If you’re approaching, or going through, your menopause or perimenopause (the few years before the menopause when you might start to notice symptoms), then you’ve more than likely experienced at least one or two symptoms of this stage of life.
The menopause causes a wide range of both physical and emotional symptoms, but one of the least expected is perhaps the changes it can cause to our skin.
So in this article, we’re going to look at what skin symptoms we might experience as we go through our menopause and why they happen.
And, in case you were wondering, I’m fast approaching my 45th birthday, and I’m most definitely perimenopausal, experiencing pretty much every symptom going - so rest assured that I’m writing from a personal, lived experience!
What is the Menopause? Is it Different from the Perimenopause?
Both the perimenopause and the menopause cause very similar, if not identical, symptoms. It’s generally accepted however, that the symptoms of the perimenopause are less severe than those of the menopause.
But it’s important to remember that we’re all beautifully different. What I might be experiencing could be entirely different to you or anyone else and there’s no set of fixed criteria for either stage. Although we’re said to have officially been through the menopause when we haven't had a period for 12 months in a row.
Perimenopause begins around a decade before the menopause (so around our early 40s if the average age of a menopausal woman is around 50 years old).
The whole process of the perimenopause and the menopause begins when the natural levels of the hormone oestrogen begin to decline. This is what causes the symptoms of both, although some women don’t notice these effects until well into their perimenopause. Other women struggle for a decade, whilst others may breeze through the whole thing.
What Are the Symptoms of the Menopause?
The earliest symptom you may notice is a change in your menstrual cycle. You may notice that your periods become heavier or lighter, more or less painful or more or less frequent. It really can be a guessing game and for me personally, each ‘month’ (or whenever it feels like happening) is different.
As well as these changes, other physical symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent cystitis
- Muscle aches and joint stiffness
- Reduced muscle mass
- Weakened bones (osteoporosis)
And it doesn’t stop there - the emotional symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- Low mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Reduced libido
Skin Changes During the Menopause
The perimenopause and the menopause can cause changes in our skin and again, this is all down to the reduction in the levels of the female sex hormone, oestrogen.
Oestrogen and Collagen
Most notably, is that as our oestrogen level falls, it takes collagen with it. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and it plays a major role in the plumpness of our skin. If you’ve been around here for a while, you would’ve heard about my collagen analogy - it forms a sort of ‘biological scaffold’ under the skin.
This criss cross pattern of collagen fibres supports the skin layers, keeping them lifted, hence their plumped up appearance when we’re younger. But as we age, our collagen levels drop, not least in part due to the reduction in oestrogen.
Oestrogen stimulates the production of collagen, and as we begin to lose one, we also lose the other. So at the same time as our body is naturally ageing and losing skin tone and texture, we’re also losing tone and texture due to a loss of female sex hormones.
The consequence is lost collagen, and therefore the scaffold loses structure and form, causing it to become weakened. Microscopic holes appear, meaning that the skin sags and droops into these holes. And that means visible fine lines and wrinkles.
During this time, your skin may also become more sensitive and may begin to feel itchy. Treat it well, by using natural skincare products that are free from harsh and artificial ingredients. (Such as ours…)
Oestrogen and Dry Skin
As well as stimulating the production of collagen, oestrogen also helps the skin hold onto moisture. So as levels of oestrogen drop, the skin loses its ability to retain moisture, causing it to become dry.
You can help to combat this by staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of water and herbal teas and avoiding dehydrating drinks such as alcohol and caffeine, or at least limiting them. Fruits and vegetables also contain a fair amount of water, so make sure you’re eating your five a day.
A gentle cream cleanser followed by a hydrating, nourishing day time moisturiser or night time moisturiser will also help. As will avoiding long, hot showers and baths, as these can dehydrate the skin too.
Oestrogen and Thinning Skin
As well as sagging and dryness, the effects of the menopause can also mean that our skin becomes thin, too.
This can mean that your skin bruises more easily, especially so on your body. On your face, your skin may also become thinner, making your blood vessels more visible, in particular under your eyes.
A good moisturiser and eye cream can help to keep your skin nourished. You should also either wear a good quality SPF or take steps to physically protect your skin from the sun such as wearing a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses and avoiding the sun when it’s at its hottest (usually 11am to 3pm from March to October).
Oestrogen and Facial Hair
Finally, the loss of oestrogen during the perimenopause and menopause can cause changes to our hair. It might become thinner and it may start to fall out. If you’re concerned about thinning or falling hair, speak to your GP who may be able to advise you.
You may also notice facial hair beginning to develop too, and there are lots of treatments in beauty salons that can help you get rid of unwanted facial hair.
Looking After Menopausal Skin
Fine lines, wrinkles, dryness and generally feeling like our skin is changing can make us all feel a little disheartened. Growing old (gracefully or disgracefully, we don't mind) and experiencing skin changes is all part of our natural life cycle - but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
Looking after your skin by nourishing it from the inside with healthy food and plenty of water, and from the outside with skincare products designed to respect the needs of your skin will help to keep it as healthy as possible.
The Sönd skincare range has been developed with the needs of stressed out skin in mind. Simple to use but super effective at supporting the skin, it takes one of the stresses and strains of life away. Although we can’t promise to reverse the clock on your skin, we can promise that your skin will look and feel healthy - and who can say fairer than that?