8 Ways Menopause Affects Your Skin
The largest organ of the body is your skin. The way it looks can dramatically affect the way you feel.
During menopause, unfortunately, the skin can undergo many changes. We’ll explore 8 of these changes.
First, though, we’ll take a glimpse at the role of hormones when it comes to the elasticity in your skin…
How Hormones Affect The Elasticity in Your Skin
The dermis of your skin is a layer composed chiefly of collagen.
Along with elastin, collagen is responsible for the skin’s structure and elasticity. (1)
Once menopause sets in, you can expect to lose almost one-third of the collagen content of your skin in just 5 years. (2)
The collagen content continues to get lower at the rate of 2% each year once you’re postmenopausal.
It’s the decreasing levels of estrogen that cause the outer layer of the skin to produce fewer glycosaminoglycans, also known as GAGs. This hormonal change leads to the lowering of collagen content and makes your skin less elastic.
These lowered levels of estrogen is the main reason for these bothersome changes to the skin. (3)
How Menopause Affects The Skin
We’ll take a look now at 8 of the main skin problems many women encounter around the time of menopause.
- Dry Skin: Your skin starts to thin during menopause with the outer layer becoming less efficient at holding water. Estrogen is responsible not only for collagen levels, but also encourages the oils that keep your skin nice and moist. As well as being irritating in its own right and stopping you from looking your best, dry skin can lead to itchy skin. (4)
- Itchy Skin: At its worst, when your skin dries out too much during the change, you can develop pruritis, a feeling of itchiness making you feel like you want to scratch and keep on scratching. This can develop in the arms and legs, back or chest. (5)
- Wrinkles: As collagen is lost and also produced in lower amounts during menopause, more skin cells die or atrophy. This results in the appearance of the skin altering and wrinkles appearing. (6)
- Sweating: Thermoregulatory sweating is a mechanism your body uses to control its internal temperature. During menopause, sweating often increases and is linked to hot flashes. (7) (8)
- Acne: Hormonal levels going haywire can lead to the unfortunate development of adult acne for many menopausal women. As well as cortisol, stress – a common symptom of menopause – causes your body to produce androgens. Since androgens can stimulate the oil glands in your skin, this often ends up triggering outbreaks of acne. (9)
- Hair Loss: As estrogen and progesterone levels go into freefall with menopause, hair loss can be an unfortunate side effect. Since these hormones help promote hair growth and longevity, their declining levels during the change can cause hair to fall out. (10)
- Hair Growth: There is no hard evidence to show why facial hair can crop up on women undergoing menopause. Since this might be due to changing hormonal levels, it’s worth consulting your doctor if this happens to you.
- Wound Healing: While you might experience a reduction in the efficiency of wound healing, particularly if you have an ulcer, as with hair growth there is no conclusive study to show this is purely down to menopause rather than a by-product of natural aging.
Remedies For Countering The Effects of Menopause on Your Skin
If you want to stop short of cosmetic surgery but you want to fight back against the way menopause is ravaging your skin, you’ve got plenty of options at your disposal.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: Think carefully about whether or not you want to undertake a course of HRT. Estrogen therapy can mitigate some of the effects menopause has on your skin but HRT is not usually prescribed purely to address skin issues. (11)
- Phytoestrogens: A natural alternative to HRT, isoflavone phytoestrogens can be found in beans, lentil and soy. These compounds can help to reduce thinning of the skin during menopause. Topical creams containing isoflavone can be applied by a dermatologist but you’re probably better off sticking to these compounds in their natural form. (12)
- Retinoids: Retinoids are creams containing vitamin A. These topical creams can be effective against some of the skin problems you experience during menopause. Using retinoids helps (usually minimally) toward smoothing out wrinkles. (13)
- Avoid Smoking: As well as being beneficial to your overall health, quitting smoking can slow down the aging process of your skin. Ditch the cigarettes if possible and your skin will thank you just as much as your lungs will. (14)
- Stay Hydrated: Whether menopausal or not, drinking at least 2 liters of water each day not only keeps you properly hydrated but gives your skin a better glow into the bargain. Keeping a small bottle of water in hand at all times is one of the easiest ways to give your skin a helping hand during the menopause transition. (15)
Vergo is an interactive program that gives women the tools to understand their Menopause.
- The Vergo iOS symptom tracker (emailable to your healthcare provider)
- The Vergo QuikTrak symptom tracker (the refillable pdf version, also emailable)
- Vergo’s Interactive Education Program, Journey Without a Roadmap: Understanding Menopause
- Curated guides to the biggest questions and hottest topics around menopause symptoms and treatment options
- Must-have information on male menopause: There’s an Andropause? (an overview of what your guy could be going through)
- Terminology Cheat Sheets
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