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Menopause skin care: How your skin changes during menopause

Menopause skin care: How your skin changes during menopause

As we enter menopause, our skin goes through changes of its own, much like puberty. Find out why, and what new menopause skin care regime will help

For too long, midlife skincare has been about “defying” one’s age and turning back the clock. Ageing has felt like a dreaded, shameful process—and the products marketed to middle aged women have largely ignored concerns related to skin other than the face, neck and décolleté.

But with over six million women entering menopause globally every year, plus women living and working longer, managing menopausal symptoms and ageing comfortably in one’s skin are more important than ever.

Here’s what you need to know about the changes skin undergoes at midlife, plus tips for keeping yours healthy, supple and glowing long term.

Physiological changes to skin

Woman going through menopause checking skin changes in mirrorAs you enter perimenopause, you may notice your skin using its elasticity because of hormone changes

Just like every other part of the body, our skin goes through major shifts during perimenopause and menopause. Its texture can morph into a different consistency and it can behave as erratically as it did during adolescence.

And this goes for skin all over the body, including vaginal skin, which can lead to dryness and discomfort, in addition to painful sex and discomfort when urinating.

The source of all the change? Hormonal fluctuation. In the years leading up to menopause, which occurs on average in the UK at age 51, the body gradually produces less progesterone and estrogen, which results in symptoms like fluctuating periods, hot flushes, mood swings and brain fog.

For our skin, less progesterone means the reduced production of sebum or natural oils.

"Flagging levels of oestrogen lead to a breakdown of collagen, which results in wrinkles"

In addition, flagging levels of oestrogen lead to a breakdown of collagen, which results in wrinkles, thinning and a crepey texture.

Finally, too much cortisol (the stress hormone that can be elevated during perimenopause and menopause) can cause the skin to appear grey and dull.

“As we age, our bodies are not as resilient as they used to be,” explains Terry Loong, a physician who is a member of the British Menopause Society and specialises in hormone balancing and aesthetic medicine.

Consequently “there’s a lot of stress on women’s bodies and mental states,” says Dr Loong, which takes a toll on our skin.

What can be done?

There are several ways to handle midlife skin changes. If you choose to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to help manage broader menopause symptoms, you can also expect to see some benefits to the skin.

“Oestrogen helps with thickness and plumpness,” says Cat Armor, a certified menopause coach known as The Hormone Fairy. “It locks in moisture and helps elasticity.”

"Oestrogen helps with thickness and plumpness"

As for testosterone, small amounts help midlife women with energy and motivation—plus improve fine lines and wrinkles, too.

Further improvements can be made by balancing hormones through lifestyle adjustments like regular exercise and stress reducing activities (think yoga and walking).

Getting between seven and nine hours of sleep and limiting your intake of processed foods and alcohol are all also effective strategies for boosting skin’s appearance. “Inner work,” says Armor, can make a big impact.

Age-positive skincare products

Woman uses skin cream for menopause skin care regimeA new wave of skin care companies is putting age-positivity and irritant-free products first

Products can help, too. Especially those being created by several exciting new skincare brands—namely Stripes (founded by Hollywood actress Naomi Watts), Womaness, and Kindra—that are out to overhaul how middle-aged women are perceived, and offer innovative, authentic, science-backed solutions to the issues ageing skin can have. 

“There’s not a lot of good advice out there and not many doctors specialise in menopause,” says Michelle Jacobs, who co-founded of Womaness because she couldn’t find the products she needed when she reached midlife.

“No one asks 45-year-old women how they’re feeling or talks to them about the next phase of their healthcare.”

"What midlife women need is a positive attitude about ageing and clean, non-toxic, hormone-free ingredients"

Well, no one…until now. These brands believe that what midlife women—and their skin—need includes a positive attitude about ageing and clean, non-toxic, hormone-free ingredients.

For those reasons, their models are actually middle aged, and their formulas are largely unscented to reduce the risk of irritation caused by changes in the pH level of skin.

In addition, their gentle cleansers and treatment creams are packed with moisturising ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalene and ceramides (Resting Clean Face from Stripes; Overnight Magic from Womaness) instead of chemical exfoliators that can be too harsh on mature skin.

Specially formulated for menopause skin changes

This new genre of skincare is also addressing the changes that happen on skin all over women’s bodies during this life phase.

Parched skin on the body or vaginal dryness that’s causing extreme discomfort or hindering sexual function?

Most women experience these issues while journeying through perimenopause and menopause, and these brands want to be a “first line of defense” with offerings like The Full Monty body oil, The Works all-over toning body cream and The Daily Vaginal Lotion.

“We’re not out to try to get rid of every single wrinkle on your face,” says Jacobs. “We want to make our customers feel better and more comfortable—to serve them what they need.”

Ultimately, our identities and perspectives evolve during middle age, and our skincare should, too. “Simplify!” says Dr Loong. “Get the basics right and listen to your skin. You’ll feel more empowered.” Which is the perfect way to transition into our next life phase.

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