Why does our skin change as we age? Here, we look at the most common reasons and highlight the effect the menopause has on skin.
It’s completely normal for the way your skin looks and feels to change as you get older, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things like wrinkles, brown spots and jowls are easy to accept. Change is an inevitable part of the natural ageing process and some of the most significant changes can happen during the menopause. Here we look at why it has an impact and what you can do to slow down the effects it has on the skin, from dryness to acne.
Consultant dermatologist Dr Michelle Thomson is a member of the Birmingham Skin Clinic - based at the BMI Priory Hospital in Edgbaston. She explains how ageing of the skin is down to two types of factors – intrinsic and extrinsic.
“Intrinsic factors (changes that occur with the passage of time) are advancing age, and oestrogen deficiency during menopause and extrinsic factors (changes from environmental exposure) include sun exposure and smoking. Declining oestrogen levels due to the menopause result in loss of collagen that makes the skin look different.”
For most women, the most common skin complaint during the menopause is dryness. But others include adult acne, itchy skin, and a loss of elasticity resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. One way to tell whether your lines and wrinkles are as a result of intrinsic factors like the menopause is to look and see if the skin itself is smooth but wrinkled, or if it’s coarse, leathery and with uneven pigmentation. The former is much more likely to be related to reduced levels of oestrogen and the resulting loss of collagen – the body’s protein that gives skin strength and structure. The latter will be as a result of exposure to the sun and air pollutants.
Changes to the appearance of the skin as a result of the menopause will usually start to present at the same time as other common menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats and irritability. It’s a fairly gradual process for most women, which means there’s time to find the ways that combat such skin conditions best for you. Here are some common skin complaints and Dr Michelle Thompson’s top tips to care for your changing skin.
Dryness and itching
The most effective way to combat dryness is to use emollient moisturisers such as E45. These work to prevent evaporation of water from the skin’s surface and leave behind a protective barrier that can also reduce itchiness.
Some over-the-counter face creams contain retinoids (Retin A) and these can help unblock follicles and get rid of adult acne as part of a good skincare routine.
Loss of elasticity, fine lines and wrinkles
Some studies have shown Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that works to replenish oestrogen levels, can also increase collagen, skin thickness and elasticity. However, HRT isn’t currently available as an anti-ageing solution because of the known side-effects of such treatment.
Ensuring you have a healthy and balanced diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables will help your body take in vital antioxidants and minerals such as C and E, which are crucial for healthy skin. Plant-based products, such as soya and sunflower, can also help to keep the skin in good condition. And combine your healthy diet with daily use of sun cream or a moisturiser/foundation containing an SPF of at least 15 and with UVB and five-star UVA protection.
It’s really important not to assume that changes in the skin are down to the menopause or ageing. If you notice any changes in the size, shape, colour or texture of any moles you may have, or you have patches of skin that aren’t healing properly, get it checked out as quickly as possible. If you’re concerned about something in particular, you’re going through the menopause or you just want to know more about how to care for your skin properly, book a dermatology consultation
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