The menopause is an incredibly complicated process that all women experience as they reach middle age or even earlier in some cases, particularly women who have been treated for ovarian cancer. Menopause not only affects the internal body, it affects the skin as well which is due to the changes in our hormones. It is these changes we are often the most conscious of, as they are the most visible to us and to those who know us well. So, why does our skin change during the menopause?
Mainly, it is down to hormonal change and the decrease of oestrogen, combined with a slowdown in ovarian activity, including a decrease in B-Estradiol levels. Furthermore, the adrenal glands and ovaries of post-menopausal women secrete increased androgens. These hormones, in the absence of estrogens, can also cause facial hair!
So, what is the impact of the menopause on our skin? The hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause tend to change the skin’s physiology in new and different ways. Firstly, the decline of B-Estradiol during menopause is a contributory factor to the accelerated aging of the skin ~ in our younger years it would take approximately 28 days for our skin to renew, as we get older this takes longer and consequently, we notice our skin becoming duller and more dehydrated. On top of this the number of follicles remaining in the ovaries of menopausal women is significantly reduced so the follicles that remain become less sensitive to stimulation by pituitary hormones, even though their levels are elevated, resulting in fewer mature follicles and a reduction in the production of corpora lutea. This results in lowered estrogen and progesterone production, which in turn leads to changes in the skin.
So, what are the main changes?
Oily Skin: During the reproductive years, B-Estradiol stimulates a more fluid sebaceous gland secretion (“anti-acne” effect). During menopause, as estrogen levels decrease, testosterone (produced by the adrenal glands) is no longer masked in the woman’s body. Testosterone reveals itself by stimulating sebaceous glands to secrete thicker sebum, giving the appearance of oily skin (and the tendency toward adult acne in some women).
Facial Hair: Also due to the unmasking of testosterone, some women may develop facial hair, particularly in the chin area.
Sagging Skin and Wrinkles: Estrogens stimulate fat deposits over the female body; as estrogen levels drop during menopause, fat deposits tend to become redistributed and often concentrated over the abdomen and/or on the thighs and buttocks. The result is a loss of supportive fat below the skin of the face, neck, hands, and arms; this allows sagging wrinkles to appear, and the skin over these areas is less easily compressed, as it loses its mobility. Also, fat deposits are reduced in the breasts, resulting in loss of turgor, which causes the breasts to begin to sag and flatten.
Elastosis: Protein synthesis, particularly that of collagen and elastin, are partially controlled by estrogens. Thus, during menopause, the lowered estrogen levels result in less production and repair of collagen and elastin in the dermis of the skin. This lack of repair is particularly pronounced if the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays are very destructive to collagen, and if we lose our repair mechanism, then we lose our skin’s resiliency. This results in elastosis.
Thinning Epidermis: The growth and maintenance of blood capillaries in the dermis are partially under the control of the estrogens. Thus, blood flow through the dermal capillaries is reduced during menopause, and less nutrients and oxygen are available to the Stratum Germinativum or Basal Cell layers of the epidermis. This contributes to the thinning of the epidermis and a slower cell turnover rate, which is accompanied by a reduction in the barrier function of the epidermis, leading to increased trans-epidermal water loss and dry skin.
An interesting note, the cells that make up the surface of the skin are similar in structure to those of the urinary tract and vagina. Often when a woman notices changes in her skin (wrinkling, sagging, dryness, flaking, loss of resiliency, etc.), there are similar changes occurring in the lining of the urethra, bladder and vagina. Thus, the skin may be revealing other tell-tale signs of menopause.
More Prone to Sun Damage: The maintenance of Melanocytes (cells that manufacture the pigment Melanin) is under the control of estrogens. As menopause progresses, the number of melanocytes in the skin is reduced (they degenerate). With less melanocytes, we produce less of the protective melanin and skin appears lighter. Menopausal skin is, therefore, more prone to sun damage, making it even more important to protect the skin with a sunblock.
Hyperpigmentation / Age Spots: Estrogens also temper melanin production. That is, estrogen exerts a regulatory effect on the production of melanin; it keeps it under control. In areas of the skin that have been exposed to UV rays over the years, as menopause arrives, melanin synthesis increases (due to lack of regulation by estrogen). This can result in brown “age spots” appearing on the face, hands, neck, arms, and chest of many women.
There is hope…
Admittedly, the above does not paint a pretty picture and you may be experiencing one or more of these symptoms. A good skin care routine does help but with so many products out there, all claiming certain benefits how do you know which is the right one for you. If you haven’t done so already, do read our post on How to Read and Ingredients Label as this will give you some top tips on how best to identify ingredients and which ones are most likely to help you.
We noticed several of the above symptoms in our own skin, and as you may have seen from our story [link to article] it was one of the reasons why we decided to embark on this journey to develop and formulate a natural skin care range to promote wellbeing in midlife, menopause and beyond.
We have sourced and selected only premium ingredients for our skin care range, and we are proud of this fact. To help combat dry skin we combined Illipe, Capuacu and Murumuru butter with Moringa oil, Papaya seed oil, Perilla seed oil, Prickly Pear seed oil, Hyaluronic Acid, Saccharide Isomerate and Phyto-glycogen in our Radiance Day Cream. This combination helps to reduce trans-epidermal water loss to keep the skin hydrated and plump, improve collagen production to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and overall leave the skin with a beautiful velvety feel to it. The cream itself, is made using a shear blender to reduce the particles in the cream to a very fine consistency so it glides onto the skin and absorbs quickly to have the maximum benefit.
“Wow, I am totally blown away by these products. As a beauty therapist I have used many high end skincare brands but this is definitely a favourite! The scent is light and fresh, it absorbs into the skin leaving my skin hydrated and fine lines have diminished and a little goes a long way. I love it. X”
Gemma, Sunrise Beauty
We hope you have found this blog interesting and informative.
Louise & Sara xxLFV