Perimenopause & Menopause Mini Series 2 - How this life stage can affect our skin
Many of us will see the biggest changes to our skin during perimenopause and menopause. It may feel tighter, drier, itchier and rougher with a dull appearance. Rosacea and broken capillaries may develop. Fine lines will seem more prominent. We may even see a return of acne or experience it for the first time. Much of this isn’t exclusive to the skin on our face either, changes happen to the skin all over our body.
So why does this happen? Most of the cells in our skin have oestrogen receptors. Oestrogen has four key functions within our skin which, when depleting, will cause changes:
1.. Oestrogen produces hyaluronic acid
This is a gel like substance produced just below the skins surface. It’s a natural hydrator and is able to retain water so it’s a real skin superhero. It gives the skin fullness, reducing fine lines and dryness. But as oestrogen declines, so does the production of hyaluronic acid. Therefore our skin finds it harder to retain moisture leaving it dry, dull and scaly. The natural shedding of dry dead skin cells slows right down too. The radiant glow we maybe once had seems to fade away. When skin cells don’t shed effectively skincare products that are applied cannot penetrate effectively and do their job.
2. Oestrogen stimulates the sebaceous glands
Therefore sebum (oil) is produced to keep the skin nourished and smooth. When this depletes skin becomes drier, scaly and rougher.
3. Oestrogen also builds collagen
This is a connective tissue that gives skin its strength and structure. When they decrease, stiffen and break apart this results in deeper lines, sagging and loss of tone.
4. Oestrogen produces ceramides
Ceramides are a lipid that binds the top layers of the skin together so that it can retain water and protect from irritants. When these decrease the skin finds it harder to hold on to water. Again resulting in drier skin which can become sensitised due to its protective layer being compromised.
It’s been found that oestrogen levels start to decrease in the skin up to ten years before we are fully menopausal. So these symptoms of decreasing moisture and changes to the structure of the skin can creep up on us over a period of time. Testosterone can also wreak havoc by producing excess sebum which can lead to an oilier skin, blemishes and blocked pores. We can also see an increase in facial hair too. The rate in which our skin cells renew slows down massively. But help is at hand, we can tweak our current skincare routines to see positive results.
What can I do to improve the health of my skin?
There are lots of small changes we can make to see and feel a difference in our skin. Healthy radiant skin is possible whatever our age and no matter what treatment for perimenopause and menopause we decide to take. Even though we might not feel like our skin is that important in the grand scheme of possible symptoms it can definitely contribute to us feeling just a little bit more 'meno-poised'. Especially at a time when we may not be feeling poised at all.
Start with reviewing your current skincare routine
Focus on the basics, don’t have an over complicated regime. Choose products that are gentle, nourishing and hydrating by looking for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides and squalene to support the skins natural barrier and moisture. Peptides and retinoids are collagen boosting ingredients and will help to combat loss of firmness and fine lines. Treat skin as ‘maturing’ skin and try to see this as a positive because it is. We are lucky to see our skin change and develop with age, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times.
Choose gentle cleansers such as balms, oils and milks which won’t strip the skin.
Always keep a facial mist to hand. These are wonderful hydrating sprays that you can use any time of day or night.
Opt for serums that contain vitamin C to brighten the complexion and hyaluronic acid to hydrate.
Use a gentle exfoliator to remove dry dead skin cells and encourage new cells to form.
Try not to over use acids and peels such as glycolic or lactic acid. They still have a place in many skincare routines to exfoliate, brighten and stimulate the skin but pare back a little.
Retinoids (vitamin A) are an incredible addition to an evening routine but if you haven’t used them before introduce them gradually. They can make a real difference to the appearance and texture of the skin.
Moisturise with a cream suitable for your skin. Don’t feel you have to use a super rich formulation if your skin isn’t particularly dry. There are lots of different textures to choose from for this age group.
Sunscreen should be a daily staple, even in the winter, and especially after applying retinoid the night before. Falling oestrogen means that our skins production of melanocytes, which protect skin from the sun, decreases. So we are more prone to sun damage. Always choose factor 50.
Don’t overload the skin with too many thick rich products. Be mindful of how your skin looks and feels and if it needs more product you can apply it. I always suggest cleansing the face and applying your evening routine products several hours before bed. This way you can then see and feel if you face needs more moisture just before going to bed.
Treat the skin on your body much the same as the skin on your face. You may be experiencing dry, dehydrated, rough, itchy skin as hormone levels fluctuate. Use a gentle shower gel and moisturise daily. Use a gentle body exfoliator once or twice a week to remove dry dead skin cells. You don’t need to use harsh scrubs as this might make the situation worse. Many body care products contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides etc. So keep your eyes peeled for these if you have particularly dry skin.
"Ultimately concentrate on feeding and nourishing the skin. Think of your new skincare routine as a real act of kindness to yourself.."
And also think about:
Feeding the skin from the inside
Keeping hydrated with drinking water, feeding our body nutritious gut friendly food and reducing our sugar intake will not only benefit our skin but all systems of the body. A good quality Omega 3 supplement can make a positive impact. Omega 3 are a crucial component of the lipid membrane of skin cells. So this is also a good place to start feeding the skin from the inside out. Check with your GP before taking if you have any concerns.
Don’t treat the skin harshly if you experience spots and blackheads. There is no need to try to strip the skin of oil. This will only create further problems. Treat the area where the spots are rather than the whole face.
Keep a check on moles as it’s more common to find pre-cancerous and cancerous changes at this time.
We are more prone to bruising due to the falling levels of oestrogen but also simply because the skin is thinner.
Our skin is slower to repair and heal as we get older. We don’t have as many growth factors and stem cells to regenerate.
The route of all evil. If we are able to reduce stress in our lives this will have a positive impact on our perimenopause and menopause experience including what happens with our skin.
If you haven't read my first blog in this Perimenopause and Menopause Mini Series click here: