Skin changes after menopause require changes in your skin care. Discover the best way to care for your aging skin to keep it healthy and attractive.
A woman’s hormones help support youthful skin. After menopause, your skin starts to change. It's not your imagination!
Compared to your skin before menopause, your postmenopausal skin starts to show:
- Atrophic withering
- Slackness (especially on your forearms and face)
- Progressive dryness and scaliness
You will also notice that fine wrinkles and crinkles will deepen into courser wrinkles. Postmenopausal skin may also become fragile, tearing and bruising more easily. It is also drier and more prone to dry skin eczema conditions.
As if menopausal skin changes were not enough, most of us “women of this certain age” can add intrinsic aging (the passing of years) and sun damage to the list of reasons why our skin is becoming thin, wrinkled, dry and fragile. It's a perfect storm. Luckily, the skin care remedies are similar for all three causes.
Why does your skin change after menopause?
You are probably wondering what, exactly, is happening to your skin after menopause? Scientific studies have demonstrated the following structural changes that happen in your skin after menopause.
- Decrease in skin cell renewal. As the top layer of your skin, called the epidermis, flattens and thins, the skin cells in this layer (called keratinocytes) don't renew themselves as rapidly. The epidermal cell layer is also drier and holds water less effectively than before menopause. This results in your skin becoming scaly, rough, and dry looking.
- Collagen reduction. The second layer of your skin, called the dermis, loses as much as 30% of your dermal collagen within the first five years after menopause. This is followed by a slower loss of about 2% per year over the next 20 years.
- Water abatement. Also in the dermis, important water-binding substances, called dermal glycosaminoglycans, (including hyaluronic acid) are decreased.
- Oxidative stress. Oxidative damage in your skin is accelerated after menopause, causing greater damage to skin structures such as cells, collagen, and elastin. This damage is beyond the normal amount that occurs from sun damage and natural aging.
What products and skin care practices work best to reverse the skin changes of menopause?
There are six different ways your skin care products and routines can reverse and slow the changes of menopause on your skin. Discover these actions below.
1. Build collagen in the dermis, the second living skin layer. This is really important. Look for products with professional formulations of retinoids, like retinol and prescription tretinoin (Retin A), glycolic acid products, and vitamin C products.
2. Rebuild the living epidermal cell layer of your skin. This can be done by retinoids, which can help strengthen your skin.
3. Stimulate your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid. Look for products with glycolic acid.
4. Rejuvenate the appearance of the outer dead cells in your stratum corneum skin layer. This will brighten your skin and give it a more youthful glow. Products with glycolic acid, retinoids, and BHAs like salicylic acid will do this.
5. Slow skin aging. Professional antioxidant products and broad spectrum sunscreens can help slow the effects of aging.
6. Hydrate and avoid drying products so skin stays moist. Because post-menopausal skin is often also older skin, it is more prone to dryness. Use only sensitive skin cleansers and deeply hydrating moisturizers to keep skin from drying out and looking crinkled, wrinkled and dull.
How do you build a skin care routine that works to slow menopausal skin changes? First, you need to know that effective skin care involves 4 essential steps of Complete Skin Care:
I'm going to cover my skin care recommendations in this same order to help you build an effective routine to care for your own skin after menopause. These are the products I use for my patients and for my ownpost-menopausal skin.
Facial Skin Care
Take care of your facial skin by following a morning and evening skin care routine.
Morning Skin Care Routine
- Cleanse with a gentle cleanser such as Toleriane.
- Correct menopause skin issues with:
- Hydrate where your skin still needs a little more moisturizer. Use my Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin, All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion, All Natural Butter Cream, or another moisturizer that you like.
4. Protect with broad spectrum mineral zinc oxide-based sunscreen (Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream SPF 30, Sheer Strength Pure Physical Tinted Sunscreen or Spray, Citrix Sunscreen SPF 40, Elta MD UV SPF 46, or Glycolix Elite SPF 30 Sunscreen, depending on your preferences).
Evening Skin Care Routine
- Cleanse with the gentlest soap that will remove the day's dirt, oil, makeup, and product. Finish with a final cleansing using the Clarisonic and Toleriane to deeply clean into the pores.
- Correct and hydrate together with one of these two options that incorporate either a retinoid or a glycolic acid product along with the concentrated green tea antioxidants:
- Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream (which also contains concentrated green tea antioxidants that help fight skin-damaging free radicals) followed by a rich moisturizer such as the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream For Dry to Normal Skin or other moisturizer.
- Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy, followed by one of these three options:
- Glycolic Acid Anti-Aging Face Cream or another professional formulation AHA with 10% or higher glycolic acid, and/or
- A professional strength retinoid other than my Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream (very few retinoids also contain the beneficial concentrated green tea antioxidants), or
- Moisturize with the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin after the Green Tea, wait 15 minutes and then treat with prescription tretinoin cream (such as Retin-A, which is prescribed by your doctor).
Tips for Patients with Sensitive Facial Skin
This is an intensive skin care routine. Sensitive complexions may need to use less of the Vitamin C Serum, glycolic acid products, and/or retinoids.
I typically start my patients on just one of these powerful ingredients to “train” their skin. Once their complexion has gained compatibility with that product, we add the second, and then slowly the third.
