Caring for your skin in menopause

You can do something about the changes to your skin and hair that occur in menopause.

Menopause, which officially begins one year after your last period, can bring with it some noticeable changes to your skin and hair. As hormone levels plummet, your skin can become dry, slack, and thin. You may notice more hair on your face and less on your scalp.

With the right care, you can lessen these effects. Here’s what dermatologists recommend.

Age spots and other signs of sun-damaged skin

If you’ve spent ample time in the sun without sun protection, you’ll likely see the effects now. Age spots and larger areas of darker skin can appear on your face, hands, neck, arms, or chest.

Skin cancer and pre-cancerous skin growths also become more common.

What you can do: To protect your skin, you want to:

In menopause, your risk of skin cancer rises, making skin-self exams and dermatology check-ups even more important.

Bruise easily

As estrogen levels fall, skin becomes thinner. Thin skin bruises more easily.

What you can do: You may be able reduce thinning skin. Here’s how:

Dry skin

In menopause, skin loses some ability to hold water, so skin can get quite dry. This can be especially noticeable when the air is dry.

What you can do: The following can help combat dry skin:

Facial hair

As levels of female hormones fall, you can see unwanted hair under your chin and along your jawline or above your lip.

What you can do: Waxing may be an option. If your skin becomes too thin for waxing, your skin can tear and bleed. To remove unwanted hair, you’ll want to:

After examining your skin, a board-certified dermatologist can tell you what can help lessen the changes.

Hair loss on your head

At menopause, many women notice thinning hair on their head. The first sign may be a widening part. Some women find that their hairline starts to recede.

What you can do: When it comes to hair loss, the earlier you start treating it the better your results. Because many things can cause hair loss, you’ll want to:

Jowls, slack skin, and wrinkles

In menopause, skin quickly loses collagen. Studies show that women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first 5 years of menopause. After that, the decline is more gradual. Women lose about 2% of their collagen ever year for the next 20 years.

If you use only one anti-aging product, make it broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Apply it daily.

As collagen diminishes, our skin loses it firmness and begins to sag. Jowls appear. Permanent lines run from the tip of the nose to the corners of the mouth. Wrinkles that used to appear only with a smile or frown become visible all the time.

Later, the tip of the nose dips. You may see pouches under your eyes.

Large pores also are due to lack of skin firmness.

What you can do: If sagging skin or wrinkles bother you:

Pimples and other types of acne

As levels of female hormones drop before and during menopause, some women develop teenage-like acne.

What you can do: Because a woman’s skin is thinner and drier, treatments for teenage acne are often too harsh. Dermatologists recommend that you:

Rashes and easily irritated skin

Around 50, the pH level of our skin changes. With this change, skin becomes more sensitive, and women are more likely to develop rashes and easily irritated skin.

If you have an existing skin condition, such as eczema or rosacea, this could worsen.

What you can do: If you notice any of these changes, you should:

Wounds heal more slowly

Hormones play an important role in healing our skin. When hormones levels fall, skin takes longer to heal.

What you can do:

What changes will you make?

Now that you know what to expect, you also know there’s a lot you can do to diminish these changes. If all this seems overwhelming, a board-certified dermatologist can create an effective treatment plan that delivers noticeable results.

Find a dermatologist


Images: Getty Images

References
Hall G and Phillips TJ. “Estrogen and skin: The effects of estrogen, menopause, and hormone replacement therapy on the skin.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2005;53:555-68.

Kunin A. “Menopause and your skin: There is something you can do.” In: Kunin A. DERMAdoctor: Skinstruction manual. Simon & Schuster, United States of America, 2005:339-45.

Neder L and Sebastião Freitas de M. “Topical estradiol does not interfere with the expression of the metalloproteinase-1 enzyme in photo exposed skin cells.” An. Bras. Dermatol. 2012;87:70-5.

White GM and Cox NH “Disorders of hair.” In: White GM and Cox NH. Diseases of the skin: A color atlas and text (second edition) Mosby Elsevier, China, 2006:588-9.

Yaar M, Gilchrest BA. “Aging of skin.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:967-8.

Zaulyanov-Scanlan L. “Hormones and aging skin.” In: Baumann, L. Cosmetic Dermatology. (second edition) McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2009:29-31.

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