Menopause skin changes occur due to less collagen and elastic fibres being produced. Collagen is the supportive protein structure of the skin and elastic fibres provide the ability to bounce back. The drop in collagen and elastic fibres accelerates wrinkling and sagging and is known as Elastosis. The decrease in B-Estradiol during menopause is one of the offenders in the aging of the skin. We know that menopause is caused by age related changes in our ovaries which causes levels of estrogen and progesterone production to decline which results in skin changes.
There are some experts in the field of skin that divide skin aging into two distinct categories – Intrinsic and Extrinsic.
Intrinsic relates to the effects that your genetic makeup has on your aging process.
Extrinsic relates to environmental factors such as smoking, sun exposure and habitual muscle movements. Fortunately, these factors can be controlled by you.
All of these factors are a driving force in the wear and tear on your skin.
How do Menopause Skin Changes Occur?
During your reproductive years, B-Estradiol stimulates a more fluid sebaceous gland secretion maintaining a anti-acne effect. During menopause, as estrogen levels decline, testosterone is no longer disguised in a woman’s body. Testosterone exposes itself by stimulating sebaceous glands to secrete thicker sebum which leads to the appearance of oily skin – this can often lead towards adult acne in some women.
Sagging Skin and the Law of Gravity
It is the job of estrogens to stimulate fat deposits over the female body, however, as our estrogen levels decline during menopause, our fat deposits become redistributed over the abdomen and or on the thighs and buttocks. Because the redistribution is concentrated in these areas, this leads to a loss of supportive fat below the skin of the face, neck,hands and arms. Therefore, the skin changes over these areas and become less compressed allowing sagging and wrinkles to appear.
As fat deposits are reduced in the breasts the same thing happens causing the breasts to sag and flatten.
Other reasons for sagging are significant weight changes throughout your life and lymphatic drainage (removal of toxins) declining resulting in breakdown of the support structures that keep the skin firm. Sagging usually takes a hold in your late 40s, 50s and beyond.
Smoking should be avoided as it reduces collagen and dehydrates the deeper layers of the skin.
If you are very concerned about sagging you can of course visit a cosmetic surgeon who may inject a filler to round out some of your features. Other people prefer face lifts; an operation which will require several weeks of recovery time.
Until your 20s your face is mostly free of any skin changes. You will start to notice the appearance of wrinkles or what the medics term motor wrinkles, which are wrinkles and creases that occur due to muscle and skin movement (extrinsic factor).
The first noticeable motor wrinkles are around the eye area, particularly, if you have had a lot of sun exposure or spend a great deal of time squinting at a computer monitor or doing a lot of close work. During your 30s, the wrinkles around your eyes will deepen.
During your 40s lines will begin to be noticeable around your upper lip. Smokers and women with sun damage will notice these lines sooner. During your 50s and beyond, wrinkles will become more prominent as your skin begins to sag – menopause skin changes.
You can apply retinol based creams to increase the rate at which your skin cells generate and increase collagen. Vitamin A (retinol) creams are the gold standard for collagen building in the skin.
There is also evidence to support using good quality vitamin c creams and serums to build collagen.
Vitamin E creams are also known for their role in anti-aging. Furthermore, free radicals are believed to play a part in skin aging, therefore, the antioxidant activity of vitamin E is valuable to the skin.
Hyaluronic Acid has many benefits and is an interesting ingredient in skin care. Naturally found in the body, hyaluronic acid secures moisture and creates fullness – youthful skin. Can be found in creams, serums, injectables (Restylane) and can be taken as a supplement.
Plant stem cells are used in cosmetology extensively to improve vitality, longevity and to stimulate the natural process of regeneration.
Filler injections and Botox will reduce creases. Botox temporarily relaxes facial muscles to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Common injection sites:- the forehead, the area between the eyebrows, the corners of the eyes and the sides of the chin.
Some women opt for chemical peels to remove old skin so that new layers can grow. This controlled removal ranges in strength, from superficial peels that use mild acids to deep peels that penetrate several layers of skin. Swelling, scaling and blisters may occur between 3-14 days, following which time your skin should be smoother, brighter and softer.
During menopause the blood flow through the skin’s capillaries is reduced as the capillaries are partly under the control of the estrogens, resulting in fewer nutrients and oxygens feeding the skin. This is a contributory factor both to the thinning of the skin and reduced cell turnover rate leading to water loss and dry skin.
