Menopause marks a significant life stage for every woman, and one that brings both new and unexpected changes to your body and your mood.
When a woman enters menopause, she stops having menstrual cycles and can no longer become pregnant as a result of a decrease in estrogen levels.
The years leading up to menopause are called perimenopause, and it is during this time that hormone production gradually begins to slow down.
Perimenopause usually lasts 3-7 years, although it can take longer or shorter in some women. The effect of this is not only evident on how a woman feels, but also on her skin, and this is what we shall be focusing on in this article.
Fortunately, because this change happens relatively slowly, a woman entering perimenopause and menopause will have time to adjust to the changes in her skin.
This usually means altering your skin care routine and the skin care products you use, in addition to the type of lifestyle that you live.
The only exception to this is with women who have had a full hysterectomy in which the ovaries have been removed, as women who have had such an operation can go through menopause in a few days or weeks.
This can obviously make adjusting to any changes in the body a bit more difficult to deal with, as you will have less time to adapt to the change.
Skin Symptoms of Menopause
The symptoms that a woman gets as she moves from perimenopause to menopause can vary.
Some women, for example, may experience no or very minor symptoms, whilst other women can experience things such as hot flushes, irritability, anxiety, depression, aches in joints and weight gain.
In terms of the changes to your skin, below are listed some of the things that you can expect to happen as you enter menopause.
1) Decreased Muscle Mass
During menopause women lose muscle mass and muscle tone which causes their facial skin to sag. This tends to be most noticeable around the neck, mouth and jowls.
2) Decreased Skin Thickness
Facial skin gets thinner and can appear translucent or see-through. This may then result in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around the lips and outer edges of the eyes.
3) Decreased Lubrication
The skin produces less oil during menopause which results in it getting drier. For women who have an oily skin type, this will be less of a problem as their skin will naturally stay moist for longer.
But in people with other skin types, dry skin will increase the risk of developing fine lines and wrinkles in addition to vaginal dryness.
Skin cells become compacted and aren’t as plump as they used to be. This tends to be most visible in the lips which appear to decrease in volume and fullness, and also in the cheeks underneath the eyes which can result in a hollow or sunken looking appearance.
5) Reduced Skin Elasticity
As you progress through menopause, elastin levels decrease which makes the skin less elastic. The effect of this is an increase in fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin.
A quick way to test the elasticity of your skin is by pinching it, holding it for a few seconds and then letting it go. Skin that has lots of elastin will spring back quickly into place like a rubber band, whereas skin that lacks elasticity will slowly return back to its original position.
6) Decreased Collagen Levels
As elastin levels decline in the skin, so do collagen levels. Collagen helps to support the skin, so a reduction in collagen levels causes the skin to sag and develop wrinkles.
This tends to be most visible in the expression lines of the face, such as the frown lines of the forehead and the nasolabial folds around the mouth, which appear deeper and more prominent.
7) Reduced Melanin Production
During menopause, melanin production begins to slow down. The result is a fading of a woman’s natural skin tone making her skin appear lighter and less radiant.
8) Reduced Sweating
In menopause, glandular activity slows down which means that you won’t sweat as much as you used to. One consequence of this, is that your skin won’t be as efficient at eliminating toxins through the skin as it used to be during your youth.
9) Skin Disorders
All the changes that occur in the body during menopause make a woman’s skin much more susceptible to various skin disorders. Some of these include: eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
Your Changing Skin
As you have just seen in the previous section, menopause can have a significant effect on the health and appearance of a woman’s skin.
As a woman progresses through menopause, her skin will become drier, more wrinkled and less elastic. The skin will sag, become looser and lose its thickness.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop menopause or change when it happens to you, because menopause is a stage of life that all women must go through.
However, the good news is that all of the changes which are going on in your body don’t necessarily mean that your skin is going to look old and unattractive.
All it means is that you have to change your current skin care routine, your skin care products and adjust the type of lifestyle you live to those changes.
Many skin care products, for example, are designed specifically for women in menopause, and using the right product for your skin type can help it to look young and healthy for many more years to come.
