Everything that happens to your skin during menopause

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We hear a lot about the inconveniences of perimenopause: hot flashes, brain fog, delayed libido, all due to declining levels of estrogen, a female sex hormone. But what does it do to your complexion? It turns out that, a lot. Studies have shown that estrogen plays a role in collagen production, skin elasticity, thickness, and moisture levels, as well as blood vessel health (hello, pink glow). When you produce less estrogen, you can see the opposite: fine lines and wrinkles, dryness, tenderness, dullness and sagging.

And even skin experts, board-certified dermatologists, aren’t immune to these changes. But they’re not waiting to act, and neither are you. Estrogen begins to decline during perimenopause, the four to ten years before the end of menstruation, which can begin as early as the mid-40s in some women. But this decline occurs somewhat unevenly, causing the skin to behave unevenly. “During this time, you may feel like part teenager, with breakouts popping up out of nowhere, and part senior with extreme dryness,” says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.

You may feel like part teenager, with breakouts popping up out of nowhere, and part senior with extreme dryness.

Estrogen levels continue their downward trajectory until you hit menopause, when you’ve stopped having periods for at least twelve consecutive months. You are then considered post-menopausal. Your skin issues may be more subtle during perimenopause and more serious after menopause, but skin professionals treat them the same way. “When it comes to my patient’s skin, I don’t distinguish between perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause—they all affect the skin the same way,” says Miami-based dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD. in Florida.

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Day underwent a partial hysterectomy in her late 40s, leaving her ovaries. At 50, she no longer felt herself and consulted a doctor to confirm that she was indeed in perimenopause. She immediately started hormone therapy (HT) and felt better within a few days. And because of HT, Day didn’t notice any significant changes in her skin. His message to women: Get your hormone levels checked in your late 30s and early 40s and discuss HT options with your doctor.

Plus, there are plenty of things you can do at home to lessen and even reverse some of these menopause-related skin changes. Here is the 411:

The problem: drought

Dryness is a sign that your skin’s outer protective barrier is not up to scratch. As estrogen levels drop, the epidermis of the skin thickens, reducing sebum production. The skin becomes drier and tiny micro tears can form, allowing moisture to escape and irritants and allergens to enter. As a result, the skin becomes easily irritated and you may also see an increase in inflammatory skin conditions. “My eczema got worse during perimenopause,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist in New York and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets of One of New York’s Top Dermatologists.

The fix: Switch to a mild or gentle cleanser that won’t strip dry skin of its essential oils (ideally a creamy, not fizzy cleanser). Then, strengthen the skin barrier with a moisturizer containing ingredients such as ceramides, shea butter, fatty acids, squalene, glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which add moisture and help the skin. maintain.

The problem: boredom

Menopause-induced dryness coupled with delayed cell turnover due to age gives skin a dull appearance. “It happens when dead skin cells build up on the surface — it looks like hills and valleys,” says Baumann. “It doesn’t reflect light so well.” The reflection of light is what gives skin its glow.

The fix: Exfoliate dead, dull skin: “Exfoliation is key to keeping skin looking luminous,” says Audrey Kunin, MD, dermatologist in Kansas City, Missouri, and founder of DERMAdoctor, who was shocked to see the development of fine lines and wrinkles and a change in general skin tone with dullness, dullness and loss of radiance after undergoing surgical menopause following a hysterectomy. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) will help slough off dead skin to reveal brighter skin. Glycolic acid, an AHA, is ideal because it is a humectant, which means it attracts moisture. Use a serum containing glycolic every other day if your skin can tolerate it.

The problem: fine lines and wrinkles

The culprit here is the decrease in collagen supply. You start losing about one percent of your collagen each year in your 30s, but this depletion gets worse quickly during post-menopause. “You lose 30 percent of your collagen in the first five years after menopause,” Day says. “So it’s important to keep building collagen while you still can.”

The fix: Opt for topical retinoids (prescriptions or over-the-counter retinol serums), which stimulate collagen production and cell turnover, making skin appear smoother. Baumann also suggests applying a topical vitamin C serum and taking an oral vitamin C supplement (500 mg twice daily). The antioxidant vitamin is essential for the production of collagen. “I wasn’t about to wait until I lost all my collagen and got wrinkled,” says Baumann, who has been taking collagen-boosting retinoids for decades. “Because of this, I haven’t seen any change in my skin except for the telltale dryness,” she says.

The problem: acne

Your skin is getting drier, but you’re still to burst. How is it possible ? “As estrogen levels go down, your ratio of female to male hormones changes — male hormone levels go up,” Baumann says. And these male hormones, called androgens, are one of the main causes of pimples.

The fix: Again, that’s work for retinol. Because it speeds up cell turnover, pores stay clear and are less likely to clog and form a pimple. Plus, you can erase blowouts and soften lines at the same time.

The problem: sagging

Just as collagen depletes with age, so does its partner, elastin, and it’s what keeps skin taut. “With menopause, I was very surprised by the loss of elasticity in the skin around my jaw and neck,” Kunin explains. According to Baumann, the loss of elastin is especially a problem for women of color during menopause. “The pigment in the skin protects their collagen fibers from damage, so their problem is more with fragility and sagging skin than with fine lines and wrinkles,” she says.

The fix: To prevent sagging, sunscreen and antioxidants (Vitamins C, E, Co-Q10, to name a few) are essential. Research has shown that estrogen protects against photoaging, so it’s especially important to prevent sun damage when estrogen drops. Unfortunately, treating sagging at home is difficult. In the office, Baumann likes Ultherapy, which uses ultrasound waves to firm the skin. “When you heat collagen to a certain temperature, it shrinks — the fibers get shorter, creating a tightening effect,” she says.

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