Menopause and dry hair

8 Quick Beauty Boosts for Dry Skin and Hair

You may know to be prepared for hot flashes and night sweats when they hit menopause, but you may not know that falling estrogen levels can also affect the health of your skin and hair. According to the North American Menopause Society, collagen loss begins early but is most rapid in the first few years of menopause, leading to dry, flaky skin and lackluster locks.

“Estrogen helps keep things hydrated and plump and youthful-looking,” says Alicia Stanton, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Hartford, Conn., and the author of Hormone Harmony. “When estrogen levels drop during menopause, the skin gets more wrinkled and dry, and in some women, it can even be itchy.” This is because oil glands in the skin shrink after menopause, and less is secreted.

911 for Dry Skin and Hair

Nourishing your skin and hair from the inside and protecting them on the outside will go a long way toward easing these menopause symptoms.

Have your thyroid checked. Levels of thyroid hormone can decrease in menopausal women, which can also contribute to dry skin and hair. In fact, Dr. Stanton says, women who begin developing dryness should consult their doctor about having their thyroid function tested. Dry skin is a symptom of hypothyroidism, a potentially dangerous condition caused by low levels of thyroid hormone in the body.

Boost your intake of vitamins and minerals. Once medical causes for dry hair and skin have been ruled out, a few simple changes can often help relieve the dryness. Getting adequate levels of nutrients through a well-balanced diet and a multivitamin (or supplements that are approved by your doctor) may just give your body the boost it needs to get your hair and skin back on track.

Ban the tobacco. Tobacco use also reduces estrogen levels in a woman’s body, so quitting smoking may have a positive effect. “If you need another reason to stop smoking, that could be a good one,” Stanton says.

Baby your complexion. Topical treatments for dry skin and hair abound, but you don’t have to splurge on expensive brands. The key is to look for certain ingredients on the label. Skin products containing vitamins A and C, for example, can improve skin due to their antioxidant effects, while creams with collagen (a naturally-occurring substance that keeps skin firm) may help keep skin youthful-looking. For severely dry skin, seek out moisturizers with lactic acid or urea. “You don’t have to spend a ton of money,” Stanton says. “Many of my patients do fine with over-the-counter treatments.”

Soothe your scalp. If dry scalp is a problem, consider using a shampoo that contains zinc or selenium, ingredients that reduce dandruff for some people. Dry hair may also get a boost from a deep conditioner. Be sure to limit how often you shampoo and use your blow dryer and other damaging heat appliances. Whenever you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, treat your hair to a protective leave-in conditioner with zinc oxide and wear a hat; both will help your hair retain moisture.

Protect your hands. If you plan to be outside in cold weather, make sure you wear gloves — dry winter air can rob your hands of even more moisture. In the summertime, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher — overexposure to the sun can make you more prone to dry skin, not to mention wrinkles and age spots.

Relax. If you really want to go the extra mile to combat dry skin and hair, try relaxing. Stress can lower your body’s levels of estrogen and thyroid hormone, Stanton says. Take time out of every day to unwind, and you may just be rewarded with a better complexion and healthier-looking hair. “Yoga and tai chi can relieve stress, and that can help your estrogen and thyroid levels,” Stanton says. “Things that allow you to decompress a little can provide some benefit.”

Hydrate from the inside. Finally, drink more water. Your skin can’t get hydrated if the rest of you isn’t. It’s an easy enough thing to do, but something that many women neglect during their busy day.

Dry skin, wrinkles, moles, and skin cancers can all result from too much sun, so add a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection to your line of defense. Aim for about an ounce to cover all sun-exposed skin.

And if you think an overcast day means you don’t need sunscreen, think again. Skin-damaging ultraviolet light can penetrate clouds, fog, even snow.

  • Stop those steamy showers: Piping-hot baths and showers may feel fabulous, but “hot water … can be very harsh to the skin and dry it out miserably,” Cambio tells WebMD. Stop stripping your skin of its natural oils. Take shorter showers and use warm water.

Also, preserve those natural oils by scrubbing with soap only in the spots you really need it, Tanzi suggests, like your underarms, feet, and groin. Because your legs, back, and arms don’t usually get very dirty, skip the soap and stick to a warm-water wash for these areas.

