Isn’t it enough that the top three symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, mood changes, and weight? Do we really need more? No, but we’re getting them anyway. Skin problems are next on the list.
I had acne at an early age, then rosacea, a small window in my late 30’s with fairly nice skin, then immediately the wrinkles started. Now menopause brings in another slap in the face, but wait! It’s not just my face this time.
What kind of skin problems are caused by menopause?
- Increase in facial hair
- The sebaceous glands under the skin produce a waxy substance, sebum. The hormonal changes of menopause lead to this substance becoming thicker and possibly acne – again!
- Ample blood flow into the capillaries of the skin helps keep it youthful. Lower estrogen production, however, impedes upon this blood flow, resulting in fewer nutrients and oxygen to the skin. This also slows down growth of new skin cells and the ability of the skin to retain water.
- Wrinkling and sagging (and I thought that was just for my ass). Fat deposits under the skin are driven by estrogen. Less estrogen means a shift in the generosity of these fat depots: from face to abdomen. Without this supportive fatty tissue in the face, the skin starts to sag and crinkle. This also occurs in the neck, arms and hands.
- “Elast” refers to elastic, and “osis” means something’s wrong. Put two and two together and you get something being wrong with the skin’s elasticity—abundant during youth. Collagen and elastin, two substances in the skin, are affected by estrogen. Less estrogen = dwindling upkeep and repair of these substances. The result is skin that doesn’t bounce back as easily when tugged at.
- Increased susceptibility to sun damage. Menopause impairs the maintenance of the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that protects against sunburn.
- Age spots. Without adequate estrogen to keep the pigment cells well-serviced, they overproduce in areas where there’s been excessive sun exposure, producing those familiar brown spots.
- Some of the above issues lead to dryness, which in turn can cause itching.
The skin problems caused by menopause can also affect the chest, back, nails, legs and Miss Puss (the tissue in the genitals is similar to that of exposed skin).
Solutions to Menopausal Skin Problems
- Take up weightlifting, martial arts, or self-defense classes (check with your doctor first). Now, what on earth does this have to do with skin? Nothing. But it has everything to do with self-confidence, which can break down as skin integrity breaks down. The ability to kick some ass feels pretty great and gets our minds off of some wrinkles and sagging, making a woman feel younger as our strength increases. I used to see my older friends lose confidence after 50 and I couldn’t really understand it at the time. It is a reality for many women and not just in her head.
- Wear sunscreen, and not just for anticipated prolonged sun exposure like when at the beach or during gardening, but also for incidental sun exposure. Walking in parking lots and walking the dog to the end of the block and back produce a lot of cumulative sun exposure. The SPF should be at least 15.
- Clean up your diet by restricting processed foods and eating more nuts, seeds, raw vegetables and fish. Also take an omega-3 supplement. “Good” fats will help the skin retain moisture and ward off itchiness.
- Avoid hot baths and showers; the water should be closer to warm than to hot. Hot water can make the skin drier. I’ve been taking warm baths with coconut oil (yep, the stuff from Costco is a good deal) thrown in three times a week. It really cuts down on dry skin.
- Don’t scrub areas of your skin with a brush in the name of cleaning them unless it’s the only way to get the grime off. Scrubbing is harsh to the skin. Try to avoid soap in the areas that aren’t truly dirty. It’s one thing to have muddy calves from mountain biking, but if you’re taking a routine shower, simply let warm water gush over these areas.
- Avoid fancy, heavily fragrance soaps. If you’re struggling with dry and/or itchy skin, see what happens when you replace the pretty soaps with a plainer type with little scent. Even a so-called deodorant soap can antagonize the skin.
- After bathing apply a moisturizer and opt for a simpler one. For really troublesome areas like the heels and elbows, apply a thin layer of coconut oil. For dry skin on the face, use a topical like green tea or vitamin C.
- Though scrubbing with soap to clean is not recommended, it’s actually advised to exfoliate to rid the top layer of useless dead
skin cells. But be gentle.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water a day to hydrate from the inside out.
- Quit smoking. It promotes wrinkles around the mouth and also overall dryness.
- Give up drinking when you decide the health of your skin is more important than the indulgence. I haven’t gotten to that point yet. My wine is very important to me!
- Exercise will increase collagen. But don’t make all sorts of crinkly faces when you’re getting in those last repetitions.
- When you dry the sweat off your face with a towel after your workout, gently pat it dry; don’t rub.
- Make sure your skin problems don’t have a cause other than menopause, such as low thyroid. Have a complete exam by a dermatologist if the aforementioned treatments don’t work.
Skin problems from menopause are there to stay, but with some smart approaches, they can be greatly minimized. So grab a friend and get that facial you’ve been putting off. Time for a girls’ day out!
What are some treatments that have worked for you? Please share in the comments section what you’ve tried.