So whilst menopause may not be the most desirable thing to experience, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
As long as you are prepared for it, and know the effects that menopause can have on your body and mind, you will be in an excellent position to deal with those changes when they occur.
Now that you have seen some of the changes that could happen to your skin as you age, lets look at some of the ways that you can help to keep it looking young and healthy for as long as possible.
Maintaining Menopause Hormone Levels
Hormones play many important roles throughout the body, and during menopause, the production of some hormones such as estrogen, begin to decline.
It is this decline in hormone production that causes many of the changes and symptoms that are typically associated with perimenopause and menopause. Some of these symptoms can include:
– Headaches & hot flashes
– Loose teeth & receding gums
– Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
– Thickening & darkening of body and pubic hair
– Reduced bone density causing more fragile bones
– Thinning of hair
– Drooping and flattening of breasts
– Smaller and flatter nipples
– Drier & rougher skin
– Loss of muscle tone in abdomen
– Vaginal dryness, itching & shrinking
So in order to keep your body and skin healthy during menopause, you need to ensure that your hormones stay at optimal levels throughout your lifetime, even if their production has decreased from what they once were.
Once your hormones are functioning at an optimal level for your age, you should notice a reduction in negative menopause symptoms and an improvement in the condition of your skin.
Here are some things which can help:
1) Maintain a Healthy Weight
Yo-Yo dieting plays havoc on your hormones which can then have a negative effect on your health and your skin. Try to maintain a constant healthy weight (not too thin, not overweight) and try to avoid your weight fluctuating frequently.
As you enter menopause, the best diet is a low carbohydrate or low glycemic diet. This will help to maintain your weight at a stable level, reduce excess body fat and also reduce inflammation in the body which is known to be one of the major accelerators of premature aging.
2) Do Aerobic Exercise
Glandular activity slows down during menopause which causes you to sweat less. The effect of this is that your body becomes less efficient at excreting toxins from the body.
In order to help your body excrete these toxins, it is important to do aerobic exercise at least two or three times a week for 20 minutes or more. This includes any exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat.
In addition to removing toxins from the body, aerobic exercise will also help to keep your joints agile and functioning properly.
But try to avoid running or jogging as a form of aerobic exercise, because the declining elastin levels in your skin will increase your risk of developing sagging in the face, arms and breasts.
3) Do Anaerobic Exercise
One of the biggest changes that occur to the body during menopause is a decrease in muscle mass and muscle tone. This subsequently causes an increase in weight gain, because muscle is very effective at helping to keep fat from being deposited in the body.
The ideal body fat range for a woman in her 50s is between 20-30%. At this range, you will be in optimal health and have a higher metabolism.
Aim to do anaerobic exercises, such as exercising with weights or resistance exercises against the weight of your body, three times a week.
Doing strength training exercise will also help to keep your bones strong and healthy and more resistant to fractures and breaks that are associated with osteoporosis.
4) Take Essential Fatty Acids
Consuming essential fatty acids during menopause can help to protect against cancer, reduce menopause symptoms, lower bad cholesterol levels and prevent bone loss.
Essential fatty acids are also important for healthy joints, skin, hair and your mood.
Most women get enough omega-6 from their diet, so aim to increase your intake of omega-3 by taking a good fish oil or cod liver oil supplement.
5) Eat Vegetables Daily
Eating green vegetables daily is a great way to ensure that your diet is rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, minerals and fiber. All of which help to keep your body healthy and in top condition.
As part of a low carbohydrate diet, aim to eat predominantly low glycemic vegetables such as broccoli or green leafy vegetables.
6) Use Progesterone Cream
Using progesterone cream during menopause can help to keep your hormones in balance, and many menopausal women take it as part of a hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) program.
As progesterone cream is available without a prescription, you should be able to easily get some at your local health food store or pharmacy.
7) Eat Foods Containing Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens act like estrogen in the body when eaten. This can help to reduce menopausal discomfort and support the levels of all the body’s many hormones.
Foods rich in phytoestrogens include figs, dates, pomegranates, fennel, apricot, flax seeds, apples, sprouts, peas, parsley and raspberries.
