Going through the menopause can be as stressful as navigating your teenage years. Your body is changing in ways you don’t recognise, your hormones are unbalanced and what previously worked for your skin is, in most cases, no longer up to the job.
The menopause is triggered by a decline in the hormone oestrogen and for most, arrives between the ages of 45 and 55. The first signal that something is afoot is changes to your menstrual cycle. Your periods can become lighter or heavier and less or more frequent, before stopping altogether. For some, the menopause can pass with little fanfare, while for others it feels like a well-attended parade marching through your life. Symptoms include hot flushes, insomnia, headaches and low mood, and will vary in severity and timescale from person-to-person. If your menopause has been brought on by medical treatment, then the symptoms tend to be more impactful.
If this wasn’t enough to contend with, a lack of oestrogen can cause skin to change in a number of different ways, from dryness and breakouts to a loss of elasticity. Forewarned is forearmed and understanding why these changes happen will make them easier to manage.
These are the changes your skin is most likely to experience during the menopause:
During the peri-menopause, the period leading up to your menopause, we start to lose some of the natural moisturisers in our skin, like ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Without ceramides to keep the skin barrier strong, and hyaluronic acid adding hydration, skin can quickly become uncomfortably dry and dehydrated. Applying these crucial ingredients topically, alongside other nourishing ingredients like vitamin F and squalane, will help to quench thirsty skin and restore hydration.
A lack of sleep combined with reduced hydration can quickly cause skin to become dull and lacklustre. There’s an understandable temptation in this instance to double down on actives and exfoliation, with the aim of whisking away dead skin cells to reveal the fresher, younger ones beneath. While this may help, taking too aggressive an approach and introducing lots of actives at once can cause skin to become even more dehydrated, and at worst, more sensitive. Start first by restoring hydration, and then incorporate one brightening product to your routine at a time. Vitamin C is a great place to start, working like a shot of energy for tired complexions.
Our skin loses 30% of its collagen during the menopause, which is why you might notice that structural changes to the skin feel quite sudden. There can be an increase in fine lines and wrinkles, with skin less able to bounce back than it once was. Facial massage will help to firm and tone the muscles beneath the skin, while topically applied retinoids and peptides will increase the production of shiny new collagen.
Levels of oestrogen deplete during the menopause, but male hormones called androgens, like testosterone, remain present. This shift can trigger breakouts, as skin produces excess oil. It's frustrating, especially if you had thought you waved goodbye to acne in your teens. Using a combination of proper cleansing (once in the morning, twice at night), niacinamide to help with the flow of oil and salicylic acid to clear your pores, will help to get things back under control. We know it's tempting, but resist the urge to pop and pick at your spots – playing with them will only leave scars.
Skin structurally changes around the menopause, as it stops producing so many lipids. This means it becomes thinner, and is therefore more prone to bruising and marking, as well as sensitivity. Think of your skin as a piece of silk and treat it with care. That means applying products carefully and not massaging skin too vigorously. If your complexion has started to become more sensitive, strip it right back to basics of a great cleanser, nourishing moisturiser and SPF. Once it has settled back down, you can slowly re-introduce additional steps.