Written by Cassie Hart
Women strive for a healthy skin throughout their lives, but maintaining the dewy, glowing look of youth can be difficult to achieve when menopause begins. What was once plump, smooth, and evenly toned skin, can turn dry and itchy with dark marks as aging takes its toll. So, what’s really going on with your skin as you age, particularly leading up to and during menopause?
As with most changes in menopause, decreasing hormone levels are often to blame, which affects skin thickness, moisture retention, and elasticity.1 Let’s look at some common issues that may crop up as we age and examine recommended regimes for skin care during menopause.
What Skin Changes Happen During Menopause?
Because epidermal changes paired with the onset of menopause often stick around for the long haul, it’s good to know what to expect so you can (ahem) try to iron out any wrinkles in your skin care routine.
Wrinkles, Sags, and Lines
While skin all over our bodies changes as we age, the most obvious differences are seen on our faces. Because skin eventually loses structural proteins called collagen, sags and wrinkles can begin to appear. This is true for both men and women, but since 30% of collagen is lost in the first five years of menopause, women appear to age more quickly and tend to struggle more with these skin changes.2 Those who spent a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds during their younger years may also experience additional texture changes, such as rough patches and deep lines.3
Dry and Itchy Skin
Menopausal skin doesn’t retain moisture the way it was once able to, so dryness is another common challenge. Colder months can be tough on skin (dry air makes things worse) and can lead to itching, flaking, and cracking. To soothe irritated skin, ditch the soap and try a mild, soap-free cleanser instead. Remember to moisturize your body immediately after bathing and reapply moisturizer as needed throughout the day.4
Your vaginal tissue and vulvar skin are also affected by hormonal changes during menopause, which can result in painful intercourse, burning and irritation. “Many menopausal women experience progressively worsening tissue thinning and dryness [in] the vulva and vagina,” says Dr. Brooke Faught, DNP. “This is due to a decline in circulating hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.”
Women have traditionally turned to estrogen-based creams to combat vaginal dryness, but there’s also another solution: hyaluronic acid. Yes, the same ingredient used in many skin care products can also be a great treatment option for vaginal dryness, specifically for women who prefer to avoid hormonal therapies. Bonafide Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alyssa Dweck says, "a steep decline [in hyaluronic acid] begins after the age of 40—this is due to decreased production of the hyaluronic acid by our cells,” she says. She adds that this molecule has the unique capacity to bind to and retain water, which is why it’s an effective option for rehydrating the skin.
Learn more about Revaree®, whose key ingredient is hyaluronic acid.
Breakouts and Acne During Menopause
Bet you thought your breakout days were over, right? Sorry, ladies! Acne from hormonal shifts during menopause can return with a vengeance. Less estrogen or an increase in androgen hormones, like testosterone, may mean more pimples, but forget the extra-strength Oxy—consider using a gentle cleanser that contains salicylic acid instead.5 And if over-the-counter products don’t help, it’s a good idea to contact a dermatologist for other options.
Age Spots and Bruising
Dark patches of skin on the face, neck, arms, and chest are called age spots, or sunspots. Sun exposure over the years most often causes them, and in most cases they’re harmless. (Any unusual change, however, should always be checked out by your healthcare provider.) If noticeable age spots bother you, try applying a retinoid cream.6
Another visible affliction is that as skin thins with age, it becomes more vulnerable to bruising. Applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily can help prevent skin from thinning and reduce severe bruising.2
Preventing Skin Damage
While menopause-related skin issues can’t be completely avoided, there are some things you can consider to help keep noticeable changes to a minimum:
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Get enough sleep
- Wear sunscreen
- Stay hydrated7
Note that these tips are recommended for general health and are ideal for women at any age, not just those approaching or experiencing menopause.
When to Seek Help
If you’ve changed your skin care routine due to changes you’ve noticed during menopause, but it isn’t working—or if you have a specific concern—don’t hesitate to consult an expert. “Everyone should have an annual skin check with a dermatologist,” Dr. Faught says. “Reasons to see a dermatologist include the development of new or growing lesions with irregular borders and/or color, bleeding lesions, or itching, irritation and pain.” Dermatologists can also help with acne from menopause and provide additional treatments such as laser skin resurfacing and prescription skin creams.2
Boosting your awareness of skin care during menopause can help you be proactive as you take care of your skin before, during, and after this life-changing phase.