Hormonal changes can cause acne in our youth, pigmentation in our child-bearing years, and then they contribute to ageing when we reach menopause. We lose approximately 20% of our collagen in the first five years of menopause, then 2% each year after that. The good news is that the skincare industry is recognising more than ever that one routine does not necessarily work for all ages. We spoke to Gynaecologist Dr Sean Burnet about how your skin changes in menopause, and gathered advice from our Clinical Director Dr Cussell, who has over 34 years’ experience in cosmetic medicine, on the best methods for menopausal skincare.
Changes in Collagen
“A drop in oestrogen affects the connective tissue’s regeneration,” says Dr Sean Burnet, a “which includes collagen,” he adds.
Collagen makes up the fibrous matrix that keeps our skin firm, elastic and, well, youthful looking. After the age of 25, our bodies start to produce 1% less collagen each year. When our bodies’ oestrogen levels drop, we produce even less. This is when our skin can become more susceptible to ageing.
With more collagen breaking down and less being produced, you may also notice your skin starting to crease, becoming more lax or thinning a little bit, especially on the hands and décolletage. We often lose fat pads around our mouth and below the eyes where the skin is more delicate, so your skin can appear thinner there, too.
Skin Care Recommendation
Regular skincare can help prevent the breakdown of collagen, and even restore it a little bit. Vitamin A is the most highly trusted ingredient for this. It promotes collagen regeneration and accelerates cell turnover in your skin. Vitamin A can be found in a number of serums and night creams.
You can also use a serum with collagen peptides. These are basically the proteins that make up collagen. When applied topically to your skin, they can help the existing collagen fibres restore themselves.
Professional treatments to stimulate collagen production are another option. Ultrasound treatments can be used to induce controlled zones of heat in the deeper layers of skin. This controlled heating stimulates the collagen cells which then start to regenerate themselves. Laser and radiofrequency treatments use the same method, but ultrasound tends to yield a stronger result.
Growth Factor Injections (also known as PRP, popularised among the younger generation as the “Vampire Facial”) are full of growth factors that can feed the collagen fibres in your skin. Borrowed from the medical industry where it’s used to treat muscular injuries, PRP injections can help restore thinning skin on the face, neck and décolletage, but it’s also effective for use on your hands.
Drier, More Sensitive Skin
According to Dr Sean, limited oestrogen levels in the body during menopause can also cause dehydration in the skin. It’s common for skin to become drier and more sensitive. This dryness also causes the natural moisture barrier to break down, leaving your skin even more prone to signs of ageing. Dehydration may also contribute to sensitivity toward some exfoliating cleansers (especially the ones containing AHAs and BHAs), but this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.
Skin Care Recommendation
In addition to moisturiser, you should use products with nourishing, active ingredients. Moisturiser helps the skin retain hydration temporarily, but it doesn’t help the natural mechanisms that your skin uses to produce moisture. If you solely use moisturiser, the hydration mechanisms in your skin can start to slow down because they assume there is moisture. If you add active ingredients to your moisturising routine, you’ll help protect those mechanisms.
Hyaluronic acid in particular holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, and it occurs naturally in the skin’s moisture barrier. Moisturisers that contain squalene are also highly recommended because the lipid structure in squalene is identical to the sebum found in our skin. Coenzyme Q10 (CO Q10) provides biological energy to cells to help them perform their natural functions, sort of like coffee for your skin.
Vitamin B can help balance natural hydration levels in your skin. Vitamins B and E can also reduce inflammation, redness and irritation that comes from dry skin.
Cleansers can also contribute to barrier breakdown and moisture loss. When your skin receives less natural re-invigoration from within, you need to treat it gently from without. If you exfoliate regularly, you can continue, but it’s recommended that you switch to a gentler exfoliating cleanser. Avoid manual scrubs and perhaps use a slightly lower concentration of AHAs if you’re noticing sensitivity.
If you tend to have hot showers, you might want to cleanse after your shower over the sink. Hot water can strip your delicate barrier, so we recommend cleansing with cool water, which can also soothe your skin.
We’re all unique, so you may notice some of these changes in your skin more than others. If you are concerned, or if you want further advice, you can always speak to your doctor or come in for a consultation and skin assessment with one of our expert Clinicians.