Menopause & Your Skin

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Almost from the day I got my period, I longed for menopause. Menopause would mean no more PMS, no more cramps, no more accidental stains, no more pre-period breakouts, and no more tampons! Looking back, I couldn't have been more naïve because all those miseries were merely replaced by others.

For many women, including me, menopause is no vacation. Hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, crawling sensations on the skin, insomnia, acne, oily and dry skin, mood swings, unwanted hair growth, and hair loss on your scalp can all come on with a vengeance when menopause hits.

In addition to skin problems caused by accumulated sun damage, lifestyle choices, and your genetics, menopause just makes matters worse. Your skin becomes thinner, begins to sag, and is less elastic. Seemingly overnight, many women find that their skin has taken a nosedive toward looking older. Maybe those monthly cramps and mood swings weren't so bad after all.
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Recommended Products for Menopausal Skin

Are There Special Skin-Care Products for Menopause?

Whether you are going through perimenopause (which are the changes your body goes through before the onset of menopause), or already well into menopause, great skin care can make a difference. What is important to realize is that menopause is NOT a skin type and does NOT require special skin-care products. Let me explain:

I would love to say that there are skin-care products out there that can reduce the changes menopausal skin may experience, but there aren't for these reasons:

  • Menopause can cause a range of skin problems that aren't the same for everyone, so the same skin-care products won't work for every woman dealing with menopause—no two women will experience menopause the same way.
  • Whether you're going through menopause or not, women may experience dry skin, breakouts, itchy skin, oily skin, rosacea, and thin skin. Each is treated differently.
  • What happens to your skin during menopause is hugely effected by how much sun damage you have been exposed to over the years.
  • Weight gain (which can be a benefit as fat fills out skin) or weight loss (which depletes fat and makes skin sag more) adds to the mix.
  • There is absolutely no research showing special cosmetic skin-care products can change menopause's impact on your skin, particularly in regards to sagging.

Do Skin Creams with Hormones Work for Menopausal Skin?

Menopause occurs when your body makes less of the hormone estrogen than it did when you were younger. There is research showing that applying topical estrogen to skin can help. But what about putting plants on your skin that have estrogen-like properties (called phytoestrogens)?

Certain plant extracts such as soy, black cohosh, yam extract, DHEA, and evening primrose oil, to name a few, are thought to be helpful when applied topically for menopausal skin because they are phytoestrogens. Yet research has not shown this to be case. Their benefits aren't any different from those of other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients found in well-formulated skin-care products.

What about skin-care products containing actual bio-identical hormones or taking estrogen or progesterone orally? When taken orally, there is no question hormone therapy can have benefit for skin, but there are also possible risks that you need to discuss with your physician. In terms of topical application, there is little to no research supporting the exaggerated claims you will find online are true.

Which Skin-Care Routine is Best During Menopause?

Because menopause is not a skin type, the same rules for all skin types apply: Treat the skin type you have and make sure the products you choose give your skin the brilliant ingredients it needs at any age. For example, if you have dry skin, oily skin, rosacea, acne, etcetera, you need to use skin-care products The Paula's Choice Team rated highly for those problems. You'll find all of our recommendations on Beautypedia.

Not all menopausal women have dry skin, but if you do, then products we rate highly for dry skin will work, regardless of your age. Again, you do not need to go shopping for products labeled as being for menopausal (or mature) skin!

Here are the basics for all skin types when you want your skin to stay as young as possible:

  • Wash your face twice a day with a gentle, water-soluble cleanser appropriate for your skin type.
  • Every day, 365 days a year, apply a sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater loaded with antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients such as niacinamide and retinol, and ingredients that restore the skin's barrier such as glycerin or ceramides.
  • Use an effective exfoliant for your skin type such as those containing salicylic acid (BHA) or glycolic acid (AHA). These remove built-up, dull-looking surface skin cells and research shows they also build collagen. A well formulated AHA or BHA product is a brilliant way to restore a smooth, healthy glow to aging skin! Paula's Choice offers several options.
  • Consider using prescription retinoids (a form of vitamin A) such as Retin-A or Renova to generate healthy skin cell production.
  • For brown skin discolorations you can use a skin lightener with hydroquinone as the active ingredient. Hydroquinone is considered the gold standard for improving discolored, sun-damaged skin. Paula's Choice RESIST line offers multi-tasking skin lighteners you may want to consider.
  • At night, apply moisturizers, serums, or treatment products loaded with antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and ingredients that restore the skin's barrier. You'll find exactly these types of products from Paula's Choice as well as many other brands we recommend on Beautypedia.

It is essential that you use skin-care products that are right for your skin type: If you have dry to very dry skin use emollient lotions and creams with the ingredients mentioned above. If you have oily, slightly dry, or combination skin with stubborn oily areas, use lightweight gels, serums, or liquids containing those ingredients.

Sources:International Journal of General Medicine, May 2010, pages 147-151; Progress in Brain Research, 2010, volume 182, pages 97–148; Journal of Ethnopharmacology, October 2009, pages 108-113; Annals of the New York Academy of Science, August 2009, pages 415-420; The Journal of Medical Investigation, August 2008, pages 167-173; Archives of Dermatology, September 2008, pages 1,129-1,132; British Journal of Dermatology, October 2007, pages 776-779; Journal of the Academy of Dermatology, October 2005, pages 555-568; Clinical Pharmacology, June 2005, pages 614-619; and Climacteric, June 2001, pages 144-150.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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