Dr Anjali Mahto
Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation Spokesperson
Our skin changes with age due to falling oestrogen levels. Until recent years, the topic of menopause in general was glaringly absent from mainstream discussion.
Today, more open conversation is being had about changes in skin, hair, mood and nutrition. The average age of menopause in the UK is 51, and this has remained stable over many years. However, as we live longer, in countries such as the UK, the average woman will spend one-third of her life in menopause — that is a huge part of one’s life.
How does menopause impact the skin?
Firstly, collagen (the main protein giving our skin its support and structure) levels in the skin fall by about 2.1% per year after menopause. In the first five years after menopause, 30% of dermal collagen has been lost. The skin itself becomes thinner, wound healing is delayed and the immune surveillance function of the skin is reduced. The skin becomes more vulnerable to both benign (harmless) and potentially cancerous growths.
Falling oestrogen levels have a significant impact on menopausal skin.
Impact of falling oestrogen levels on menopausal skin
Falling oestrogen levels have a significant impact on menopausal skin. Oestrogens are essential for skin function and play many roles:
- Increase production of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) or ‘ground substance’ of the skin such as hyaluronic acid.
- Increase sebum or oil production.
- Increase water retention in the skin.
- Improve the barrier function of the upper skin layer or stratum corneum.
Reduced oestrogen levels will impact all of these. Receptors for oestrogen in the skin are most abundant in sites such as the face, genitalia and lower limbs; therefore, dryness in these areas is common.
How to reduce the impact of menopause on your skin
- Add extra moisture to the skin where needed; use fragrance-free body washes and moisturisers daily.
- Use regular sunscreen to help prevent collagen loss due to UV radiation from the sun and a topical retinoid product at night to boost skin cell turnover and collagen production in the skin.
- Get any non-healing spots or sores, new or changing moles or any other growths on the skin reviewed by your GP or a dermatologist. If you’ve had a lot of sun exposure or enjoyed outdoor hobbies over the years, consider an annual skin check to pick up any potential issues early.
If you are concerned about redness or changes in skin quality or texture, consider non-invasive options such as chemical peels or lasers.