There’s a nickname for menopause: “The Change.”
That may be because it’s one of the biggest biological changes in a menstruating person’s life.
For some, finally living period and PMS-free may be a positive thing.
On the other hand, the hormonal shifts that bring menopause can also trigger changes in the skin that may not be as welcome.
“Our skin is part of the reflection we see as we look in the mirror, and isn’t excluded from menopausal changes,” says Kellie Reed, MD, a board-certified dermatologist for Westlake Dermatology in Austin. “Many people…may feel their identity is part of their appearance.”
Reed stresses that beauty is more than skin-deep, but she says understanding what’s going on inside and outside of the body can help you prepare for them.
Luckily, there are ways to ease some of the skin issues that may pop up during menopause. Read on to learn how.
Reed explains that menopause triggers a decline in estrogen levels that can cause changes to the skin, including:
- decreased collagen production
- increased fine lines and wrinkles
- thinner, looser skin
- increased facial hair
Though thinning hair is often a sign of aging, facial hair can appear on postmenopausal skin.
Research varies on the prevalence of acne during and after menopause, but a
Dermatologists say it’s not possible to entirely or permanently turn back the clock. Aging is a natural process, and menopause is a part of it.
However, there are ways to look and feel your best as your body enters its next chapter.
Fine lines can be the first noticeable sign of skin aging. Experts recommend three main skin care steps:
Peptides can stimulate collagen production, says Debra Jaliman. Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai as well as the author of the book “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.”
Since collagen is one of the fibers that keep the skin looking plump and smooth, peptides can help reduce the appearance of fine lines.
A 2021 review suggested that bioactive peptides found in cosmeceutical products could help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Reed says retinol can also lessen the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines during menopause.
If sunscreen isn’t a part of your skin care regimen, Reed says there’s no time like the present to make a change.
As we age, the skin loses moisture, explains Jaliman.
Look for products with ingredients that help the skin retain moisture, like:
A small 2021 study of 40 females 30-65 years old indicated that using a topical serum containing hyaluronic acid could provide skin hydration.
Reed suggests speaking to a physician before taking further steps to remove facial hair to ensure there aren’t any other issues, like thyroid problems.
If thyroid issues are ruled out, Reed suggests considering:
- laser hair removal
- Vaniqa, a prescription topical cream
- Spironolactone, an oral medication used off-label to reduce facial hair growth
Acne isn’t necessarily something we leave behind in adolescence.
Salicylic or glycolic acid
Though research varies on the prevalence of acne in menopause, Reed says it can happen. She recommends cleansers with salicylic acid or glycolic acid.
Still, she notes these ingredients aren’t best for everyone.
“If your skin is drier, then consider cutting back on these acid-based cleansers, or opt for a gentle cleanser,” Reed says.
Retinol may also be helpful, particularly for individuals without dry skin, Reed says.
The same review also suggested that chemical peels containing some ingredients could reduce acne, including:
- salicylic acid
- glycolic acid
- mandelic acid
The review specifically noted combination peels like salicylic-mandelic acid in a gel base or lactic acid peels might be most beneficial for individuals with sensitive maturing skin.
Retinol may make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Always wear sunscreen no matter the weather or season, especially when using retinols.
Hormone changes and years of built-up sun damage can combine to cause pigmentation issues, Reed explains.
“A topical antioxidant that includes a vitamin C helps bind free radicals from the sun and pollution, stimulates collagen, and helps with dark spots,” Reed says.
A 2021 review suggested peptides decrease the compounds that encourage skin pigmentation.
Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30+ can mitigate further damage, Reed says.
As your body changes, your skin care routine may need to as well.
Still, it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Choosing a couple of products with a few effective ingredients may go further than slathering on a ton of creams, lotions, and serums.
Jaliman suggests the below for your daily skin care regimen during menopause and beyond:
- Wash your face with lukewarm water and a mild cleanser with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and/or glycerin.
- Use a moisturizer with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and/or glycerin.
- Apply an SPF physical sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above. Look for non-nano zinc oxide above 10 percent.
- Repeat step three every two hours if you are in the sun.
- At night, apply the same cleanser and an anti-aging product with peptides before bedtime.
Reed also suggests using a product with retinol at night to decrease wrinkles and acne if applicable.
“They can be drying, so less is more, and start with less strong formulations,” Reed says.
Products with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin can help lock in moisture, while peptides may help reduce discoloration, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Frequent application of sunscreen can not only help prevent fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. It’s also a defense against skin cancer,
Skin care isn’t one-size-fits-all at any point in our lives. You’ll want to remember a few points as you piece together your new skin care regimen during menopause and beyond.
Find what works for you
Reed says what works best for your skin in cleansers and moisturizers may be trial and error. Different skin types will respond differently to ingredients.
For example, individuals with dry skin may find that retinoids worsen dryness and need to find other products to decrease wrinkles.
Remember, the skin cannot hydrate itself after menopause as it once did.
Reed says people going through menopause or in the postmenopausal stage will need to adapt and change their skin care habits, such as moisturizing skin at least daily to maintain the skin barrier and keep it healthy.
Don’t be afraid of trial and error
Reed says that people with sensitive skin can do a patch test on a small area of skin to check for irritation.
To do this:
- Apply a quarter-size amount of product to a test spot, like your wrist or inside of your elbow, twice daily for seven to 10 days.
- Leave the product on your skin for as long as you would when using it.
- If you don’t have a skin reaction, like red, itchy, or swollen skin, after seven to 10 days, you can use the product.
- If your skin becomes irritated, wash the product off as soon as possible and discontinue use.
“Keep in mind, sometimes one area of the skin may not be representative of other body areas,” Reed says. “In general, start slow with any new products and slowly increase as your skin can tolerate.”
She suggests speaking with a dermatologist about specific concerns and considering in-office patch testing if needed.
Skin color may be a factor in aging signs
Darker skin tones contain more melanin. Reed says wrinkles and sun spots may occur later for these individuals.
Prevention, like the use of sunscreen, is still critical in protecting against signs of aging and skin cancer.
When discussing your skin care goals with your doctor or dermatologist, ask about the side effects of ingredients, products, and procedures.
Reed says some devices, such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and fractional skin resurfacing lasers may cause hyperpigmentation if used incorrectly.
The skin changes as we age. In menstruating individuals, menopause triggers hormonal changes like reduced estrogen levels. This can bring about or accelerate signs of skin aging.
During and after menopause, people may notice more fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, facial hair, breakouts and discoloration.
It’s not possible to completely prevent aging, but some ingredients can help mitigate some signs and symptoms. Moisturizers and cleansers with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and/or glycerin can lock in moisture and reduce dryness.
Regular use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ can reduce UV-induced damage, including wrinkles, discoloration, and skin cancer.
Not every ingredient is for every person. Do a patch test first and consult a dermatologist if you have a reaction or concerns.
Beth Ann Mayer is a New York-based freelance writer and content strategist who specializes in health and parenting writing. Her work has been published in Parents, Shape, and Inside Lacrosse. She is a co-founder of digital content agency Lemonseed Creative and is a graduate of Syracuse University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.