Medical Dermatology

Menopause and your skin

Like the rest of your body, your skin changes when you go through the "change of life." Since the average woman will spend more than a third of her life being post-menopausal, it’s important to understand how the skin matures over time. Fortunately, most of these symptoms can treated.

What happens to your skin with menopause?

In young skin, estrogen stimulates collagen production. This helps to keep skin firm and smooth (and also explains why a woman’s skin is generally softer than a man’s). With menopause, the ovaries slow down their production of estrogen and progesterone (the female hormones). This usually happens between age 40-55. As estrogen levels fall, the skin produces less collagen. In fact, studies have shown that the skin loses 30% of its collagen within the first 5 years after menopause. This shows up as wrinkles, thin skin, and easy bruising.

In addition, the sebaceous glands secrete less oil, so dry skin is a frequent problem.

Since there is less estrogen, the effect of naturally-occurring androgens (male hormones) is more apparent. Therefore scalp hair gets thinner, and facial hair increases.

The vaginal tissues shrink and have decreased lubrication. This can produce vaginal itching, discomfort, and painful intercourse.

Approximately 70% of women experience hot flashes, which are episodes of flushing and sweating. These can be triggered by hot drinks, physical exertion, or stress.

How are these symptoms treated?

Wrinkles – Begin by always wearing sunscreen with minimum SPF 30, preferably one with zinc oxide (such as Dr. Jessica Wu CosmeceuticalsTM Anti-Aging Sun Care SPF32). Although this won't help against existing wrinkles, it will help in preventing new ones from ocurring.
Then continue by using products that contain either Retin A, retinol, alphahydroxy acids as well as strong antioxidants (Superoxide Dismutase, Scutellaria, Vitamin C, or Coenzyme Q10). More severe wrinkles also respond well to laser treatments, such as the Polaris Wrinkle Reduction.

Easy bruising – try the homeopathic supplements arnica montana and bromelein.

Dry skin – Use a mild cleanser on the face, such as Dr. Jessica Wu CosmeceuticalsTM Gentle Foaming Cleanser. For the body, be sure to use a mild soap (Dove, Oil of Olay Daily Renewal Moisturizing Body Wash), and apply a moisturizing body cream or oil immediately after bathing.

Thinning hair – Rogaine solution works for some women with hair loss (available without a prescription).

Facial hair growth – Laser hair removal might be worth a try. However, it won’t work if the hairs are white or light gray.

Vaginal discomfort and hot flashes – Hormone replacement therapy can alleviate these symptoms.