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How Menopause Affects Your Skin

menopause skin

First things first: Why is skin health so important?

 

In order to understand menopausal skin changes it’s important to understand the importance of skin health. It’s often overlooked, but as the largest organ in the human body, your skin is an important barrier that protects you from external aggressors. It is your body’s first line of defense against bacterial, viral, fungal and other infections that may harm your overall health. Your skin has a big job to do and understanding how it changes will help keep it healthy and protected!

 

The skin is stratified into two layers: The epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis forms a thin, superficial outer layer containing melanin that gives your skin its color. The dermis is a deeper layer and forms the main bulk of the skin. It supports blood vessels, nerve endings, and fibers that are predominantly collagen and elastin. This layer is vital in giving your skin its resilience.

 

So if our skin is so important and complex, why does it rapidly age after menopause, what does this mean for our skin health? And what can you do to maintain its youthful glow?


Table of Contents 

 

Why does the skin age faster after menopause?

What are the common effects of menopause on the skin?

What can I do to maintain my skin’s youthful glow?

What about the role of Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Conclusion


Why does the skin age faster after menopause?

 

On average, women enter menopause at 51 years[1], meaning that most women today live about 30 years into their post-menopausal period.[2] This intimate experience varies greatly for each woman. Besides other prevalent physiological changes like fatigue and hot flashes, it is common for women to report skin problems during menopause. Sadly, this issue is often neglected and there is a lack of research exploring it.

 

There is no denying that the skin changes during menopause can be both uncomfortable and distressing. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to counter the effects. The earlier you develop a preventative approach, the better it is for the skin in the long run. But it is never too late to start taking care of the skin and there are some things you can do to reverse any damage if you’re getting a late start.

 

From the onset of menopause, estrogen levels in a woman’s body drop. Estrogen hormone plays a huge role in the signs of aging and preserving your skin’s youthful quality.[3] Studies have shown that the decline in estrogen is associated with various skin issues, such as wrinkles, flushing, dryness, and impaired wound healing. It may even play a role in protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.[4]

 

The visible effect of skin aging is actually not so much related to your chronological age as to the years after menopause.[5] Young women who undergo surgical menopause show the same signs of accelerated aging as those who go through natural menopause. Despite the significant hormonal factors, skin ageing is still influenced by other factors, such as time, sun exposure, environmental factors and a decline in the body’s metabolism.[6]


What are the common effects of menopause on the skin?

 

1. Loss of collagen

 

Collagen makes up about 80% of the dry weight of adult skin.[7] It is a protein that gives your skin its firmness and elasticity. Newborn babies have the highest amount of collagen and it remains at high levels up to adulthood.[8] As time passes, collagen production starts to slow down. As much as 30% of collagen is lost in the first five years after menopause.[9] This loss is strongly associated with estrogen deficiency. The drop in collagen is what speeds up wrinkling and sagging.  

 

2. Skin looseness and wrinkling

 

During menopause many women quickly lose their skin’s elastic fibers and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) due to the drop in estrogen levels.[10] Elastic fibers and GAGs are what make your skin plump and bouncy. When these start to drop, facial wrinkles and creases progressively deepen.

 

3. Thinning of the skin

 

You may notice that as you get older, your skin is much more prone to bruising and tearing. This is because the dermis starts to become thinner with age. The thinning of the dermis occurs due to the loss of collagen, GAGs and water.[11]

 

4. Skin dryness

 

Dry skin is one of the most common skin issues reported by older women. A survey of 3875 postmenopausal women over the age of 40 years found that 36.2% had dry skin.[12] Once again, hormones play a role in keeping the skin hydrated. Estrogen is essential for skin hydration because it increases the skin’s production of GAGs and oil, improves the barrier function and increases water retention.[13] Of course, we are biased in this area but we should mention that applying liberal amounts of moisturizer can help improve the skin’s hydration. It is also important to use a mild and pH-balanced cleanser. Learn more about how to deal with dry skin here

 

5. Pruritus (skin itching)

 

Pruritus or skin itching is a common skin concern in women over 65.[14] Extreme dryness of the skin is what usually causes the itch. The condition is menopause-related, as the skin tends to become much drier with the drop in estrogen levels.[15] Some recommended steps for managing pruritus are using low-pH skincare and makeup, wearing loose and light clothing, keeping the nails short, using a humidifier, restricting bath time, avoiding hot water and moisturizing right after bathing.

