Menopause brings about a lot of changes to a woman’s body. And alongside the mood changes, disrupted sleep patterns, and reduced sex drive that are more typically spoken about, many women also experience significant changes their to skin.
Due to declining estrogen levels, collagen production also slows down, which can cause a loss of skin elasticity, dryness, breakouts, and an increased number of fine lines and wrinkles.
In response to this, the beauty industry has become booming with products, all promising to help women cope with these changes – but, this can make deciding which products are worth the buy feel quite overwhelming.
Below, we’ll explore how and why menopause causes skin changes, before offering advice on some of the most effective, scientifically proven ways to look after your skin during menopause and beyond. We hope you find it useful.
How does menopause affect skin?
Menopause causes a variety of changes within a woman’s body and the symptoms that appear are largely the result of a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone (female sex hormones).
When it comes to skin, declining estrogen levels have a direct impact on collagen production within the body. Collagen is a protein that serves as one of the main building blocks of the skin, and it’s responsible for keeping it looking smooth and plump.
But, research shows that a woman’s skin loses up to 30% of its collagen content during the first five years of menopause, followed by a loss of 2% in the 20 years after.
This can lead to changes in the skin including dryness, breakouts, sunspots, skin thinning, and an increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. For example, a survey found that, since experiencing symptoms of menopause, 47% of women suffered with drier skin and 45% noticed an increase in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Though more importantly, 46% of women felt these changes were having an impact on their confidence.
However, other research has indicated that many women aren’t aware of the link between menopause and skin, and therefore don’t know how to adjust their skincare routines accordingly.
For example, this study of menopausal women found that 49% of women didn’t know about the significant impact that menopause can have on their skin but noticed that their current skincare products weren’t having the same effect, which knocked their confidence.
This is what we’ll try to help with next.
That being said, it’s also important to remember that there are plenty of ways to take care of your skin from the inside out too. For example, eating a healthy balanced diet, quitting smoking, and taking steps to reduce stress levels can all make a significant difference to the health and condition of your skin. You can read all about this in our article; 10 tips for healthy skin.
4 common skin changes during menopause and how to manage them
As we know, ageing is a natural, unavoidable process and menopause is part of this. So, it’s important to remember that, skincare products won’t entirely prevent or reverse the signs of ageing on the skin but can help to improve the look and feel of your skin; helping you to feel more comfortable and confident.
We’ll cover some of the most common menopausal skin changes below and offer some tips on how to manage them.
1. Dry skin
Having drier skin is one of the most common menopausal skin changes – and often the first one that women notice. This is because menopause causes the skin produces fewer natural oils, which are usually responsible for keeping skin dewy and moisturised.
If dry skin is something that you struggle with, then there are a few key ingredients that, according to science, can keep the skin feeling moisturised and hydrated. Among these are ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
Ceramides are fatty acids that form part of the skin’s natural barrier and help to nourish the skin by keeping moisture inside. And hyaluronic acid is a moisturising substance that’s naturally produced by the body. It’s sometimes described as being like the skin’s natural sponge because it helps to retain water.
Studies have found that ceramides are very effective at treating dry skin and that hyaluronic acid can significantly improve skin hydration in mature women. So both can be good products to consider adding to your skincare routine.
Some of the top-rated ceramide and hyaluronic acid products include…
Products containing ceramides
Products containing hyaluronic acid
2. Fine lines and wrinkles
Reduced collagen production during menopause means that skin can lose structure and more fine lines and wrinkles may appear. If this sounds familiar, there are a few things you can do to help with this.
The first and most important thing you can do to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles is to protect your skin from sun damage.
Research shows that damage to the skin caused by sun exposure is responsible for up to 90% of visible changes to the skin. Not only that, but Cancer Research UK also says that up to 9 in 10 cases of melanoma skin cancer could be prevented by protecting yourself from sun damage.
In our article, 11 tips to protect your skin from sun damage, we cover the impact of overexposure to the sun and what you can do to protect yourself. This includes using an effective sun cream that offers broad-spectrum sun protection every day of the year – even if it’s cloudy or overcast.
A few sunscreens recommended by dermatologists that you might want to consider, include…
To browse other options, check out this list of best sunscreens for mature skin from Refinery29.
