How your skin changes during the menopause
3rd Oct 2022
Did you know that almost half of women experience challenges with their skin during the menopause? . The menopause and perimenopause can throw skin into a spin. Skin changes during the menopause in several ways, all related to other changes happening in the body. When this happens, our skincare regimes can need a shake-up. Understanding what skincare is best for menopausal skin and why skin changes during the menopause is one small way to ensure wellbeing in a time that can be unnerving.
When it comes to the menopause, skincare is not about erasing any hint of a change or trying to turn back time, but about ensuring that your skin ages in a healthy way, with the support it needs to tackle new concerns. Our skin experts explain the details of menopause and some of the skin changes you can expect to see during this period.
What is the menopause?
Menopause is when a woman stops getting periods and can no longer get pregnant. The ovaries stop releasing eggs, and levels of reproductive hormones including oestrogen and progesterone fall. These changes have a knock-on impact on numerous aspects of the mind, body, and skin.
In the UK, this usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55. The years running up to this point are referred to as perimenopause, this period often starts around age 45, but can begin years before . Around 1% of women experience menopause before the age of 40 .The perimenopause stage is when early symptoms of the menopause begin, as hormone levels begin to drop.
Some of the most common symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, muscular aches, brain fog, headaches, anxiety or depression, loss of confidence and low mood. As well as many of these symptoms, menopause can also impact the skin.
What happens to skin during the menopause?
Most often spoken about as a reproductive hormone, oestrogen has a lot of different roles in the body and is closely involved in many processes in the skin.
This means that when oestrogen levels start to fluctuate during the perimenopause, and fall after the menopause, it may have a knock-on effect on skin.
Some of the key changes that happen include, thinning skin with lower collagen levels, loss of elasticity, fine lines and wrinkles, dryness, sensitivity, and problem skin.
Dry skin, itching, sensitivity, and compromised barrier function
Hyaluronic acid plays a crucial role in ensuring the skin stays hydrated and comfortable. Normal skin produces its own hyaluronic acid, but the amount that we produce drops as we get older.
One of the reasons behind this is thought to be related to oestrogen decline. Scientists believe that oestrogen stimulates skin to produce hyaluronic acid – so when there is less oestrogen in the body, less hyaluronic acid is produced. As a result, skin may appear dry, less plump and lacking in hydration.
Oestrogen also helps to maintain the skin barrier. The upper skin layers create a waterproof barrier of the skin that locks moisture in and keeps unwanted irritants out. However, when levels of oestrogen drop, the barrier becomes weaker, leading to a decrease in hydration levels in the skin.
Skin can become dry, cracked, and uncomfortable, with itching and irritation common. In some cases, some women also experience tingling, rashes, or numbness when their skin becomes dry.
Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin A and omega fatty acids are ideal to support skin during the menopause.
Thinning skin, fine lines and wrinkles
Did you know you lose 30% of collagen in the first five years of the menopause? So, there’s a good reason for looking after our skin’s collagen–read our guide to collagen here to discover more. Collagen is a protein that helps to provide the foundation for our skin – creating a structure that keeps it plump and resilient. Lower collagen and elastin levels cause the skin to become thinner, less firm and make fine lines and wrinkles appear more visible. Look for collagen supporting ingredients including zinc, vitamin C, MSN, and phytonutrients. These should all be a priority in building healthy, resilient collagen.
Frequently considered a teenage skin concern, problem skin can become a common complaint for menopausal women.
Some women may experience acne, and similarly to teenage acne, menopausal acne is thought to be connected to the changing levels of hormones within the body.
“Problem skin becomes more likely in menopause because of the changing ratio of our hormones. As oestrogen drops, unopposed androgens [“male” hormones including testosterone] can increase the likelihood of developing acne,” explains Dr Gaby, medical director.
Changes to the skin’s pH, and to the levels of oil produced by the skin are also thought to contribute to the increased likelihood of problem skin during the menopause.
Menopause and the gut
If you don’t already know about the close connection between the microbiome and the skin– read up on our on the gut-skin connection here.
With its myriad of connections to wellbeing, a connection to the menopause is, perhaps, not a surprise.
There is a specific group of bacteria in the gut that helps process and transport oestrogen through the body, so when oestrogen levels begin to change, the formation and diversity of our gut bacteria also changes.
Maintaining a diverse, healthy microbiome is vital to overall wellbeing and skin health and promoting microbiome diversity is important to support your gut, skin health and overall wellbeing.
Discussing the physical and emotional challenges that the menopause and perimenopause bring is a rarity – but understanding, discussing, and breaking the taboo is vital to help navigate the changes happening with confidence and comfort.
Understanding the changes that happen to your skin during the menopause can help you prepare and overcome any worries or concerns on the matter. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin A and omega fatty acids are all essential ingredients to support skin health during the menopause and should be considered as essentials for your skincare regime to help you navigate this time of change.
- Half of UK women suffer with dry skin during the menopause. Professional Beauty. September 2020.
- Overview menopause.NHS. May 2022.
- Menopause. Mayo Clinic. May 2021.
- Estrogens and ageing skin. April 2013.