 

6. Delayed wound healing

 

As we age, wounds don’t heal and close as quickly. Additionally, the skin becomes more thin and fragile, making it more susceptible to bruises and tears. Estrogen deficiency is thought to contribute to poor wound healing.[16] It has been shown that there is not much difference in wound healing between mature premenopausal women and younger women, but there is a significant difference in recovery time between pre and postmenopausal women.[17] This tells us that hormones are playing a bigger role in wound healing than chronological age.

 

7. Night sweats & flushing

 

As many as 50% of women going through menopausal transition report night sweats and flushing.[18] This number increases up to 80% after menopause.[19] The blushing generally occurs on the face, neck, chest, palms and soles. Estrogen deficiency is linked with a decrease in the skin’s microcirculation – leading to flushing.[20] Rosacea is also known to be a complication of flushing, which is more frequently diagnosed in older women than in men of the same age.[21] Not sure if you have rosacea? We have a great resource here. Studies have shown that hormonal replacement therapy greatly alleviates these symptoms.[22] 

 

8. Decrease in body hair and increase in facial hair

 

As if all the symptoms discussed above are not menacing enough, menopause can also lead to a thinning of the hair in the body and scalp but an increase in facial hair.[23] Once again, this is thought to happen due to hormonal imbalances. 

 

9. Acne

 

Unfortunately, acne is not just for teens. If you think you have outgrown pimples but now find yourself battling with breakouts – rest assured, you are not the only one. It is even possible to wake up in your 40s or 50s to a sprinkling of blemishes when you have never had a single pimple in your teenage years. Acne in older women can happen during the period just before menopause, also known as perimenopause, and can last into their 50s, 60s or even 70s. But don’t worry – there are plenty of treatments available today that can help manage breakouts. To learn everything about acne and menopause, please read our in-depth article on the topic here

 


What can I do to maintain my skin’s youthful glow?

 

1. Dermatological treatments

 

When you start noticing that your skin is starting to sag and becoming less firm, it is sensible to see a dermatologist right away. Early intervention while your skin is still receptive can have the most beneficial effect on the skin.[24] Your dermatologist may suggest different methods of collagen stimulation such as laser resurfacing, microneedling or radiofrequency.

 

2. Retinoids

 

Retinoids are a derivative of vitamin A that is considered one of the best in anti-aging. It comes in either a topical gels or creams that are available by prescription only. These stimulate collagen and help maintain your skin’s thickness while reducing wrinkles. Retinoids can be harsh and very drying to the skin, so it is best to consult with your dermatologist to see if it is suitable for your skin.

 

3. Vitamins C & E

 

There is considerable evidence to support that incorporating vitamins C and E into your skincare routine helps build collagen and gives you glowing skin. It also boosts the efficiency of your sunscreen, and we all know how important it is to practice good sun protection. Learn more about the role of these vitamins in skin care here

 

4. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

 

Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic or lactic acid, have been scientifically proven to show improvement in fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, texture, and rebuilding of collagen. Regular use of a glycolic peel can help maintain your skin’s youthfulness and radiance. Learn more about the benefits of glycolic acid here.

 

5. Hyaluronic acid

 

Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced in our body and is one of the major components of the skin’s youth-supporting dermis. It is considered a glycosaminoglycan that has an exceptional moisture-retaining quality, making it responsible for maintaining the skin’s plumpness and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. As we age, the production of hyaluronic acid slows down, so incorporating creams and serums that contain the molecule may help replenish what is lost.

