Menopause, by definition, is when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months. The time leading up to eventual cessation of these periods is referred to as ‘peri-menopause.’ This is marked by commonly known symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings and sleep disturbances. Women typically experience this in their late 40s to early 50s with an average age in the US of 51. Some women go through menopause quite smoothly while others struggle with this troubling myriad of symptoms.
Technically 85% of women have menopausal symptoms. For most these symptoms may stop within a year but in others may last up to 2-3 years. A decline in estrogen levels is the main contributor to these symptoms, although decreased levels of progesterone and testosterone play an important role as well.
While the overall trend is for estrogen levels to decrease it is not always a steady decrease. Women have a wide array of experiences with menopause, but one quite universal fact is how decreased estrogen levels affect the skin.
What happens to the skin during menopause
1.The Epidermis (top skin layer) becomes thinner and drier. Estrogen help improve blood flow to the skin through capillaries in the dermis (layer below epidermis). These capillaries supply nutrients and oxygen to the basal layers of the epidermis (where new epidermal cells are being made). Now with less estrogen and fewer epidermal cells, the epidermis becomes thinner. A thinner epidermis means more water loss and an overall drier surface.
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2. The Dermis has less collagen. Decreased estrogen levels result in decreased synthesis and repair of the collagen and elastin in the dermis. Collagen is the architecture that supports the skin. The skin now loses elasticity, tightness and firmness. When the skin (and collagen) is exposed to environmental insults such as UV-rays, the skin struggles to repair. The end result is the presence of more fine lines and wrinkles. Try our Fillast range. FILLAST is the most effective solution for treating:
– Deep wrinkles and expression lines
– Sagginess and loss of elasticity
– Dull skin
– Signs of age
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3. Changes in skin Melanin production. The cells that produce melanin (melanocytes) are also regulated by estrogen. With less melanin the skin becomes lighter and more prone to sun damage. Women around the age of menopause (and everyone else) should use sun block with a minimum SPF of 20 on exposed skin, particularly of the face, neck and hands. Our Enerpeel JR and Thiospot ranges can help with this. Click here to read more on Thiospot and Click here to read more on Enerpeel JR.
4. Acne may develop. During adulthood, with adequate estrogen available, the fluid secreted by sebaceous glands is thinner and less likely to block pores. The estrogen and testosterone are in balance. During menopause, the testosterone can exert a greater effect as the estrogen levels decrease. With more testosterone and less estrogen the sebaceous gland secretions become thicker making the skin more acne prone. Try our Aknicare range. AKNICARE® is an Acne Treatment Range which has a superb antibacterial action without using antibiotics. It stops new spots forming and has a spot reducing & calming action. AKNICARE® reduces oil by an average of 53%. Click here to read more about Aknicare.
Improving your skin during menopause
At its core, medical aesthetics and skin care is about improving the top layer of skin while helping increase the supporting layers (collagen and elastin). Ideally we achieve a smooth, vibrant epidermal layer with an elastic, toned and firm architecture supporting it. So with menopause we will utilize every possible (and safe) treatment in our arsenal.
1. Replace Estrogen. Understandably everyone cannot take estrogen replacement but if you can, this is clearly step #1. This is a hotly contested area especially with the arrival of ‘bio-identical hormones’ as an alternative. Certain types of cancers including breast or uterine cancer, a history of heart attack/heart disease, stroke, liver disease, or blood clots are conditions which preclude women from taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is something that needs to be taken on an individual basis and discussed at length with your doctor. Suffice it to say if there is no contraindication to taking HRT, your skin will be much happier with more estrogen around.
2. Avoid Skin Irritants. Changes in humidity, particularly a lower humidity in the winter months can dry out your skin. Wear gloves and a scarf to protect your hands and face in the winter and keep your home at 67-70 degrees. An optimal humidity level is 45-55%. Keep your showers brief with cooler water and avoid ‘scrubbing’ your skin. Hot and long showers combined with aggressive scrubbing strips your skin of its protective, moisture preserving oils.
Avoid any soap or shampoo with heavy perfumes which can be irritating to your skin. Unscented is universally better for your skin. Do not neglect to realize that bed sheets, clothing, dryer sheets, laundry detergents and shampoos may contain irritants that may irritate the skin. If your skin is newly irritated or dry, try to remember if you have tried a new detergent, shampoo or soap.
3. Moisturize your Skin. Hyaluronic acid should be an ingredient somewhere in your daily skin care regimen due to its amazing ability to keep moisture in the skin. It is almost like an anti-wrinkle vitamin. It doesn’t end there as the list of effective ingredients to help moisturize and hydrate your skin is lengthy. Some favourites to look for in your skin care regimen include petroleum, glycerin, lanolin, ceramides, dimethicone, jojoba oil and coconut oil. Try our Hydratime and Nutritimerange! Click here to read more.
4. Treat Acne (if present). Many women around age 50 may find themselves wandering through the ‘acne isle’ at the local pharmacy. With a relative increase in testosterone due to the lower levels of estrogen, sebum thickens on what may already be dry skin. This is a recipe for adult acne. While no acne treatment regimen is ‘one size fits all’ (nothing is like that anywhere in medicine for that matter), improvements in diet along with the use of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are certain to help. Try our Aknicare range. Click here to read more about Aknicare.
5. Consider procedures known to increase cell turnover and collagen in the skin. Three procedures that come to mind are chemical peels, micro needling and laser skin resurfacing. In different ways these treatments all increase new cell production in the epidermis making it thicker and more vibrant while also boosting the amount of collagen in the layers beneath the epidermis. Click here to read about our Enerpeel range.
6. Consider having a cosmetic treatment such as Botox or dermal fillers (Restylane, Juvederm, Radiesse) to give you some real help in reducing fine lines and wrinkles.