Do you really need a menopause moisturiser?
Dr Sajjad Rajpar, consultant dermatologist
Until recently, menopause was a word that was rarely mentioned in the £3 billion[i] UK skincare industry.
For decades the focus for midlife skin was on ‘mature’, dry skin or anti-ageing formulas. But there is now a burgeoning market of products promising to tackle menopause-related skincare concerns.
But what happens to your skin during this time, and do you really need to ditch your existing skincare routine and replace with menopause-specific skincare products?
As a consultant dermatologist who has spent more than a decade helping women with skin concerns related to their perimenopause and menopause, here I’ll be looking at the key issues.
What happens to our skin during perimenopause and menopause?
As the largest organ of your body, your skin also suffers from effects of falling estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause.
Estrogen is key to keeping your skin in good condition: it stimulates the production of oils and other hydrating substances that protect and moisturise your skin, such as ceramides, sebum and hyaluronic acid. Falling estrogen means your skin is less able to retain moisture, leading to dryness and flakiness, while the integrity of your skin’s barrier becomes compromised, leading to irritation. In addition, a decline in collagen production means you may notice more fine lines and wrinkles.
It’s important at this stage to point out that, like other aspects of the perimenopause and menopause, that there is no one size fits all when it comes to skin and the menopause.
While many women do suffer from dry skin, other women may experience the opposite, and find they see a return of oily skin and acne from their teenage years. It is possible that a drop in estrogen means the ratio of male hormones is relatively higher, leading to acne flare ups.
It’s not just about the skin on your face
Facial skin accounts for only 3% of the body surface area, yet the menopause can affect the entire skin surface. In particular the hands, lower legs, back and genital area can all be affected.
Your skin becomes more fragile as you get older, and a lack of estrogen can exacerbate this process. A lack of collagen can result in you bruising more easily and wounds taking longer to heal.
Concerned about skincare symptoms? Consider seeing a healthcare professional
As with other menopause symptoms, if you have concerns or symptoms are affecting your everyday life then you should speak to a healthcare professional. Your GP would be the first place to start, and in some cases may refer you to a dermatologist. HRT will also replace the estrogen you are deficient in and can make a real difference to the appearance of your skin.
Do you need a dedicated menopause skincare product?
The moisturisers and other skincare products you decide to buy shouldn’t have to change because of your hormone status.
For example, while it is true there is accelerated collagen loss during the 3-5 years after menopause, you actually start to lose collagen from your twenties onwards, so you would need to start thinking about using anti-ageing products then if collagen preservation were your aim.
I always advise to look at a product’s ingredients rather than the branding. Does it offer something unique to what you may already be using?
There are existing products on the market that can help with perimenopausal and menopausal skincare concerns, alongside HRT. For example, active ingredients change the biology of the skin, such as retinols, which reduce skin ageing and help boost collagen or niacinamide, which reduces pigmentation and can also help with breakouts and redness. These can be found in numerous existing products – even products marketed at men.
It is important to study your skin and decide what you need, rather than what you think you might need. Your skincare routine should be unique to your needs and skin concerns. What works for someone with acne or oily skin won’t work if you are suffering from dry, itchy skin, and I wouldn’t recommend a woman with irritable rosacea that has been exacerbated by the perimenopause or menopause to use skincare with active ingredients.
So what does a good skincare routine look like?
Establishing a routine is about using products regularly to maintain your skin. The four key components are:
Cleanser: if your skin is sensitive consider something more gentle and non-foaming
Moisturiser: generally the drier your skin is, the heavier your moisturiser should be, but if you have a history of acne you may want something lighter to reduce the risk of a flare up
Actives: which active ingredient you choose will depend on what issue you want some help with
Sunscreen: particularly important as your skin is likely to age at a faster rate without estrogen.
[i] Global Data, ‘United Kingdom (UK) Skincare Market Size by Categories, Distribution Channel, Market Share and Forecast, 2021-2026’ https://www.globaldata.com/store/report/uk-skincare-market-analysis/#:~:text=The%20skincare%20market%20size%20in,billion%20in%20the%20year%202021. [accessed August 2022]