by wowmagazine

Hormonal changes during menopause can lead to dryness, uneven skin tone and texture, and sensitivity. Here’s how to maintain skin health during this life stage.

You might be prepared for some symptoms as you go through menopause like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, weight gain, and irritability, but unaware that your skin will also undergo changes. This is because your dermis or the thickest layer of your skin is sensitive to the shifts in hormones that accompany menopause.

The average age of menopause — when a woman goes one year without a menstrual cycle — is 51 but that’s not when the transition begins. There’s a time period before menopause called perimenopause which starts in a woman’s late 30s or 40s; it’s when women’s cycles and ovulation become less regular. The cause of this is fluctuating hormones. During some cycles, estrogen will be high; during others, the hormone will be low. Levels of the hormone progesterone fluctuate as well.

As it turns out, these shifts also affect your skin. Estrogen receptors in the skin play a role in sebum production which keeps skin lubricated and promotes normal collagen production, the main building block that gives skin structure. The fall in estrogen also leads to a decrease in skin thickness so you may see more sagging and volume loss. And the hormone is vital to maintaining skin elastin. You may notice skin loses its bounce and begins to sag.

During this time, there’s also a dip in testosterone, decreasing the activity of sebaceous (oil) glands, so you may notice less acne. That’s certainly fortunate, but with the one-two punch of the decline in estrogen and testosterone, the resulting dryness makes wrinkles appear more prominent. These changes to your complexion happen slowly over time, though there’s evidence that after menopause, skin and facial structure undergo more rapid changes, including thinner lips, deeper wrinkles, and a sagging jawline.

Put Hydration First

Because dry skin is one of the most common complaints at this time, you’ll want to switch to more moisturing products. That means using a creamy cleanser. Rather than applying a basic moisturiser before bed, look for a night cream. These are more occlusive than lightweight lotions, a term that simply means they effectively lock water into skin. When shopping for a night cream, one ingredient that traps moisture is ceramides. Hyaluronic acid is another hydrator and is naturally found in your skin. This ingredient pulls water in from the environment to hydrate skin, making it temporarily plump up like a grape.

Combat Wrinkles With Retinoids

Retinoids are another area that deserve your attention. These vitamin A derivatives, which you can get through a prescription from your dermatologist or over-the-counter promote cellular turnover to reveal a fresh, brighter layer of skin and increase skin thickness. We know that during menopause the actual thickness of skin is decreasing. Retinoids are the most targeted medication. The cruel reality is that retinoids are inherently drying, which only exacerbates problems with parchedness. You can combat this by using a single pea-sized amount on skin one or two times per week and increasing frequency as skin begins to build tolerance.

Also consider a retinol, a weaker form of retinoids, that’s available over-the-counter. If you find that retinoids and retinols are not compatible with your skin, look for products that contain peptides, which are proteins that promote collagen production.

Protect Your Skin With a Sun-Safe Routine

Another surprising function of estrogen is that it protects skin from the damage caused by UV exposure. Without this built-in guard, you may notice more discolouration at this time. Dermatologists might preach the importance of sunscreen for people of every age, but it’s even more critical now. In the morning, apply a broad-spectrum SPF 30 to exposed areas of skin before leaving your house. Applying antioxidants topically are also important for combating existing brown spots and preventing new ones from forming. Vitamin C is a tried-and-true antioxidant that dermatologists recommend applying before SPF in the morning.

Talk to Your Ob-Gyn About Hormonal Therapy

Estrogen is your skin’s best friend. A review published in June 2018 suggests that higher levels of estrogen are associated with a more youthful appearance. That’s where hormone therapy (HT) may come in. HT refers to prescription drugs that treat certain symptoms in menopause. Indeed, HT can help improve skin thickness, ramp up collagen production, and improve skin healing. It’s an underreported but extremely valuable benefit of treatment. HT is approved for the treatment of vasomotor symptoms – hot flashes and night sweats – and vaginal dryness. General skin health is not on that list, so it’s unlikely you’ll be using HT for skin benefits alone. That said, most women going through menopause will have some degree of hot flashes and night sweats for a period of time. If they choose to use estrogen therapy, they’ll get the added benefit of improved skin health.

Several types of HT are appropriate if you’re seeking complexion benefits, and your ob-gyn can help determine whether this treatment is right for you. While there are estrogen suppositories for the vagina, these only target and improve vaginal health, so they’re not appropriate if you’re seeking skin perks, too. You’ll need systemic HT.  Systemic estrogen can be delivered through a pill, patch, gel, spray, and vaginal ring. While these medications are safe, there are some concerns for certain groups of women (like those at risk for blood clots), so have an open conversation with your doctor to discuss what option is best for you.  

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