How Your Skin Changes With Menopause
Jan. 26, 2022
Do you feel like you aged 10 years overnight? Peri-menopause can do that. But these top dermatologists will help you reclaim your glow.
With all the changes that come with menopause, it’s no surprise that your skin doesn’t get a pass. In fact, the action begins years before you hit this pivotal phase, when hormonal fluctuations and cellular erosion are taking place stealthily below the radar, quietly compromising the glowy, smooth, plump complexion you once knew. “As you move through peri-menopause, those drivers intensify significantly, as do the resulting visible signs of aging,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York. “You increasingly see crepiness and loss of elasticity. And those areas where skin is more delicate and expressive, like the eyes, neck, décolleté and jaw, tend to sag and show lines.” The shift is dramatic, yes, but new research, products and tools can help you weather the changes looking less, well, weathered. Herewith, your guide to loving the skin you’re in now.
Estrogen, the hormone behind so much of what keeps us feeling and looking vibrant and youthful, plummets as we enter menopause. This triggers our cells to dial down the production of other substances, notably collagen and elastin, proteins that provide structure to skin to keep it firm and bouncy, explains Dr. Engelman. In fact, on average, women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of peri-menopause—fair skin hovering on the upper end of that spectrum; black and brown skin, which contains more dermal collagen, on the lower. When skin lacks structure, it starts to sag. “At the same time, low estrogen causes our skin to thin, bringing on that papery, crepey quality,” says Mamina Turegano, MD, triple board-certified dermatologist in New Orleans.
Pro Tips: If you’re not already using an over-the-counter retinol or prescription-strength retinoid, now is the time to add one in the evenings. These vitamin A derivatives increase collagen and elastin production and ramp up exfoliation of the top layer of dead cells to expose the new, healthy skin below. If your skin is also dry, go for a creamy formula like SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25, and SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight cream. “But be aware of how your skin is reacting during this transitional time,” warns Dr. Engelman. “If retinol is too harsh, consider switching to a product with a gentler, plant-based alternative like Bakuchiol or rambutan.
Fine Lines and Uneven Tone.
The outer-most layer of our dermis serves as the first line of defense against the onslaught of daily aggressors, like harsh weather, bacteria, pollution and injuries. When strong and healthy, it makes sure irritants from the outside world stay out, and that water and nourishing substances stay in. “At this stage, however, we produce less of the material that keeps the barrier intact and durable, namely collagen and elastin, hyaluronic acid, which maintains moisture levels, and certain vitamins. Plus, we produce fewer keratinocytes, the cells that form the barrier itself,” says Dr. Engelman. That degraded state allows irritants to get past the border and wreak havoc in the lower layers. “In addition, as we age, our DNA repair mechanisms become less efficient," says Dr. Turegano. “So, the wreckage accumulates, showing up as fine lines, hyperpigmentation, sun spots and uneven tone.”
Pro Tips: Caring for menopausal skin begins with a solid skincare regimen to protect itself: a gentle cleanser, an antioxidant serum, rich moisturizer and sunscreen. “In the mornings after cleansing, apply a product containing vitamin C, an antioxidant that fends off oxidative stress from pollution, harsh weather, UV rays, and other environmental factors, that causes damage to the cells,” says Dr. Turegano. Try C+Collagen & Firm Vitamin C Serum. “For your moisturizer, you want one with ingredients that not only quench dry skin, but also help support the barrier,” says Dr. Engelman. These include ceramides, lipids that strengthen your outer dermal layer; peptides, which promote collagen growth and hydration; and humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and urea that draw and trap water molecules to the skin. Dr. Engelman loves Lano’s The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm. Dr. Turegano is a huge fan of Emepelle Night Cream, which features MEP Technology to restore the natural function of estrogen-deficient skin, hormone-free. The last layer: sun screen. “SPF is vital to protect against UV rays, and reduce hyperpigmentation and fine lines,” says Dr. Engelman. Her pick: Elizabeth Arden’s PREVAGE City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Hydrating Shield, which is moisturizing. For an extra boost, chemical peels, weekly or bi-weekly, slough off dead cells to brighten skin, improve texture, and even jumpstart collagen production, all without harming the vulnerable skin barrier. Two to try are the at-home Glo Skin Beauty’s Hydra-Bright AHA Glow Peel, and Obagi Revivify Multi-Acid Facial Peel. Both are easy to use and yield impressive results. A more-intense in-office resurfacing facial, like DiamondGlow or Clear+Brilliant, can take that revitalization one step further, going to battle on fine lines, dark spots, discoloration and dullness, and require no downtime. Talk to your dermatologist about what’s right for you.
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Our skin’s capacity to retain water also diminishes at this point, largely due to a crash in hyaluronic acid production (hyaluronic acid acts as a magnet for moisture), a weaker barrier to lock any moisture in, and less active oil glands, says Dr. Engelman. Add to that, slower cell turnover (waning from about every 28 days to 35-50), so dryer old-timers are clinging on for longer. Because hydration is a major player in keeping skin pillowy and dewy, arid skin translates to a less-firm, less-lucid appearance.
Pro Tips: One of Dr. Engelman’s top tips for keeping menopausal skin moist is to run a humidifier while you sleep to help prevent water loss and improve skin barrier function. “The Canopy Humidifier keeps your room at an optimal 40-60 percent humidity level without spewing out icky particles or allergens, thanks to its evaporative (no-mist) and anti-mold technology.”