't sweat it; you've got some control in this situation.
The aim here isn't to chase the fountain of youth or erase every wrinkle. Aging is a part of life and we are pro-healthy skin. There's no shame in wearing your wrinkles like badges of honor. But we're all about giving your skin the TLC it deserves to set you up for a healthier future.
Expert Tip: Oil serums, like our Bakuchiol Age Support Serum , are excellent for menopausal skin because they multitask to tackle hydration, moisture, wrinkles, pigmentation, and acne.
Understanding the Impact of Hormones on Skin
You will notice a lot of changes to the elasticity of your skin during menopause . The hormonal changes that accompany this phase, specifically the decrease in estrogen levels, are largely responsible.
At the cellular level, menopause heralds some significant changes that impact the health and appearance of your skin. A decline in estrogen levels, has a domino effect on collagen and elastin, the building blocks that keep your skin firm and elastic. This reduction can lead to a loss of skin thickness, making it more susceptible to wrinkles, sagging, and dryness. Additionally, reduced blood flow to the skin can compromise its ability to heal and repair itself, while the diminished activity of sebaceous glands can result in drier skin as the levels of natural oils decrease.
Testosterone production does not increase, but the ratio of the sex steroids changes as all your hormone levels find a new baseline. In the context of menopause, the relative levels of testosterone become more pronounced as estrogen levels decline. This shift sometimes leads to increased sebum production and acne or oily skin. Additionally, elevated levels of androgens can be responsible for the growth of unwanted facial hair during menopause.
Understanding these cellular shifts is crucial for designing a menopausal skin care routine that will work for the specific skin problems you're facing. Menopause skin care is an emerging niche in the skincare world, and it's one that is here to stay. You can mitigate the intensity of these changes with the right care regime.
Common Skin Issues Faced During Menopause
Starting in the perimenopause period, and as you transition through the whole process, your estrogen levels decrease. The role of hormones in skin changes during menopause is crucial. Here are some effects you might experience:
Dryness: A decline in estrogen levels can hamper your skin's ability to hold onto moisture.
Itchiness: General itching is common, and exceedingly annoying. In fact, itching during menopause can become a source of skin injury if scratching becomes a problem.
Wrinkles: Reduced estrogen impacts the production of collagen and elastin, proteins essential for maintaining skin's firmness and elasticity, leading to the formation of wrinkles.
Sensitivity: As hormonal levels shift, you may find your skin becoming more sensitive, reacting adversely to skincare products or environmental factors that it previously had no issue with.
Thinning Skin: Lower estrogen levels can result in reduced skin thickness, making it more fragile and prone to bruising and tearing. This also makes dark undereye circles a lot more noticeable.
Reduced Elasticity: The decline in elastin production means your skin might not bounce back as quickly as it used to, leading to a saggy appearance.
Hyperpigmentation: Hormonal changes can trigger dark spots or patches on the skin, commonly known as age spots or liver spots.
Impaired Healing: The rate at which your skin repairs itself may slow down, making you more susceptible to cuts, bruises, and scars.
Acne: Menopause can trigger acne in some women due to hormonal imbalances affecting sebum production or due to barrier damage and dryness.
Rosacea Flare-ups: Women with existing rosacea may experience increased flare-ups during menopause, aggravated by hormonal changes.
Increase in Facial Hair: Lower estrogen levels and a relative increase in androgens can lead to the growth of unwanted facial hair.
Understanding these hormone-driven changes is the first step toward tailoring a skincare routine that effectively addresses the challenges unique to menopausal skin.
Managing Dryness, Itchiness, & Sensitivity
Although some women do have increased oiliness, by far the most common menopause skin changes is dryness. Staying properly hydrated can significantly improve the dryness, sensitivity, and itchiness during menopause. The importance of hydration for menopausal skin can't be overstated.
Here are six critical tips to help you restore skin hydration and maintain it:
Increase your water intake. It's a simple but effective step for combating dry skin from menopause (and any other cause too). Also Consider using a humidifier. It can add moisture to the air in your home, helping to hydrate your skin.
Avoid skin barrier damage. A damaged skin barrier results in water loss and skin dehydration. The main culprits are excessive washing, over-exfoliation, using cleansers that strip oils, using hot water, and using too many (or too frequent) irritating active ingredients.
Use humectants to bring water to the skin. Look for products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerine, beta-glucan, aloe, and allantoin.
Seal moisture into your skin using lipids (fats) which come from moisturizers and emollients. Some of the best moisturizing emollients are found in natural plant oils. Check out our beginner's guide to face oils as well as our list of face oils for dry skin and our list of anti aging face oils for LOTS more information.
Soothe your skin with ingredients that help calm and relieve dry, stressed skin and improve your moisture barrier include: ceramides, niacinamide, bisabolol, colloidal oatmeal, and hydrolyzed proteins.
Re-examine your exfoliation regimen. What was working before menopause might now be excessive and damaging. Lactic acid is gentler than glycolic and also functions as a humectant. Another great option is to try polyhydroxy-acids which are antioxidant, humectants, and gentle exfoliators.
As we discussed above, the imbalance in sex-hormones results in higher levels of testosterone, relative to the drop in estrogen. For some people, this translates into increased oiliness. However, many times the acne-hormone connection is not related to increased oil or sebum.
Dehydrated, dry, itchy, damaged skin barriers can trigger acne. Taking the approach to sensitive, dry and damaged skin that we described above will also often deal with the acne as well. A win-win!
We recommend using a high-quality face oil or oil serum that contains evening primrose oil or borage oil as part of your moisturization regimen. Both oils are high in GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which possibly influences hormonal acne.