  • Use a gentle soap: Scented, antibacterial, or deodorant soaps can be harsh, removing your body’s essential oils, leaving skin even more itchy and dry. Instead, reach for an unscented or lightly scented bar.
  • Remember to moisturize: Within a few minutes after your warm shower, smooth on your favorite moisturizer. You may favor a pricey potion from the cosmetic counter, but humbler lotions like mineral oil and petroleum jelly help trap in much-needed moisture, too.

As moisturizers go, petroleum jelly is “one of the best,” Tanzi tells WebMD. It does a good job of moisturizing even the driest skin. “Slather it on after bathing, then use a towel to gently pat off the excess.”

For dry skin problems on the face, Cambio suggests topical antioxidants such as vitamin C or green tea. Other moisturizers recommended by the experts include shea butter, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid.

To help moisturizers penetrate the skin, the pros also suggest exfoliating — sloughing off the top layer of dead skin — with a gentle scrubbing or by using products containing alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids.

And remember you can hydrate from the inside out by drinking water, says Valerie D. Callender, MD, a dermatologist practicing in Maryland. Equally important is reducing or eliminating alcohol and nicotine, both of which can prematurely age and dry your skin.

Exercise, which is important in menopause for heart and bone health, can keep skin healthy as well. By increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen that make it to your skin, exercise, like estrogen, can increases collagen, one of the key substances that keeps our skin youthful.

From Oily to Dry Skin and Back: Welcome to Menopause!

My cosmetic bag was once filled with foundations for oily skin and all type of oil control skin care products. As we say in my native country, Venezuela, it looked like a pastelito bag, when a greasy fried empanada soaks its brown paper bag with oil.

That all changed when I started to experience menopause symptoms. Suddenly, my skin was flaky and irritated. Even my dermatologist said my skin was really dry and sensitive. I’ve always bought T-zone control creams. What was I going to do with all the oil control products? And more importantly, how was this even possible?

“Blame the hormones and the calendar,” my dermatologist said. Many perimenopausal women (I belonged to this group in my mid-30s) experience some skin changes, such as age spots, wrinkles, itching, and, yes, even dry skin, faster than their peers. These changes often are associated with estrogen deprivation, which leads to decreased skin elasticity and blood supply, according to an article published in The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

Erin Palinski, R.D., CDE, LDN, CPT, author of the book Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, wrote “the reduction of estrogen causes the body to slow production of body oils, as well as reduces the body’s ability to maintain moisture.”

Kitchen Beauty Counter

Before running out to buy the latest $200 miracle moisturizer, first look in your kitchen. Feeding your skin certain foods that are rich in specific vitamins and minerals can keep your complexion glossy and healthy.

The same way that hundreds of crunches will do little to shred the extra pounds, slathering on expensive cream won’t help if you fill you plate with simple carbohydrates and other foods that damage your skin tissue from within.

Plus, most of the food that can help bring your skin back to life will also help you fight other perimenopause and menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. They also support your aging heart and bones.

Here’s a look a specific skin problems and how different foods can help heal and soothe from the inside out.

Skin-Food Solutions

Dry skin: Add some healthy mono-saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids to your shopping list.

“Olive oil and avocado are superb sources of healthy monounsaturated fats. Not only do these good-for-you fats help strengthen and protect your skin’s cell walls, but they help keep your skin lubricated, aiding in the prevention of dry flaky skin,” says Corinne Dobbas, M.S., R.D.

Likewise, omega 3-fatty acids will protect the skin membranes and increase moisture to give you a plumper skin effect. To get these, eat more fatty fish likes salmon, herring and tuna, along with flaxseeds and walnuts.

Leslie Bauman, board-certified dermatologist and New York Times bestselling author (www.skintypesolutions.net), also recommends foods with linolic acid since low intake of this oil is linked to dry skin. Good sources include canola oil, soy food like tofu, and pumpkin and sesame seeds. You can even put it directly on your skin, using safflower oil or olive oil.

Avoid: foamy cleansers and bubble baths. The suds in the soaps actually pull fats out of your skin. Instead, use a milky cleanser, suggests Bauman.