In addition to sun protection, some other ingredients have been found to be particularly beneficial for improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Peptides for example, are fragments of protein that form the building blocks of the skin – and research has shown that they can stimulate collagen production and boost skin elasticity.
Niacinamide, which is a form of vitamin B3, has also been found to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles by boosting collagen production. For example, in this study, when people applied niacinamide to their face twice daily for 12 weeks, they experienced a variety of improved skin appearances. Red blotches, fine lines and wrinkles, hyper pigmentation, and uneven skin tone were all improved.
Niacinamide can be used morning and night, and typically comes in serum or cream form. When buying products containing peptides, serums and moisturiser versions tend to be more effective than cleansers. This is because they have prolonged contact with the skin and aren’t rinsed off. Peptides can also be used in both morning and evening skincare routines.
For guidance on which products are worth buying, check out this list of 10 best niacinamide serums from Good Housekeeping, or Stylist’s list of 15 best peptide skin care buys, which is based on scientific research.
3. Reduced firmness
When it comes to skin firmness, retinol – which is a form of vitamin A – is something to consider adding to your skin care routine. This is because it stimulates collagen production and improves skin elasticity.
Retinol can be found in over-the-counter (OTC) skincare products, including facial creams and serums, or in prescription products.
Research has found that over-the-counter retinol skincare products are effective at replenishing skin elasticity, especially when combined with vitamin C. For example, participants of this study reported seeing a ‘significant reduction’ in wrinkles after using OTC retinol for 12 weeks. Prescription retinoids have also been shown to reduce and reverse the signs of skin ageing.
That being said, since retinol is an active ingredient, side-effects including redness, irritation, or dryness aren’t uncommon – particularly when used on sensitive skin. Therefore, first time users are generally recommended to start by introducing retinol to their skincare routine only once or twice a week, to see how their skin reacts. Retinol also increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun and should only be used as part of a nighttime skincare routine.
The firmness of skin is also influenced by how hydrated it is, so it can help to choose retinol products that are mixed with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and glycerin.
Some top-rated retinol based products to consider include…
However, if retinol doesn’t agree with your skin, you might like to consider using bakuchiol oil instead. Bakuchiol oil is a plant extract from the seeds of the babchi plant, and has been shown to offer similar benefits without irritating the skin. This means that it’s suitable for all skin types – whether dry, oily, dehydrated, or sensitive.
Studies have shown bakuchiol oil improves skin firmness, pore size, and wrinkles by boosting collagen production and cell turnover. And other studies have found that there’s no difference between retinol and bakuchiol in their ability to improve signs of skin ageing.
For inspiration on how you could add bakuchiol to your skincare routine, we’ve picked out some top-rated choices below…
It’s not unusual to experience breakouts during menopause, even if you’ve never struggled with acne before. This is because a sudden drop in estrogen can result in hormone imbalances that cause breakouts.
If you struggle with this, experts recommend seeking products that contain azelaic acid. Azelaic acid is a naturally occuring acid that lives on our skin and is also found in grains like barley.
Research has shown that azelaic acid is effective at reducing skin inflammation. It’sn antibacterial properties also help to prevent pores from becoming clogged. Combined, these actions can make azelaic acid effective at both treating and preventing acne.
This study looked into the effectiveness of azelaic acid in treating menopausal acne. It found that applying a 20% azelaic acid cream led to a 53.9% decrease in mild-to-moderate acne over a period of 12 weeks.
Azelaic acid has been found to work well alongside other ingredients like retinoids, niacinamide, bakuchiol, and hyaluronic acid.
Stylist has a useful guide to azelaic acid for acne and scarring which offers a list of some of the best azelaic acid skincare products.
Note: Azelaic acid is an active ingredient which can cause redness and irritation if used too enthusiastically at the beginning. Therefore, it’s important to ease yourself in – for example, only using it in the morning to start with, before adding it into your nighttime skincare routine as well.
The menopause transition is a different experience for everyone, but if you’ve been struggling with any of the skin changes outlined above, the good news is that there are products out there to help.
We hope that by having a better understanding of how menopause impacts the skin, you might feel clearer about what products could be right for you and will leave you feeling your best.
For more menopause related content, head over to the menopause section of our website. Here, you’ll find everything from the best food groups to help you through menopause to understanding the difference between menopause and depression.