Menopause and Perimenopause
What is the menopause doing to your face?
- What’s happening?
- What can you do about it?
- Do you need special skincare?
- Should I be taking hormone replacement and other supplements?
- Which tweakments will help?
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The menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her periods stop because her body has stopped producing reproductive hormones like oestrogen. It’s roughly around the age of 51, and ‘menopause’ is defined as the point when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months. This drop-off in hormones levels doesn’t happen overnight (unless you’ve had a hysterectomy), and the previous years, while hormone levels are declining, is called the perimenopause.
The perimenopause and menopause can a wide range of symptoms above and beyond the stopping of your periods. Facially, you may find that the perimenopause and menopause accelerate signs of skin ageing, specifically skin laxity and wrinkling. Hot flushes (where you have sudden feelings of hot or cold) are a widely-known side effect, but other symptoms, especially the mental effects, such as brain fog, anxiety and depression should not be overlooked. Body changes also occur, including weight gain and GSM, the term used to describe vaginal pain, dryness and itching, which, although not commonly discussed, can affect almost half of women.
Hormone levels have a big impact on the skin. During the perimenopause, the amount of oestrogen created in the body dwindles, and when we hit actual menopause, our oestrogen levels tank.
This is all very normal, all very natural, but it’s not great to watch this happening in your own face.
At the risk of being irritating – it completely depends on your face and what is bothering you (and yes, that’s the same answer I give to people who ask for advice on the best tweakment for 30-year-old, or 40/50/60-year-old faces). First, you need to ask yourself, what is your main concern, or concerns, about your face?
However, here are my suggestions for cosmetic procedures for the typical symptoms of menopausal skin:
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) uses ‘bio-identical’ hormones that are identical in structure to your natural hormones, and the dose can be customised for each patient. It is provided by private doctors, rather than the NHS, so it’s expensive, and HRT advocates criticise BRHT for ‘not being regulated’. However, as BHRT practitioners will point out, you can’t regulate a product when it is being made in bespoke measures for each patient to whom it’s prescribed.
The hormones provided by the NHS and specialist menopause doctors are often described as ‘body identical’ hormones’. They are still technically bio-identical but the term is used to describe the licensed ones, which are made to standard doses by pharmaceutical companies. This improves their perceived safety, but its a case of ‘one-size-fits-all’.
Doctors will argue the merits of body-identical vs bio-identical but in my experience, patients on any form of hormone replacement are usually delighted with it, though everyone says it takes a bit of tweaking to get the doses right, and these doses may need adjusting over time.
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Yes. Replacing the hormones in which you have become deficient will do more than any cream or serum to keep your skin in good nick. Seriously. If I could choose only one thing to help my skin, I would pick hormone replacement before any fancy cream or tweakment.
Many people who can’t or don’t want to take HRT swear by alternatives including evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and red clover, all of which contain plant oestrogens or plant oestrogens.
I’d suggest starting with the sort of effective, hardworking products that address any skin issues such as dryness or dullness and which work at any age. Yes, there are many new skincare ranges specifically aimed at menopausal skin. That is a triumph in itself, given that, until very recently, menopause was such a taboo subject that retailers would shy away from anything aimed at ‘women of a certain age’ and would never have dreamed of putting anything labelled ‘for menopause’ on their shelves or website.
Read the menopause e-book for more detail, but I think that if, for example, your skin barrier needs a bit of help, then use a ceramide-rich moisturiser. You don’t have to seek out a ceramide-rich moisturiser labelled ‘for menopausal skin’ unless it can convince you that it has other, relevant, ingredients or benefits to offer you.
Other practitioners suggest focusing on serums with active ingredients that activate your skin’s natural moisture factors (so you aren’t just slapping a band-aid on your skin’s decreasing hydration levels). That could include hydrating serums that are rich in hyaluronic acid, or a retinoid, which can increase your skin’s cellular activity (helping tackle fine lines and wrinkles too) if you overcome the initial irritation and dryness that the ingredient can sometimes cause.
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I’m 38 and still get acne on my cheeks but skin also dry and sensitive skin, and I can see the ageing… I use ZO end to end but not sure it’s the answer, plus it’s very £££. I looked at your Acne Fixers Bundle but how do I also tackle...
Dry and sensitive skin suggests that your skin barrier isn't in great shape. Work on this by focussing on gentle, hydrating products – a hyaluronic acid serum, sealed in with a moisturiser and, in the morning, topped with sunscreen. Once your skin is feeling stronger and more comfortable, start using a product with retinol or another retinoid (start slowly, with tiny amounts and twice a week at first) to help with acne management. Taking lots of omega-3 supplements can really help with skin hydration and skin quality, too. These are my current favourites....
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