Arghhh!  Menopause.  We all go through it with its unexpected changes to our bodies and unwelcome and sometimes unpleasant side effects.  So, what’s going on, and how does it affect your skin?

Since this is a skin care blog and not a physiology class, and I’m an esthetician and not a doctor, I’m going to stick to the basics.

Many of the things we experience associated with menopause are results of hormonal changes.  Loosely (VERY loosely) estrogens, the class of hormones which make women women decrease.  When we’re young, these estrogens mask the effects of testosterones, the hormones which make men men.  This has some surprising consequences.

One of the most common changes that women notice is oily skin.  B-Estradiol, an estrogen secreted by the ovaries, creates a more fluid skin ‘oil.’  During menopause there is less B-Estradiol, which in a sense masks the effects of testosterone which creates a thicker skin ‘oil.’  This makes the skin look ‘oilier,’ and some women are prone to developing adult acne.  Another effect of testosterone is facial hair, especially on the chin.  Yikes!  Weren’t the hot flashes enough?

Estrogen is also responsible for our fat deposits.  When we’re younger, the fat is more evenly distributed.  As we age, it tends to become concentrated in our hips, thighs, tush and stomach, leaving a loss of supportive fat beneath the skin of our faces, necks, hands and arms.  It also partially regulates the growth and maintenance of the blood flow to the surface layer of the skin.  When this blood flow is reduced, the skin thins leading to slower cell turnover and an increased loss of water and subsequent dry skin.

Wait!  It gets better!  Collagen and elastin production is also controlled by estrogen.  What this means is that the skin has less of an ability to repair itself.  This is more evident if you’ve had a lot of sun exposure.  The sun’s UV rays destroy collagen, and if your skin can’t repair itself, it loses its elasticity.  On another note, estrogens help to decrease melanin production, as they control the cells (Melanocytes) which secrete melanin.  Melanin is the substance that is responsible for age spots or hyperpigmentation.

  1. “The International Dermal Institute.” Articles, dermalinstitute.com/us/library/12_article_How_Does_Menopause_Affect_the_Skin_.html.