Natural remedies can be a safe and effective way to manage your acne, but there's a lot to know so that you don't end up with more barrier damage and a worsening of your condition. Bottom line, simplify your routine first and get hydration levels fixed before you try too many other products.
This is a category where you have a lot of choice in effective ingredients that range from natural to prescription-based and even in-office procedures.
Different agents have differing levels of skin irritation potential, so consumers can really tailor their regimen to their skin type. We've written separate articles on managing hyperpigmentation as well as natural alternatives to hydroquinone. The topic is too big to discuss here.
Mainstays of treatment generally include Vitamin C or retinoids, but the options are vast.
Importance of Sunscreen for Menopausal Skin
Although preventing skin cancer is the main purpose, sunscreen is critical for preventing hyperpigmentation from worsening. Menopause comes with a lot of general symptoms like hot flashes. It's important to know that skin changes with menopause make your skin more vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays. And that's why dermatologists recommend that you apply sunscreen on your face daily, rain or shine.
Treating Wrinkles, Sagging, and Skin Thinning
When you're going through menopause, wrinkles, sagging, and skin thinning often occur in concert, and understanding this interrelationship is key to effective treatment. The underlying factors—like the loss of collagen, diminished fat stores, and alterations in the skin's natural matrix—often result in these three visible signs of aging. They're essentially different manifestations of the same root cause: the skin losing its youthful components and structure.
Key Ingredients to Address Multiple Concerns
This is where skincare marketing can go bonkers promising unrealistic and inappropriate results. Very few ingredients have a solid base of scientific evidence, but everyone wants you to think they've got the next-big-thing.
Starting with the simple basics described above will do wonders for your fine lines. Nothing makes wrinkles look more prominent than having dry, irritated, flaky skin.
Hydration = plumpness = reduced wrinkles.
If you're on a budget, focus on hydration & moisture first!
That said, there are various skincare ingredients designed to target collagen quality or production.
Retinoids: There's a good amount of evidence for effectiveness and retinoids target more than just wrinkles. They're effective against acne and hyperpigmentation as well. The issue with retinoids is the dryness and irritability they cause and some women (who previously use/love retinoids) suddenly become intolerant of them when menopause hits. This is often where bakuchiol can come to the rescue because of its less-irritating nature.
Peptides and Growth Factors: These types of ingredients claim to land in your skin cells with a message - grow collagen! There may be truth to their effectiveness, but the issue is that so many variations exist (and so few have any good data) that the options are muddied. Our recommendation is to target hydration, moisture, pigmentation, and antioxidants first and if you have money left over, go peptide shopping.
Antioxidants: These combat free radicals that exacerbate aging, helping to improve the skin's overall texture and reduce wrinkles. Good news -ingredients like Vitamin C have overlapping effects, so you can multi-task.
Niacinamide: Known for its versatility, niacinamide can improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and strengthen the skin barrier, making this another multi-tasking ingredient.
The term inflammaging is relatively new. It's a broader category that looks at aging from a different perspective - a whole body, holistic one. We've written a comprehensive article about inflammaging, but the TL;DR on the topic is about your overall lifestyle. Your lifestyle choices can significantly impact how your complexion reacts to hormonal changes during this transitional period.
Drinking plenty of water, for instance, can help to maintain your skin's elasticity, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can deteriorate your skin's health and make your cells age faster due to free radical damage, among other things.
Diets rich in antioxidants like berries, spinach, and nuts can help to fight off free radicals that speed up skin aging. Additionally, incorporating foods high in phytoestrogens, such as flaxseeds and soy products, may help balance your hormones naturally.
Regular physical activity plays a key role in maintaining your complexion's vibrancy and elasticity. Exercise boosts circulation, promoting a healthy glow, and it also helps to nourish skin cells. Sweating can even help to expel toxins, potentially reducing breakouts and improving your overall skin health.
You're not limited to natural remedies; there are also professional treatments available that can address your complexion issues effectively.
Consider visiting a dermatologist to get a personalized treatment plan. You could benefit from procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, microneedling, or laser treatments to stimulate collagen production, reduce fine lines, and improve your skin's texture. Prescription topical treatments also exist.
If you've been started on hormone replacement therapy by your healthcare provider, you may notice changes to your skin as well, though this would not be a primary indication to initiate treatment.
Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Every woman's menopausal journey is unique, and what works for others might not work for you. Dealing with your skin in menopause may require you to hit the reset button. The skin you thought you had figured out has now changed and your routine will need to change with it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Menopause Trigger Skin Allergies or Sensitivities That Were Not Previously Present?
Yes, it's possible. During this transitional period, your body undergoes hormonal changes that can manifest as new skin sensitivities or allergies. It's crucial to adjust your skincare routine to these changes.
Does Menopause Affect the Speed of Wound Healing in the Skin?
Yes, menopause can slow down wound healing. Your body's decreasing estrogen levels reduce skin elasticity and moisture, affecting its ability to repair. If you have severely itchy skin, try to focus on ways of soothing without scratching so you don't worsen fragility.
What About Estrogen Face Cream?
Topical estrogen is often the mainstay treatment for vulvar and vaginal issues post menopause. Topical estrogen face cream is controversial, so you would need to discuss this with a physician well-versed in the current evidence and potential risks.
How Does Menopause Impact the Appearance of Existing Skin Conditions Such as Rosacea or Eczema?
Existing skin conditions like rosacea or eczema can worsen during menopause. You'll notice increased dryness and sensitivity due to hormonal changes. It's important to adjust your skincare routine to manage these changes effectively.
Can Menopause Lead to Changes in Skin Pigmentation, Causing Dark Spots or Discoloration?
Yes, it can. Your hormonal changes during menopause can indeed lead to skin pigmentation changes, causing dark spots or discoloration. It's important to protect and nourish your skin during this time.
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