Recently I shared my top 10 skin care tips for those in menopause with mindbodygreen and I thought it would be helpful to share them with you too, plus add a few more.
When we talk about hormonal skin changes, we tend to zero in on puberty, but if you are over 35 years old, you’re probably starting to notice some changes in your skin and puberty is long gone. That’s because starting in your mid-late 30’s your hormones begin to diminish and paired with diet and lifestyle factors like sleep and stress that can make your hormones go haywire, your skin can show signs of the aftermath.
So What’s The Story About Sex Hormones and Your Skin?
Estrogen is key for the normal functioning of the skin as well as the blood vessels, hair follicles, oil glands, and our pigment producing cells called melanocytes. It is associated with collagen production, increased skin thickness, increased hyaluronic acid production, improved skin barrier function, maintaining skin hydration, reduced sebaceous (oil) gland activity, and improved wound healing.
It also plays a role in modulating inflammation. While the effect of progesterone on the skin is less well defined, it’s thought to contribute to skin elasticity, pigmentation as well as increased circulation and sebaceous gland activity observed in the second half of the menstrual cycle. Androgens, including testosterone, play a role in oil gland production.
As your hormones diminish in menopause, the functions they perform to maintain the health and vitality of the skin diminish as well,l characterized by a decrease in sweat, sebum and the immune functions resulting in significant alterations in the skin surface including pH, lipid composition and sebum secretion. These changes also provide potential alterations in the skin that may affect the skin microbiome.
So What Happens?
The result is that the skin becomes more dry, sensitive, and vulnerable to irritation,inflammation and rashes. WIthout estrogen’s influence to help produce hyaluronic acid and collagen, fine lines, wrinkles, jowls and sagging skin become more prominent, wound healing is delayed and bruising is more common. There is also thinning of the skin and atrophy of vaginal tissue, which when combined with increased dryness is a recipe for painful sex, itch and irritation.
There is a decrease in skin cell turnover giving skin a dull appearance and pigmentation becomes more prominent. Due to a relative androgen dominance as other hormones diminish at a more rapid rate, increased facial hair and acne may show up.
What sort of changes do you typically see?
Studies show that women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause and about 2% of their collagen every year after for the next 20 years.
This rapid decline in collagen leads to our skin losing its firmness and it begins to sag, pores appear more prominent and wrinkles that used to only show up we smiled or frowned now are visible all of the time
So what do you see? Changes in skin tone, texture, and pigmentation showing up as a dull complexion, skin sagging,wrinkles, thinning hair and more prominent “age spots”.
What can you do to help your skin during this time?
Boost Your Hydration:
Because the skin loses some ability to retain moisture, the skin can get pretty dry, especially when there is low humidity. So washing with a gentle cleanser like this Citrus Mint Cleanser, instead of soap, especially on the face.
When showering reserve soap for what I call the “ppf”…pits, privates and feet. Followed by applying a moisturizer after bathing, and while the skin is still damp as well as throughout the day when your skin feels dry. A moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, aloe vera or glycerin can be especially helpful.
As your skin may be more sensitive and fragile, avoid aggressive exfoliation or scrubs that could tear or irritate the skin.
Make SPF Your BFF:
Because collagen production is diminished in menopause, it’s even more important to use daily sun protection, because the UV rays will further degrade collagen and increase skin pigmentation.
Protect Your Collagen:
Removing robbers of collagen formation and repair is the first step which means getting rid of sugar and prioritizing getting your beauty sleep.
Sugar and how we prepare our food can interfere with healthy skin aging because both of these lead to formation of Accelerated Glycation End Products ( AGEs). AGEs age your skin. AGEs are proteins formed by excess sugar and food prepared at high temperatures like grilling and roasting which cross link your collagen making it stiff and harder to repair resulting in wrinkles, skin sag and jowls.
Hot Tip: Marinating meats with acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomato juice, or lemon juice, can reduce AGE production by up to 50%. Also cooking over ceramic surfaces — rather than directly on metal — can also reduce AGE production
Boost Your Collagen:
Eating foods that can promote collagen production, and help your skin hold on to needed moisture is a great place to start.
Look for foods rich in:
- Vitamin C is essential to collagen production, and along with other antioxidants, it can help reduce inflammation and damage that contribute to signs of skin aging: Pomegranates, spinach, and tomatoes (also rich lycopene which helps protect your skin from UV rays).
- Lutein: This powerful carotenoid is great for overall skin tone, texture and helps the skin maintain moisture. Lutein is found in greens, squash, broccoli, asparagus, and red pepper.
- B vitamins are key for healthy skin because not only do they help reduce inflammation, and serve as a humectant to hold moisture within the skin, they also stimulate elastin and fibrillin within the skin, which means improved barrier protection, increased cell protection, and more youthful skin. Collagen supplements can also be a great addition as the peptides are absorbed to promote collagen and elastin production by encouraging healthy fibroblasts, which are the cells that produce these molecules.
Add in some Targeted Products:
Consider adding in a skin care product that contains retinol, bakuchiol or peptides to help boost collagen in your skin. (link) Eating a diet rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants can be supplemented with topical products rich in vitamins C, E and ferulic acid(link) that helps reduce inflammation, build collagen, protect and strengthen the skin while also simultaneously brightening it to promote a radiant complexion.
Address Your Acne:
If you’re breaking out, you may not be able to tolerate the treatments you used as a teenager because the skin is thinner and drier and the treatments may be too harsh. So using a cleanser with salicylic acid can be useful. Avoid acne products that can dry your skin as that can make acne worse. Taking a look at your diet as well as dairy products and sugar can stimulate the production of sebum.
Switch to Products for Dry and/or Sensitive Skin:
Because the pH level of our skin changes around age 50, skin becomes more sensitive, and women are more likely to develop rashes and easily irritated skin and/or Using fragrance free products, with anti-inflammatory, moisturizing and soothing properties is key to help maintain and restore moisture and the skin barrier integrity.
Replenishing essential fatty acids (EFA), like gamma linoleic acid from several plant-based oils, including evening primrose oil (EPO) and black currant seed oill can be helpful to support skin elasticity, and barrier integrity by regulating cell turnover rate. Sea buckthorn oil and niacinamide can help with inflammation and hyaluronic acid can help replenish moisture.
Show Your Gut Some Love:
Many skin issues are associated with food sensitivities or intolerances that we don’t often connect to skin health. There are several foods that are inflammatory to the skin and gut, and can wreak havoc on the skin in the form of acne, redness, or dry, flaky skin, which can compound the effects of diminishing hormones.
In addition to sugar and dairy, add gluten and alcohol to the list. (I know, I love my glass of wine too and I’ll share my tips on how to have your wine and drink it too in another post…but for now, remove it).
Since everyone’s personal intolerances vary, consider omitting one or two of these foods for 3 to 4 weeks and watch your skin for improvement. Be sure to add them back one at a time, and if your skin worsens, you know to avoid the offending food.
Bottom line: The health and appearance of your skin is also influenced by the health of the gut, efficiency of liver detoxification, insulin sensitivity, thyroid and adrenal function which can experience imbalances during this transitional period of menopause and show up on the skin in a myriad of ways. Taking an inside out as well as outside in approach to your skin is menopause is the key to a radiant complexion.