 

6. Sunscreen

 

Practicing good sun protection year-round can help prevent future skin damage and even reverse some of the damage already done. Minimize your daily sun exposure by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and practicing good sun habits.

 

7. Healthy lifestyle

 

According to Dr. Rivers, leading a healthy lifestyle can help push back the hands of time. He advises to maintain a good diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking. It is crucial to achieve these goals before focusing on your anti-aging products.  

 


What about the role of Hormone Replacement Therapy?

 

Estrogen is a vital hormone that helps a woman’s body function at a healthy state. The treatment with estrogen, also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), has been proven to minimize the unwelcomed side effects of menopause. HRT’s favorable skin benefits include maintaining the skin’s collagen, thickness, elasticity and ability to retain moisture.[25]

 

A recent study has shown that women who receive estrogen replacements have about 30% less dry and wrinkled skin than those who did not.[26] However, not everyone is a good candidate for HRT. It is especially risky for women with a history of breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, or active liver disease. It is best to discuss your personal risk factors with your doctor.

 


Conclusion

 

The hormonal changes during and after menopause can wreak havoc on your skin, from overnight breakouts to deepening wrinkles. So what’s a woman to do? Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do! First and foremost, take care of yourself. This means maintaining a good diet, exercising regularly and not smoking. Secondly, it’s time to take your skincare to the next level. If you haven’t already, commit to a skincare routine that consists of well-formulated anti-aging products suitable for your skin type and maybe even visit a dermatologist. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us

 


[1] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[2] Langen, Stéphanie Barros, Maria C. Fidelis, Margareth O. Pereira, and Adilson Costa. "2." Skin, Mucosa and Menopause. By Elisangela S. P. Pereira. N.p.: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015. 15-23. Print.

[3] Sullivan, Michele G. "Early Intervention May Forestall Menopause-related Skin Aging." Dermatology News. Dermatology News, 30 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

[4] Sullivan, Michele G. "Early Intervention May Forestall Menopause-related Skin Aging." Dermatology News. Dermatology News, 30 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

[5] Sullivan, Michele G. "Early Intervention May Forestall Menopause-related Skin Aging." Dermatology News. Dermatology News, 30 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

[6] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[7] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[8] G, Broniarczyk-Dyla and Joss-Wichman E. "Ageing Of The Skin During Menopause". Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 15.5 (2001): 494-495. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[9] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[10] Langen, Stéphanie Barros, Maria C. Fidelis, Margareth O. Pereira, and Adilson Costa. "2." Skin, Mucosa and Menopause. By Elisangela S. P. Pereira. N.p.: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015. 15-23. Print.

[11] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[12] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[13] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[14] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[15] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[16] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[17] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[18] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[19] Langen, Stéphanie Barros, Maria C. Fidelis, Margareth O. Pereira, and Adilson Costa. "2." Skin, Mucosa and Menopause. By Elisangela S. P. Pereira. N.p.: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015. 15-23. Print.

[20] Calleja-Agius, J., and M. Brincat. "The effect of menopause on the skin and other connective tissues." Gynecological Endocrinology 28.4 (2012): 273-77. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[21] Langen, Stéphanie Barros, Maria C. Fidelis, Margareth O. Pereira, and Adilson Costa. "2." Skin, Mucosa and Menopause. By Elisangela S. P. Pereira. N.p.: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015. 15-23. Print.

[22] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[23] "Skin Disorders During Menopause". MDedge. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

[24] Sullivan, Michele G. "Early Intervention May Forestall Menopause-related Skin Aging." Dermatology News. Dermatology News, 30 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

[25] Langen, Stéphanie Barros, Maria C. Fidelis, Margareth O. Pereira, and Adilson Costa. "2." Skin, Mucosa and Menopause. By Elisangela S. P. Pereira. N.p.: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015. 15-23. Print.

[26] Irwin, Brandith. "Menopause And Skincare | Skintour". Skintour. N.p., 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.