As we age, the hormonal changes, especially in menopausal women, can have a dramatic effect on the skin. These changes are similar to the changes teenagers see in their skin as their hormones rage. Only this time, you are not only battling breakouts, the breakouts are accompanied by wrinkles and sagging skin. Here’s what is going on in perimenopausal and menopausal skin:
- The skin produces less collagen and elastic fibers. The drop in collagen and elastic fibers accelerates wrinkling and sagging.
- Surges of testosterone cause acne and the appearance of facial hair.
- The skin becomes thin and dry leaving it more susceptible to dermatitis.
- Oil glands that used to keep the skin soft and supple begin to slow down their production.
- The skin becomes a less efficient barrier against irritants, allergens and bacteria.
- Calcium decline not only weakens the bones, it ultimately weakens the structure of the skin.
Maintaining Glowing Skin After Menopause
So, what’s a woman to do? Well, there are several things you can do to restore balance to your skin after menopause. With some minor changes in diet and skin care, your mature skin can look healthy, beautiful and vibrant.
Creams and Serums
The key to keeping the skin youthful is to replace collagen and rebuild elastic fibers. Anything that builds collagen in your skin will help to maintain that youthful thickness and elasticity. Vitamin A creams, manufactured under the names Renova/Tazorac/Retin-A/tretinon, are all prescription grade creams that are considered the gold standard for collagen-building creams in the skin. Alpha and beta hydroxy acids are known to build collagen as well.
Gentle scrubs that help to shed the outer dead layer of the skin, build collagen because they send a signal to the deeper layers of the skin to become more active. The key is to use a gentle scrub since the skin is thinner and more delicate.
Injectables that Build Collagen
Currently, the only injectable that really builds collagen is Sculptra™. The product is designed to correct shallow to deep facial wrinkles and folds as it replaces lost collagen which can help provide a refined, more youthful looking appearance. When Supltra™ is injected, it sends a signal to the cells to product more collagen.
Lasers that Build Collagen
Long-wave lasers build collagen through a process is called photorejuvenation. Laser treatments with intense pulse light devices, or IPLs, send a signal to the skin to make more collagen. With these treatments, the texture and tone of the skin should improve. When used consistently, lasers and IPL treatments can help to maintain a youthful appearance to skin.
Light Resurfacing Lasers
Light erbium lasers, plasma, and fractional resurfacing devices all build collagen. Erbium lasers have a long track record of stimulating the production of collagen, creating tightening and smoothing of the skin. Fractional lasers, are excellent for skin resurfacing, removing brown spots, acne scarring, and other issues, but seem less effective at building collagen.
Diet is another key factor to consider in your menopausal years. Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins keeps skin looking its best. Here are some food that are most beneficial to aging skin:
Wild Salmon – this is a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids which helps reduce skin inflammation and prevent redness, winkles and sagging.
Walnuts – another rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts help fight against skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Oysters – a top source of zinc which helps build collagen and speed up skin renewal and repair. Read more about the Zinc and Skin Health.
Low Fat Yoghurt – this provides calcium to nourish skin and bones.
Vitamin C – foods rich in vitamin C are beneficial for the skin. Vitamin C is involved in the production of collagen and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Good sources of Vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, oranges, mangoes, pineapple, snow peas, strawberries, and more.
Blueberries – these are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that prevent long-term cell damage.
Sweet Potatoes – these are loaded with beta-carotene which helps keep the skin smooth.
Tomatoes – these are best eaten processed. Tomatoes are a major source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant thought to protect the skin against sunburn.
What About Hormone Replacement Therapy? (HRT)
For many years, estrogen replacement (or HRT) was prescribed for menopausal women. Estrogen replacement therapy was designed to relieve the symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, etc., but it also helped improve the condition of the skin.
Studies find that estrogen therapy helps maintain the skin’s collagen, its thickness, its elasticity, and its ability to maintain moisture. A 1997 study found that the chances of having dry and wrinkled skin was 30% less in women who took estrogen replacements (HRT) compared to women who did not. In another study – 98 postmenopausal women with HRT gel or patches, showed increased skin thickness, skin hydration, and skin surface lipids (good fats). The study found that estrogen therapy increased the skin thickness 7 – 15% and skin oil (sebum) by 35%.
However, in 2002 HRT was suspected of increasing breast cancer risks in addition to the already known risk of uterine cancer, and today, HRT is being prescribed less and for shorter periods of time.
There may be hope in new medications called Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs). These SERMs can mimic the effects of estrogen in the skin, while inhibiting effects in others. It is hoped that SERMs will allow women to take advantage of estrogen’s possible benefits, such as its value in staving off osteoporosis and improving skin health and appearance, while reducing its risks for certain cancers.
Some plant estrogens may work this way already. Certain plant estrogens have a very beneficial effect on skin while having almost no effect on breast tissue. This research may allow us to take advantage of estrogens in the future in a different, less risky way.
In the meantime, HRT is an important discussion to have with your doctor. Clearly the risks are considerable and no one should be taking HRT solely to have younger-looking skin.