Apart from the myriad of other symptoms, the onset of menopause can cause considerable skin changes in women. Symptoms range from dry, itchy skin to increased oil, thinning skin and acne breakouts.
Changes in hormones, particularly estrogen are responsible for many of the body changes during menopause including skin issues. The role of estrogen in the skin is to stimulate the formation of collagen and oil production. As menopause approaches the levels of estrogen drop and dry skin becomes very common. Increased oiliness and acne-breakouts are less common but also may occur initially as the hormonal profile begins to change. Oilier skin is usually the result of higher testosterone levels relative to oestrogen. Then as all hormones lower, the body’s oil production decreases as does the oiliness. Due to the reduction in oil production, the oil’s skin-protective effect decreases as does the body’s ability to hold onto moisture.
While dry skin may occur anywhere on the body, from elbows to face to legs, even the nail bed, itchiness tends to be limited to hands.
While these changes are an inevitable result of menopause, there are many ways to manage the skin effects and slow permanent changes.
Manage Dry Skin Consume good fats – essential fatty acids promote the skin’s protective oil barrier and help keep skin from losing moisture. Western diets tend to be low in omega 3 fatty acids and most of us could use a top up. Foods rich in omega 3 include salmon, sardines, anchovies, flax oil, fish oil and green leafy vegetables.
Drink water – it makes sense to help maintain hydration.
Protect your skin from sun damage – too much sun exposure can dry out your skin and cause long term damage. Use a natural micronized zinc oxide sunscreen. Hats and protective clothing are also important during the middle of the day.
Choose a good moisturizer – if your skin is dry or dehydrated, choose a moisturizer that is rich in Shea or cocoa butter (stop moisture evaporation) or plant oils (support skin cell health and moisture retention). Other ingredients to look for include hyaluronic acid (helps the skin attract and hold moisture) and antioxidants (maintain the health of the skin cells so they hold onto more moisture).
Use oil-based serums at night – oils carry antioxidants and nutrients into the skin ensuring the health of the skin cells. The healthier they are, the more moisture they hold onto and the slower they age.
Only wash the areas you need to with soap – this is getting personal but your underarms, feet and groin are the key areas that really need soap. If you are relatively clean but just need freshening up, just let the water rinse over your torso, arms and legs. Washing with soap strips away the layer of natural body oil which means you have to add it back. While not suggesting you never wash or scrub your body again but maybe less often if your skin is feeling dehydrated.
Manage Oily Skin Use a light moisturizer – or even a gel based serum. This will reduce the production of sebum (oil) and therefore breakouts.
Light exfoliation – this will help keep congestion down and allow moisturizers to penetrate the skin more effectively. Choose a gentle exfoliant with even spherical exfoliant beads.
Monitor your skin closely as this phase is unlikely to last. As soon as you notice your skin become less oily, change to more appropriate products. Don’t assume it will stay oily.
Maintain Skin Collagen Levels Exercise – this is important for all aspects of health during and after menopause including bone density and heart healthy. Skin cell health is improved by increased blood supplies of oxygen and nutrients.
Use cosmeceutical ingredients to slow collagen breakdown and support new growth. Vitamin C is one of the most significant collagen supporting nutrients.
Your organic skin expert http://vitaleblog.org. As a naturopath Ananda Mahony ND has been involved in the natural skin care industry for many years both developing and sourcing specialist products. She specialises in the treatment of skin disorders such as acne, eczema, rosacea and dermatitis as well as anti-aging