Menopause and skin
As we age our skin changes but our desire to retain a healthy glow never ceases. In this month’s journal, I highlight two of the key stages in a woman’s life, menopause and perimenopause and how they can impact our skin. I share my favourite products, effective ‘tweakments’ and a few lifestyle changes to help keep you looking and feeling your best.
Menopause is defined as taking place a year after your last period. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. Perimenopause is the transition phase that takes place from two up to ten years prior to the onset of menopause. One of the most difficult aspects of the perimenopausal and menopausal years is just how unpredictable symptoms may be.
Changes to your skin during the menopause
Changes to your skin can start during perimenopause and continue throughout menopause. These changes may manifest as an increase in dryness, redness, breakouts, pigmentation, and fine lines and deep wrinkles. Skin begins to thin due to loss of skin collagen and growths such as skin tags and benign keratoses may become more evident. These skin changes are linked to two physiologic processes: a decline in the number and activity of skin cells and lowering levels of oestrogen.
Oestrogen plays a vital role in keeping skin young, elastic, and healthy. It helps the skin by:
- stimulating the production of sebum (oil), collagen, and other substances involved in skin health
- promoting wound healing
- reducing inflammatory skin disorders
- protecting against sun damage and associated issues
A decline in oestrogen spells the sudden acceleration of ageing and change in our skin’s metabolism. You will see a drop in your body’s sebum production with skin losing its ability to retain moisture. Low oestrogen will result in thinning of the skin due to a loss of collagen. You may experience delayed wound healing and an increase in redness and sensitivity. Changes to your skin regime, diet and lifestyle shifts and, possibly a few focused ‘tweakments’ can help you feel more in control of these changes.
Menopause skin regime: keep it simple
Menopausal skin may become easily irritated. Instead of excessive layering of products, focus on protecting your skin’s microbiome and barrier. Consider using fewer products that are targeted for your specific skin concerns.
Moisturise twice daily and drink plenty of fluids to support and protect the skin barrier. Avoid excessive use of strong acids or abrasive scrubs. Over-washing and exfoliating can damage the skin barrier and increase inflammation and breakouts. Opt for gentle cleansers and rinse with lukewarm rather than hot water.
The importance of sun protection as we age
As we age, we experience reduced blood flow, leading to less oxygen and nutrients delivered to the epidermal layers. This causes skin surface thinning and an increased loss of trans-epidermal water. Thinning skin can be more prone to sun damage.
You may notice more visible age spots and discolouration on areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, chest and arms. You may also start to see broader patches of pigmentation called melasma.
Always use sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 (and ideally higher!) to protect your skin from UV radiation. This will help prevent further photo-ageing, collagen breakdown and skin cancer. With more and more hours spent in front of screens, it’s also important to shield your skin from HEV radiation emitted by computers and other electronic devices.
Reduce inflammation and breakouts
You may experience redness, bumps, and other signs of irritation due to shifts in oestrogen levels before and after menopause. You may also experience menopausal acne, triggered by a shift in the balance between oestrogen and testosterone levels.
Look for products that help strengthen the skin barrier and combat inflammation.
Annual skin examinations to review any moles or skin growths should be an important part of your preventative health screening.
Aesthetic treatments for menopausal skin
There are a variety of aesthetic treatments that can help tackle your skin concerns as your hormone balance changes, below are a few options.
Morpheus8 marries two of the most effective technologies for boosting collagen production; microneedling and radiofrequency. Microneedling creates a micro-trauma within the dermis, stimulating the healing response, whilst radiofrequency utilises heat energy to induce skin tightening. Morpheus8 stimulates the production of new collagen and elastin, resulting in firmer, smoother skin.
Hyaluronic acid fillers are commonly used to help restore volume loss that occurs with ageing and may be accelerated during menopause. Filler may be used to soften hollows such as over the temples and undereyes as well as augment the cheeks and gently lift and contour the jawline. Dermal fillers are often combined with other injectables such as neurotoxin (Botox) and Profhilo.
Profhilo is a highly purified injectable hyaluronic acid (HA) treatment. Delivered directly into the dermis, Profhilo hydrates from the inside out, resulting in smoother, plumper and more glowing skin. It also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin over time, helping to improve skin tone and the appearance of fine lines. Profhilo flows over a broad area and gives a refreshed, natural result. It is especially effective for people whose skin lacks moisture and elasticity.
Lifestyle changes for healthy menopausal skin
Maintaining your general health is as important as any product, treatment or ‘tweakment.’
Try to get enough sleep, aim for eight hours per night. Good bedtime habits include:
- Turning off your phone, or at least set it to aeroplane mode
- Avoid any devices for at least an hour before bed
- Invest in blackout curtains
- Spray your pillow with lavender pillow spray, my favourite is This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Talk Duo.
- Use a meditation app – I like Calm.
Like a lack of sleep, high-stress levels can impact your skin. To manage stress, consider exercise, yoga, meditation, massage and acupuncture.
As we age, exercise is increasingly important, not just for maintaining muscle pain and preventing disease, but to boost mental health, cognitive function and wellbeing. Exercise can also help promote circulation to the skin and maintain a healthy glow.
Diet and supplements
To maintain healthy skin at any age it’s advisable to cut back on or avoid processed foods and meats, limit salt, sugary treats and alcohol and quit smoking.
We generally require fewer calories as we get older but we may need additional nutrients to support overall health and wellbeing.
Important nutrients include vitamin D, protein, calcium and B vitamins, which you can get from a combination of supplements and foods. Foods to feast on include salmon, which is high in protein and a great source of omega 3s and fatty acids. Legumes, such as lima beans, chickpeas and kidney beans, as well as nuts can help support overall health. Turmeric is powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help maintain a healthy heart and joints. Super fruits such as blueberries, avocado, cherries and kiwi help strengthen cognitive function and aid digestion.
Consider including phytoestrogens in your diet
These are foods that can mimic the role of oestrogen in the body, levels of which decline during menopause. Consider adding legumes, beans, flaxseed and fermented organic soy into your diet to help combat symptoms such as hot flashes.