From rashes to dry and itchy patches, the menopause – and perimenopause – can do a real number on your skin.
Just like during puberty and pregnancy, fluctuations in hormone levels as your body goes through menopause is the cause of a whole host of symptoms including completely changing your skin type and tone.
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It’s usually coupled with other skin changes that are more widely associated with age – sagging, pigmentation etc – and the result for many of us is having to switch up our routine, techniques and products we’ve used for decades.
Below we explain what happens during the menopause when it comes to your skin, we’ve also explained how to use concealer on mature skin, and selected what we consider to be the best eye creams, best firming lotions and best anti-ageing creams if you want to know more about dealing with these changes.
There are two major stages involved in menopause.
The first is called perimenopause and describes the period of time (usually several years) leading up to when your body stops having periods. At this point, you enter the menopause phase which ends when your eggs stop being produced. This is, on average, around a year after your final period but can vary. The timings of the perimenopause and menopause can also vary by age, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, but in rare cases (1 in 100 in the UK), it can start in your 30s.
More specifically, perimenopause begins when the body reduces its production of oestrogen, the female sex hormone. This leads to irregular periods and, eventually, menopause. In the final year or two leading up to menopause, the oestrogen level drops off most dramatically. Someone going through perimenopause might experience hot flushes, reduced sex drive and fatigue, to name a few.
The experience is different for everyone, of course, but because it involves such significant shifts in hormone levels, the perimenopause and menopause can also have a noticeable impact on skin and hair.
There are a number of products you can buy to lessen the impact, or help manage it, and we’ve included recommendations below. It also helps to take a look at your diet and make sure that you’re not eating or drinking anything that will make the symptoms worse.
During perimenopause, skin can become thinner and more prone to bruising. Using SPF can help slow the thinning of your skin, by reducing the damage caused by sunlight. Sometimes retinoid treatments can also help prevent further thinning, but start with low concentrations and speak to a dermatologist if you have any questions about using them.
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Menopause can also mean any wounds you receive might heal more slowly than before, but it is important not to worry about this happening, care for the wound as usual and remember it will heal eventually.
Lower oestrogen levels result in skin having less collagen, a protein that makes skin strong and elastic. One study found that women lose up to 30 per cent of their skin’s collagen during the first five years after menopause.
Instead of being smooth and tight, this reduction in elasticity causes the skin to become loose and wrinkly. Bags under your eyes might start to become more pronounced, and skin can sag underneath your chin.
If you can spend a little more – and in this instance, we believe it’s worth it – check out the Prai Beauty range. Not only is it vegan and cruelty-free, with a portion of every sale going to animal charities, it specialises in mature skin. It also happens to align very closely with what we at mamabella are striving for – real women and real beauty, whatever your age, skin type or tone.
It’s one of the few brands to sell products that focus purely on your neck and decolletage – the skin on your chest and between your boobs. These areas show signs of ageing as much, if not more, than on your face so it’s worth paying them attention. The PRAI Ageless cream features in our best anti-ageing cream list.
All of these creams will certainly help reduce the effects, predominantly because they add a film-like layer to your skin to reduce water loss and protect it from environmental elements, but this is one symptom that will really benefit from an improved diet as well.
A popular choice (although one that doesn’t sound that appealing) is bone broth.
Bone broth draws collagen out of beef, chicken or fish bones by simmering them in water in a slow cooker for a couple of days and this creates a liquid you can drink or add to other dishes. You can also buy so-called beauty powders that contain collagen peptide and can be added to drinks, smoothies, soups, sauces and more.
Menopause causes dry skin in two ways – it causes your skin to produce fewer oils while also reducing the skin’s ability to hold onto moisture. You can compensate for the drop in oil by using more oils in your skincare routine and moisturising daily. We explain more about facial oils in our skincare comparison guide.
Using milder cleansing products – check out our best cleanser guide for recommendations – can help reduce your skin’s dryness, especially if it is itchy. But dry skin can also be an indication of another underlying problem, a potential vitamin deficiency or a thyroid problem, so consult a doctor if you are concerned.
Just like during puberty, hormonal changes in menopause can sometimes lead to spots or acne. Avoid over-washing the skin and use products with salicylic acid, read our guide on what causes acne and how to treat it and if the problem persists, consult a doctor.
Age and hormonal changes can also increase the chances of age spots. These are caused by years of damage caused by exposure to the sun. It’s why SPF is such an important factor to include in your skincare regime from early on. You can read more in our how to get rid of age spots fast guide.
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Dry skin can often lead to itchiness, or in some cases rashes and irritated skin. Changes in the skin’s pH levels during menopause can also cause rashes or make conditions such as eczema worse. Using fragrance-free products, mild soaps and moisturising regularly can keep this under control.
We highly recommend Salcura’s Bioskin range for tackling eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions. The Salcura Bioskin Junior Outbreak Rescue Cream, while designed for children, can also be used by adults to reduces itchiness while being incredibly gentle. We quite often pinch some of this from our son when our eczema flares up.
SVR is also another fantastic skincare brand designed for sensitive and irritation-prone skin.
That drop in oestrogen can also lead to hair appearing in places you’ve not seen it before, particularly under your chin, above your top lip and on your jawline. If you want to remove the hair, options include waxing, laser treatment or creams.
As we explain in our How to manage hair loss and make hair grow faster article, science suggests we lose between 50 to 100 strands of hair every day normally but as we get older, some of our follicles stop working (or retire!) and this is what causes hair to thin as you age. Making similar diet changes like those mentioned above, in our sagging skin section.
We also recommend buying products that help you look after your scalp, rather than just your hair, and you should look out for products that feature ceramides and caffeine. Ceramides have been shown to help improve the barrier function of skin and lead to a more moisturised, less flaky scalp. Caffeine stimulates the skin and helps encourage hair to grow.
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New Nordic Hair Volume Supplements can also help because they contain vitamins that support healthy hair volume and growth including natural apple proanthocyanidine-B2 growth factor. This stimulates hair epithelial cells and boosts your hair follicles, skin and nails. Although these supplements are great for menopausal woman, they equally benefit anyone with hair loss concerns.
Some people going through perimenopause choose to treat their symptoms with hormone replacement therapy – taking combinations of hormones to replace those no longer being produced by the body. In some cases, this can prevent many of the unwanted changes to the skin by addressing the root cause.
However, not everyone will be eligible to undergo HRT, and it has been linked to an increased chance of developing certain cancers like breast cancer. The decision to start taking hormone supplements should be made by taking into account all the pros and cons, and consulting with your doctor.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget