Perimenopause marks the transitional phase leading up to menopause, characterized by shifts and imbalances in hormonal levels that can trigger various changes within the body. Typically occurring in the mid to late 40s, though ranging from the 30s to the 50s, this phase can extend up to 15 years, manifesting in evolving and often intensifying symptoms.
Menopause itself, a natural occurrence, is an inevitability for every woman. It is officially defined as the cessation of menstrual periods for an entire year. Though the average age of menopause hovers around 52, it can emerge as early as 30 years old.
Interestingly, these biological transformations don't merely impact internal processes—they also exert a noticeable influence on the skin. The skin's physiology undergoes unique modifications during and after menopause, largely due to the hormonal shifts.
One of the most common effects is dry skin. Estrogen, responsible for fostering skin-smoothing collagen and oils, diminishes in production as menopause approaches. Consequently, dry and itchy skin becomes a frequent issue. The decline in estrogen levels, coupled with altering hormone ratios, not only curbs oil production but also impedes the skin's capacity to retain moisture.
As a woman nears menopause, several notable skin changes emerge:
Oily Skin: While B-Estradiol prompts sebaceous glands to produce fluid secretions that combat acne, the decline in estrogen during menopause exposes testosterone's effects. Testosterone stimulates the secretion of thicker sebum, leading to an oily skin appearance and, in some cases, adult acne.
Facial Hair: The unmasking of testosterone can lead to facial hair growth, particularly in the chin region.
Sagging Skin and Wrinkles: Estrogen influences fat distribution in the body. Reduced estrogen levels during menopause lead to the concentration of fat deposits in areas like the abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. This reallocation results in a loss of supportive fat beneath the skin of the face, neck, hands, and arms, contributing to sagging wrinkles and decreased skin mobility. Breast fat reduction can also cause sagging and flattening.
Elastosis: Estrogens play a role in collagen and elastin production and repair. With decreased estrogen levels, the skin's dermal layer experiences reduced collagen and elastin synthesis, especially when exposed to UV rays. This results in elastosis, diminishing the skin's resiliency.
Thinning Epidermis: Estrogens influence blood capillary growth in the dermis. As estrogen levels drop during menopause, blood flow decreases, limiting nutrient and oxygen supply to the epidermis. This leads to epidermal thinning, slower cell turnover, elevated trans-epidermal water loss, and dry skin.
Increased Sun Vulnerability: Estrogens impact melanocyte maintenance and melanin production. As menopause progresses, fewer melanocytes remain, leading to reduced melanin production and increased susceptibility to sun damage. Sun protection becomes even more critical.
Hyperpigmentation / Age Spots: Estrogens regulate melanin production. As menopause unfolds and estrogen's regulatory influence wanes, melanin synthesis rises, potentially resulting in age spots on various body areas exposed to UV rays.
Hot Flashes: These episodes entail warmth sensations, primarily on the face, accompanied by excessive sweating. Though previously attributed solely to B-Estradiol reduction, they are now understood to be influenced by the heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system due to low estrogen levels.
Dry Skin: Estrogen stimulate the formation of skin-smoothing collagen and oils. That's why, as menopause approaches and estrogen production diminishes, dry, itchy skin becomes very common.
That reduction of estrogen, and the changing ratios of hormones in your body, don't just slow down your body's oil production, they also reduce your body's ability to retain moisture. So what does this have to do with the skin? A lot. The hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause tend to change the skin’s physiology in new and different ways.
For managing dry skin during menopause, experts offer several suggestions:
- Prioritize Essential Fatty Acids: Incorporate omega-3s from sources like salmon, walnuts, fortified eggs, or algae oils to nurture your skin's oil barrier and maintain hydration.
- Apply Sunscreen: Shield your skin with broad-spectrum sunblock offering protection against UVA and UVB rays, irrespective of weather conditions.
- Limit Hot Showers: While appealing, hot water can deplete skin's natural oils. Opt for shorter, warm showers instead.
- Choose Gentle Cleansers: Opt for unscented or lightly scented soaps to avoid stripping essential oils from your skin.
- Embrace Moisturizers: Utilize natural, rich moisturizers after a warm shower to maintain hydration. Ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid, algae, vitamin C, and green tea can help lock in moisture.
- Exfoliate: Enhance moisturizer penetration by exfoliating with gentle scrubs containing alpha-hydroxy acids and vitamin E to support skin health.
By understanding and addressing these skin changes, women can navigate the perimenopausal and menopausal phases while adopting effective skincare routines to support skin health and vitality.
Tips for Dry Skin Care During Menopause
To address dry skin concerns on the face, consider using moisturizers enriched with ingredients such as Shea butter, Hyaluronic Acid, and Algae. These components aid in effectively retaining moisture. To enhance the absorption of moisturizers, incorporate exfoliation into your routine. Gently exfoliate the top layer of dead skin using scrubs or masks containing alpha-hydroxy acids and vitamin E. This not only gently dissolve proteins in lifeless skin cells, and instantly rejuvenating and softening the surface, but also provides elevated nourishment to the skin.