At the first sign of irritation or sensitivity, we stop all of these powerful products and allow the skin to rest for several days or weeks. We then resume with less frequent application of one of these three products. Slowly, as tolerated, we work in the other two. Note that prescription tretinoin usage must be supervised by the prescribing physician.
Non-Facial Body Skin Care
To maintain and rejuvenate non-facial body skin, follow these skin care tips:
- I recommend using the Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit twice a week in and after the shower.
- Always apply rich moisturizer after every other bath or shower.
- Use broad spectrum zinc oxide sunscreen 365 days a year to all uncovered skin. Products such as Solbar Zinc SPF 38 Sunscreen or Citrix Sunscreen SPF 40 are easy to use. Apply them in the morning when you get ready for your day.
Does this menopause skin program sound overwhelming and like a lot of work?
It can be. Start slowly and step into the process progressively if that's more comfortable.
Everything you've just read can be particularly overwhelming when you are starting from the very beginning and coming from a low-maintenance skin care routine. Realize that you are not just working to improve your skin's appearance, but you also are working to make your skin stronger and less fragile. This will give you healthier skin as you age.
Know that once you have incorporated the skin care routine into your daily self-care, it will seem as easy as brushing your teeth and taking a shower.
Break it down into a four- or six-month process. Below is how I usually phase in a post-menopause skin care routine for my patients.
Phase 1: First 6 weeks
In the beginning of your post-menopausal skin care routine, you need to introduce your skin to products and routine.
- Use my Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit twice a week for your body. Moisturize with another moisturizer after the other times you bathe. Options include my All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion, or All Natural Butter Cream.
- Also use these face products:
- Toleriane Cleanser,
- Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy in the morning after washing,
- My All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion, All Natural Butter Cream Day Cream, or Daily Moisturizing Face Cream For Dry to Normal Skin on areas of facial dryness,
- Sunscreen during the day: Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream SPF 30, Citrix Sunscreen SPF 40 or Elta MD UV SPF 46,
- At night apply my Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream after washing,
- The Clarisonic SMART Profile or Clarisonic Mia 2 skin cleansing brush system (purchase it when it fits in your budget).
- Consider finding an aesthetician and starting a regular program of facials with correcting masks, microdermabrasion, or even mild facial acid peels if your aesthetician feels these procedures are right for your skin. These procedures can help your skin care work, penetrate, and act faster and get your skin looking better sooner.
Phase 2: Second 6 weeks
Six weeks is usually about how long it takes for skin to adjust to the above products. Once your skin has adjusted, add either glycolic acid or vitamin C to your facial skin care routine in the morning.
Phase 3: Third 6 weeks
Add the next important ingredient, either the glycolic acid or vitamin C, whichever you were not yet using. Alternate these products in your morning skin care.
Phase 4: Final 6 weeks
Once you have established your skin care regimen, you will be able to see the changes that your new routine has delivered. Now it's time to think about adding skin care procedures. Consult a skin care professional and ask them if laser and intense pulsed light, facial peels, or injectables such as fillers or neurotoxins like Botox are right for you.
Begin your journey to rejuvenated skin after menopause.
Don’t wait. If you are dealing with the effects of menopause on your skin, follow the skin care tips in this article and take the first step to rejuvenate and rebuild your post-menopausal skin.
Piérard GE1, Hermanns-Lê T, Paquet P, Piérard-Franchimont C, Skin viscoelasticity during hormone replacement therapy for climacteric ageing. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Oct 24.
Quatresooz P1, Piérard-Franchimont C, Gaspard U, Piérard GE. Skin climacteric aging and hormone replacement therapy. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2006 Mar;5(1):3-8.
Raine-Fenning NJ1, Brincat MP, Muscat-Baron Y. Skin aging and menopause : implications for treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(6):371-8.
Gérald E. Piérard, Philippe Humbert, Enzo Berardesca, Ulysse Gaspard, Trinh Hermanns-Lê, and Claudine Piérard-Franchimont. Revisiting the Cutaneous Impact of Oral Hormone Replacement Therapy, Biomed Res Int. 2013; 2013: 971760. Published online Dec 21, 2013.
Sánchez-Rodríguez MA1, Zacarías-Flores M, Arronte-Rosales A, Correa-Muñoz E, Mendoza-Núñez VM. Menopause as risk factor for oxidative stress. Menopause. 2012 Mar;19(3):361-7. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318229977d.
Latreille J, Kesse-Guyot E, Malvy D, Andreeva V, Galan P, et al. (2012) Dietary Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Intake and Risk of Skin Photoaging. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44490. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044490
Facial Skin Coloration Affects Perceived Health of Human Faces, Stephen ID, et. al., Int J Primatol, 2009 Dec;30(6):845-857.
Sundelin T; Lekander M; Kecklund G; Van Someren EJW; Olsson A; Axelsson J. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. SLEEP 2013;36(9):1355-1360.
Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Lekander M., Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. BMJ. 2010 Dec 14;341:c6614.
Please remember, the information presented on Dr. Bailey Skin Care’s Blog and web site, and any related links, is provided for general information and educational purposes only and are the opinions of Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Consult with your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns that you have. (This also applies to patients in her medical practice; the information here is not a substitute for, or an extension of, the medical care she provides for you.) Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here.