Some women have a genetic predisposition to thin skin. Health problems specific to the skin can also be a contributory factor as can some medications, particularly corticosteroids used over a long period of time.
Applying a good moisturizer regularly may help to reduce thinning.
Also under the control of the estrogens is the production of melanocytes which are the cells that manufacture the pigment, melanin. As menopause advances the number of melanocytes in the skin decline due to degeneration. Due to this reduction in melanocytes we produce less of the protective melanin and our skin appears lighter. Menopausal skin is, therefore, more open to sun damage.
Estrogens also moderate melanin production by applying a controlling effect on the production to keep it under control. As menopause begins, any areas of the skin that have been exposed to UV rays can lead to brown age spots appearing on the face, neck, hands, arms and chest in many women. This is due to melanin synthesis increasing due to a lack of estrogen.
As you enter your 40s and 50s you will most probably start to see menopause skin changes as new patches of pigmentation appear on your skin. These are age spots, also known as liver spots, however, they are in effect sun spots. In essence age spots are a protective response from your skin as it attempts to protect its deeper layers of skin. Tanning beds accelerate the development of age spots.
Age spots are flat and can be black, brown or gray in colour. Although harmless, they are very similar in their appearance to some skin cancers. If you notice a very dark spot or one that looks mottled with several colours with an irregular border or one that is getting larger you need to see your healthcare professional as soon as possible.
If you have fair or light coloured skin and have had sunburns in the past you are more likely to develop many noticeable age spots.
Bleaching creams or laser therapy can reduce the darkness of age spots. Other treatments include chemical peels, dermabrasion or cryotherapy.
Melasma is a skin condition characterized by dark, irregular patches on the face.
Dry skin happens as your skin ages because it fails to produce natural oils partly due to a decrease in hormone production. Seasonal changes also affect menopause skin changes.
A quality vitamin A cream can significantly improve the condition of the skin as it reduces the rate of collagen breakdown.
A diet high in vitamin A – oranges, carrots, eggs… may help.
Increased intake of anti-oxidants, omega 3 and omega 6 foods may also help.
15 Menopause Skin Changes Techniques
- If you smoke – quit. Smoking has a huge effect to the appearance of the skin.
- You are what you eat – be aware of good and bad food.
- Beware of the sun – be sensible, you need vitamin D from the sun but moderate your exposure.
- Use SPF day cream with antioxidants – a winning combination for menopausal skin changes.
- Facial exercises can help to keep your skin and muscle tone more defined.
- Reduce your stress. Remember we wear stress on our face.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.
- Herbal teas particularly detox blends are good for improving skin clarity and appearance.
- Remember to smile and have fun – a great smile takes the emphasis off any wrinkles and creases.
- Hot water strips your skin of its natural oils – use only warm water for washing. Try a water free face cleanser.
- Instead of attacking delicate menopausal skin with aggressive scrubs, try a serum that contains alpha or beta hydroxy acids (also known to build collagen) to gently dissolve the layer of dull skin and brighten your complexion.
- Menopausal skin tends to lack oils and nutrients. Try a good quality omega 3 and 6 supplement. This is one of the most helpful oral supplements you can take for mature skin.
- During menopause night creams are important as this is when the skin does most of its repairing and rejuvenating. Use rich creams to really nourish the skin.
- During menopause the eye area can become particularly dry – try using an anti-inflammatory eye product for sensitive skin.
- Protect and nourish your lips more than ever during menopause. Seek out a cold sore prevention lip balm that also conditions if you are prone to them.
- Using moisturisers that are thick and rich will help to keep your skin dehydrated and slow wrinkling as you age.
- There are brands around now that are designed to specifically combat the effects of menopause on the skin.
The cells that make up the surface of the skin are comparable in their makeup and structure as those in the urinary tract and vagina. When a woman begins to notice menopause skin changes (sagging, wrinkles, dryness etc) there are similar changes taking place in the lining of the urethra, bladder and vagina.
Howard, D., Dr. How Does Menopause Affect the Skin. Retrieved from http://www.dermalinstitute.com/uk/library/12_article_How_Does_Menopause_Affect_the_Skin_.html
Menopause and your Skin. Retrieved from http://www.skintour.com/particular-interests/menopause-and-your-skin