Who knew that dry skin was a menopause symptom? For many of us, it creeps up in the perimenopause years, when oestrogen starts to decline. Our skin feels drier and less luminous. One more symptom to add to the list!
But why exactly is your skin so dry during menopause, what can help alleviate the dryness of your menopausal skin and will taking oestrogen improve your skin? We talked to the experts to find out.
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Does menopause cause skin problems?
Female hormones like oestrogen and progesterone play a crucial role in the health and appearance of your skin, helping to maintain collagen levels, improving the barrier function and supporting moisture retention, among other things.
During perimenopause and menopause there is a reduction of female hormones, most vitally oestrogen. This in turn causes changes in the skin as sebum (oil) secretion and collagen production decrease and the skin barrier becomes less effective at retaining moisture.
Facialist and acupuncturist Annee de Mamiel explains that dropping oestrogen levels also cause a decrease in elastin, our elastic fibres and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). “These are what make your skin plump and bouncy, so we see facial wrinkles and creases progressively deepen,” she says.
On top of this, acne is also not uncommon during perimenopause thanks to the decrease of oestrogen which leads to relatively high levels of testosterone. “Testosterone causes an increase in sebum (oil) production in the skin. This blocks the pores,” says our medical advisor, menopause expert Dr Stephanie Goodwin. “Plus, with age, skin turnover is less effective resulting in more blockage of the pores, inflammation and infection.”
Why is my skin so dry during menopause?
As we can see, female hormones are essential in keeping the skin lubricated. Thus, “the gradual reduction in female hormones will lead to a gradual onset of drier, more sensitive skin,” explains Dr Mary Sommerlad, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson.
“Furthermore,” she says, “menopause and post menopause changes in the pH of the skin making it more sensitive and therefore more reactive.” All of this leads to skin that can feel almost unquenchable, and, at times, even itchy, a condition known as Pruritus.
READ MORE Does Menopause Cause Itchy Skin?
What helps for menopause dry skin?
Dr Sommerlad suggests using soap free cream-based cleansers and balm-based moisturisers to help with dryness. Former Vogue editor in chief Alexandra Shulman swears by the de Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm, while Cult Beauty founder Alexia Inge recommends Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm.
Oils can also be useful. “If you are very dry, also consider adding in small amounts of oil after moisturising,” Dr Sommerlad says. “This can be particularly helpful for dry limbs and feet.” For the face try Sarah Chapman Overnight Facial Night Elixir, and for the body you can’t go wrong with Aesop’s Breathless body oil.
READ MORE 5 Facial Oils to Fix Dry Skin
As skin is likely to get more sensitive, you may start reacting to products you have used for years. So look for skincare that is formulated for mature skin and sensitive skin, and avoid harsh ingredients. Lastly, Dr Goodwin suggests trying to shower in warm rather than hot water so your natural oils do not get stripped away.
What is the best moisturiser for dry skin?
The best moisturisers for menopause, says Dr Sommerlad, will include ingredients that help lock moisture into the skin such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Softening ingredients like squalane and shea butter will also help.
“Have a simple, low irritation routine,” she says. “In the morning, focus on protecting your skin: use a gentle cleanser, followed by an antioxidant like vitamin c which will help brighten the skin, then a hyaluronic acid containing moisturiser followed by a sunscreen – ideally SPF50.”
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In the evenings, after a gentle cleanse to remove make up and impurities, introduce a retinoid which can help smooth skin and plump it. “Retinaldehydes tend to be gentler on the skin whilst still being effective compared to retinols,” says Dr Sommerlad.
Moisturisers that contain ceramides (lipids needed by the skin barrier) can also help to reduce dryness. For example, Triple Lipid Restore from Skinceuticals, a brand favoured by dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams. As well as ingredients that build your skin barrier like bakuchiol and niacinamide. “This helps not only lock in moisture, but also help prevent skin from becoming irritated,” explains dermatologist and dermatological surgeon Dr Dennis Gross.
Will taking oestrogen improve my skin?
Skin changes can have a huge impact on confidence and quality of life. If you are worried about them, Dr Sommerlad suggests looking into taking oestrogen. “HRT can relieve a lot of symptoms of menopause,” she says. “Many women find it invaluable during and after menopause therefore I recommend speaking with your GP about the benefits of HRT and the right form of replacement for you.”
Dermatologist Dr Pratsou agrees. “HRT improves oestrogen levels and has been shown to increase epidermal hydration, skin thickness and elasticity, with an increase in collagen production,” she explains. “The skin barrier is more effective, retaining moisture and preventing entry to irritants.”
How can I boost my postmenopausal collagen?
Collagen drastically decreases during menopause which affects the firmness and elasticity of the skin. For everyone looking to boost their postmenopausal collagen, Dr Sommerlad says that diet can be key.
“Look for foods rich in lean protein and vitamin C,” she says. “Avoid refined white sugars, smoking and excess sun exposure as all can contribute to the degradation of collagen.”
Protect your skin from sun exposure by using an SPF every morning, since UVA and UVB rays also contribute to collagen reduction, as well as skin ageing and pigmentation.
Introducing a retinoid at night can also help. “Retinol is a great ingredient that increases cell turnover and stimulates collagen production,” says Dr Gross. “It helps fight fine lines and wrinkles, keeps pores clear which prevents breakouts and also diminishes hyperpigmentation.” He recommends his Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Wrinkle Treatment. “It combines retinol with bakuchiol, ferulic acid, rambutan and niacinamide to tackle the majority of skin problems caused by menopause.”
Your skin goes through a great many changes during your perimenopause and menopause years. Female hormones, particularly oestrogen play a huge role in the health and appearance of your skin, and as they decrease it causes a significant knock-on effect. So now’s a great time to revamp your existing skincare routine, prioritise hydrating ingredients and if you are still concerned, reach out to your GP or dermatologist for expert help.