Sensitive skin (with conditions like rosacea and acne): Since every woman experiences perimenopausal hormone fluctuations differently, some end up suffering from adult acne.

One of the best ways to fight acne is to eat more sources of Vitamin A, such as leafy greens, spinach, carrots, sweet potato, and turkey. This vitamin is a main ingredient in many acne medications. “Vitamin A is known for overall skin health and helps prevent overproduction of cells in the skin’s outer layer, meaning less clogged pores and ultimately, blemishes,” notes Dobbas.

Keep up your intake of omega 3 fatty acids intake, which can lower inflammation in your skin, adds Bauman.

Sometimes, it’s not about what you should eat or avoid, but what you lack. Elissa Brenner, M.S. in nutrition therapy says, “A lot of acne sufferers actually have a zinc deficiency, which can control oil in the skin. Add more oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger, pecan, oats and eggs to your diet.”

Avoid: dairy and sugar for acne. For rosacea, stay away from cayenne pepper, curry, hot sauces, and alcohol.

Wrinkles: To prevent skin aging and sagging, nothing beats antioxidants like blueberries, pomegranates, acai berry, and raspberries, along with spices and herbs like curry, oregano and ginger.

Sweet potatoes, broccoli, pineapple, kale and peppers provide Vitamin C, which research shows promotes the growth of collagen a protein that smoothes out wrinkles and allows for a fuller, more youthful face, adds Dobbas.

Avoid: sun, smoking, processed foods, simple carbohydrates (white pasta and bread) and trans fats (processed and junk food). Once your collagen breaks down, you’ll begin to develop wrinkles, aging and crepey skin.

Everyone wants to age well, and nothing contributes more to that than healthy skin. Feed your skin the right way and it can stay youthful for a long time. In a study where more than 4,000 middle-aged women were assessed on the relationship between aging and skin aging, those who had less protein, potassium, vitamin C, and Vitamin A in their diet had a more wrinkled appearance, says Martina M. Cartwright, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct faculty member at University of Arizona, in the IDEA Fitness Journal.

Here’s my final advice for an instant, glowing face: aerobic exercise. It increases facial vascularization and oxygenation, which creates an unmistakable rosy luminance that influences perception of age, health, and attractiveness.

Food remedies by Elissa Brenner

a) Acne: Drink cucumber juice and/or apply thin slices of fresh cucumber for 15 minutes.

b) Dry skin: Separate an egg, beat the yolk, smooth onto your face, let the yolk harden, and splash off with water. Use eggs with extra omega 3 fatty acids

c) Aging skin: Wash a hand full of strawberries, smash with a mortar and pestle and then apply mixture to blemishes. Let dry for 20 minutes and rinse off.

d) Neck wrinkles: Dip a towel in warm olive oil, wrap around your neck and then wrap that with hot dry towel to steam away toxic waste and lock in moisture.

Homemade Gorgeous Skin Date Bars

Recipe by Lisa Roberts-Lehan, Certified Health and Nutritional Consultant, and Holistic Chef

16 medjool dates, pitted (or any kind of dates)

1/3 cup goji berries (or small-sized cranberries)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons flaxmeal

? cup raw cocoa nibs or dark chocolate chips

Method:

1. Line a 9 x 9 inch straight-sided pan with parchment paper so the paper hangs over the long edges. Set aside.

2. Place the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until they are uniformly chopped. Add the goji berries, flaxmeal, and chocolate and pulse again until finely chopped. Pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

4. Add the dates to the food processor and process until a paste forms. Add the mixture from the bowl. Process until evenly combined. Scrape into the prepared pan.

5. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Wet your hands and use them to make the mixture as smooth as possible. Fold the excess parchment to cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing.

6. Transfer mixture from the pan to a cutting board. Cut into desired size and store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Yield: 20

Nutritional Information: Calories: 90, Fat: 2.3 g, Carbs: 18.3 g, Protein: 1.5 g

What No One Tells You About Menopause

You probably know about the weight gain, hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause. But some other side effects people don’t really talk about.

Here are some things you might want to know about menopause.