Some herbs also contain phytoestrogens, such as black cohosh, chasteberry, red clover, licorice, raspberry leaf and ginseng.
Alternatively, you can take a soy isoflavones supplement instead.
8) Maintain an Active Sex Life
Sex can help to improve your mood and it also helps to stimulate the production of reproductive hormones. If you have had a low sex drive since entering menopause, speak to your doctor about testosterone and its possible benefits.
Skin Care For Menopausal Women
Now that you have a good idea of how to keep your body healthy during menopause, the next step is to take care of your skin. Use the following tips to keep your skin looking at its best:
1) Have a Good Skin Care Routine
At a minimum, you should continue your regular daily skin care routine of cleansing and moisturizing your skin. If you find that your skin is too dry, then you may need to switch skin care products.
There are now many products on the market that are designed for menopausal skin, so experiment with different products until you find something that works well for you.
Even though your skin may be more sensitive now that you have entered menopause, you still need to exfoliate to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Try to use gentle exfoliants and avoid stronger exfoliants such as scrubs and acids.
3) Fade Skin Discoloration & Pigmentation
During menopause, you many find that your skin becomes pigmented with dark or light brown spots. To combat this, use skin lighteners such as hydroquinone, or look for products that contain the following ingredients:
Alpha Arbutin, Beta-Arbutin (Bearberry Extract), Kojic Acid, Licorice Extract, Niacinamide, Mulberry Extract, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Lemon Juice Extract, Emblica, Arbutin or Vitamin C.
If you find skin lightening products to be ineffective, you may want to consider undergoing a skin resurfacing treatment, such as microdermabrasion or laser skin resurfacing, or even a chemical peel such as a Jessner’s Peel, Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) peel or a Croton Oil (Phenol) peel.
4) Use Sunscreen
Continue to use sunscreen on a daily basis as this will help to keep your skin looking younger for longer and avoid skin pigmentation discoloration. Sunscreen should be worn at all times of the year and not just when it’s sunny, because any amount of sunlight exposure will age your skin prematurely.
You can further help to protect your skin from sun aging by eating coconut oil and drinking green tea each day. Both of which will help to make your skin more resistant to the sun’s rays.
5) Look Out For Skin Cancer
Get yourself checked regularly for skin cancers and have any removed if found. You are most likely to be at risk if you spent a lot of time in the sun during your youth.
6) Remove Facial Hair
Aging women may experience the growth of unwanted facial hair (hirsutism). Traditionally, this can be dealt with by undergoing laser treatment, intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment, waxing, using depilatory/hair removal creams or electrolysis.
However, what many women are not aware of is that spearmint tea is a very effective and natural way to combat hirsutism. So you may want to try this natural treatment first before you try the other treatments.
7) Facial Lymphatic Massage
To stimulate the natural healing ability of the skin, give yourself a facial massage each day. This will help to get the lymph system moving, which then makes it more effective at removing toxins from under the surface of the skin.
You can also stimulate healing of the skin by splashing your face with warm and then cold water. The warm water will bring blood to the surface of your skin, and the cold water will draw it back deeper into the skin. The overall effect of this is improved circulation to the skin which will then result in an improved complexion.
8) Use Products Designed to Reverse Aging
There are now many excellent skin care products and treatments that can help to reverse the signs of aging. Some of the products you should be looking out for include those that contain alpha lipoic acid, Co-Enzyme Q-10, antioxidants, DMAE, bioflavonoids and vitamin C.
In particular, vitamin C serums can be an excellent way to restore collagen levels to the skin. However, avoid purchasing products that contain vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, as this form of vitamin C tends to be quite unstable and degrades easily when added to cosmetics.
For this reason, you should never use vitamin C products that come in a tinted/colored solution/lotion, as you won’t be able to see if the vitamin C has been oxidized or not.
If you want to use vitamin C topically, it’s best to make it yourself. You can do this by adding 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder to 50ml of water to make a 5% solution. This should be kept in a dark glass jar and stored in the fridge to keep your solution fresh.
Another skin care product that can help to reverse the signs of aging, is a dermaroller or skin roller. This is a small device that contains lots of small needles which pierce the uppermost layer of the skin.
The effect of this is a wounding of the skin, which then stimulates the production of collagen.
For best results, use a dermaroller with a needle length of 0.5 mm or 1.0 mm, and use it every 3-4 days for the first three months, and then weekly afterwards, not applying any anti-inflammatory lotion immediately after your roll.
You may also want to consider the use of emu oil, either as a day or night cream. Emu oil is very moisturizing to the skin and so can help to prevent it from drying out.
In addition, some studies show that emu oil can increase the thickness of your skin, so this is definitely one natural moisturizer that is worth trying.
10) Retin A
Retin A rebuilds collagen and elastin which makes your skin firmer and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Retin A can also reverse sun damage done to the skin, although it will also increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight which means that you will need to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside.
11) Hyaluronic Acid
As you age the levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin begin to decline, which then results in a decrease in facial volume and an increased risk of developing wrinkles. There are two ways that you can address this:
The first, is to take hyaluronic acid supplements. Start with a dosage of 200-400 mg for one or two months, and then drop your dosage down to a maintenance dose of 100 mg per day.
The second way is to slow down the rate at which hyaluronic acid is broken down by the enzyme hyaluronidase.
Look for products that contain Phytessence Wakame extract, which may sometimes be listed as Undaria Pinnatifida, Wakame Kelp, Japanese brown sea kelp extract, Fucodian or Fucoxanthin, to inhibit the hyaluronidase enzyme.
The use of hyaluronic acid face creams may not be effective, as the hyaluronic acid molecule used in such creams is too large to be absorbed into the skin.
12) Drink Water
You probably already know that the majority of the body is made up of water.
But what you might not know, is that water can help to keep your skin looking younger for longer, and that people who drink sufficient amounts of water throughout the day tend to have fewer wrinkles than those who don’t drink enough and/or are dehydrated.
So try to keep water with you throughout the day so that you always have some close at hand. As a general rule, you will know when you are properly hydrated because your urine will be clear in color.
The darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you are. There is an exception to this, however, and that is if you are taking vitamin B supplements as they can cause your urine to turn a bright yellow color.
Note: If you are taking hyaluronic acid supplements, you should drink a lot of water to get the full benefits from supplementation. But be careful if you do this with bottled water, as studies have found people who drink lots of bottled water tend to get more mouth wrinkles.
Turmeric is a spice that all people would benefit from taking, regardless of age. Not only has it been strongly linked to a reduced risk of cancer, but it is also one of the best things that you can do to reduce levels of inflammation in the body, which, as we mentioned earlier, is a major cause of premature aging.
Currently, the best form of turmeric appears to be the Curcumin 95 variety of supplements, which contains standardized curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, complexed with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.
14) Lysine & Proline
Lysine, proline and vitamin C are used by the body to produce collagen. As the levels of collagen decline with age, taking these supplements on a regular basis can be an excellent way to maintain the health and appearance of your skin well into old age.
15) Face Exercises
Face exercises are designed to strengthen the underlying muscles of the face and stimulate collagen and elastin production so that the skin becomes tighter and doesn’t sag.
Face exercises are effective, but in order to maintain your results, they need to be done on a consistent daily basis. You can find out more about facial exercise here (opens in new window).
16) Plastic Surgery
Depending on the condition of your skin, you may want to consider having plastic surgery. Bear in mind, however, that plastic surgery won’t make you look like a teenager or stop the aging process.
The idea of plastic surgery is to give your face and body a fresher and more relaxed appearance, and there are two main ways that this can be done:
The first, are the invasive or surgical forms. So this would include things such as a face lift, brow lift or eyelid lift. If you have severe sagging on your face, then surgery is likely to be your best option.
The second type of plastic surgery involves the non surgical procedures. This includes things such as Botox, in addition to dermal fillers such as collagen, Restylane/Juvederm, Sculptra and Radiesse/Radiance.
All of these are most suitable for removing or reducing the appearance of wrinkles. If, however, you are suffering from a loss of facial volume, then you may want to consider cheek or chin implants instead to get better results.
Reviewed – 2nd April 2016