Your hot flashes may last longer than a flash.
Hot flashes—caused by a drop in estrogen levels, which impacts that gland that handles body temperature—may not be over in a quick flash. They can be prolonged, especially at night. To help get a better night’s sleep, sleep in breathable sheets and lower the thermostat. You can also try breathing slowly to help decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Still can’t sleep at night? Try to take a daily power nap. When you’re rested, it can be easier to manage your symptoms. Read other .

Your hair can thin.
With menopause comes some bad hair days. Since your hormones are fluctuating, hair can become brittle and dry. Opt for shampoos and conditioners that are mild and geared for dry hair. And avoid chemical treatments that can weaken your mane. If your strand situation is bothersome, speak with your health care provider about getting an estrogen prescription to help balance out your hormone levels.

Your memory may not be as sharp.
Since your hormones are changing, you may be prone to forgetfulness and be less focused. Plus, you’re undergoing the stress of dealing with bodily changes, which can factor into .

You may battle dry skin.
Oil production drops as your estrogen levels decrease, and that can cause excess dryness that can lead to flaky skin. Use a heavier, richer and more or facial oil (such as coconut oil) to help your complexion. Also stay hydrated by , which can help add moisture to your skin.

You may suffer from vaginal dryness.
Not only may lower estrogen levels impact your skin, they can also make vaginal tissues less elastic (and less able to expand) and drier and decrease blood flow to the area. That can lead to , painful sex and itching in the vaginal area.

You may not lose your sex drive.
For some people, a decreased sex drive is associated with menopause. But for many people, their libido is better than ever. In fact, . You aren’t on hormonal birth control and your hormones are shifting. That’s why .

You may endure bone loss.
Since you’re producing less estrogen, bone loss can increase. And that can put you at higher risk for osteoporosis, a disease that weakens and thins bones, making them fragile and prone to breaking. Read about the .

You may have a different experience than others.
Your dealings with menopause may differ from those of other women, even ones in your family. What you have trouble dealing with may be easy for your bestie or vice versa. Don’t make it a competition. Instead, support and rally around one another other during this time of change.

You might not think it’s that bad.
You might feel more creative. More balanced. More introspective. Indeed, women do find joy in life after menopause.

Download a complimentary Symptom Tracker here!

Menopause

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) restores your body’s oestrogen to an average pre-menopausal level. This treatment relieves menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, osteoporosis and decreased libido. It is also known to help with hair thinning.

However, there are risks involved with HRT. Studies have shown that it can increase your chances of breast cancer, heart problems, uterine cancer and endometriosis. Before deciding whether to pursue HRT, we advise that you consult with your doctor about the risks as well as the benefits.

If you do decide to go ahead with HRT, we suggest that you make your doctor aware before your treatment that you are concerned about your hair. This may influence which therapy she or he thinks is best for you. Certain HRT therapies are hair-friendly, while others are not beneficial, and some may even exacerbate hair thinning. You may also consult with one of our Trichologists, who will be able to work with your doctor in finding the best all-round HRT treatment.

There are also many retail products available that immediately give you the appearance of thicker hair. Colouring and bleaching your hair can also help give the illusion of more volume, as these processes plump your hair shaft. Choosing a hair colour that is close to your scalp colour will also help, as it disguises the contrast between areas of uncovered scalp and hair.

While some side effects of the menopause, such as hot flushes, are commonly known, others, such as hair loss and changing hair texture, are less widely discussed.

However, according to Glenn Lyons, consulting trichologist and director at the Philip Kingsley Clinic, the menopause can have a major impact on women’s hair.

The effects of the menopause on the hair

‘Generally, post-menopausal hair changes will mostly affect manageability and hair condition,’ says Glenn. ‘There can also be a temporary increase in hair shedding as the body re-adjusts to a decrease in oestrogen levels.’

The most profound effect of the menopause is long-term hair thinning. However, Glenn is keen to point out that this will not happen to everyone.

‘This only occurs in genetically pre-disposed hair follicles whereby the gene has not been too dominant, and oestrogen levels have protected the hair follicles throughout the menstruating years,’ he explains.

As well as offering treatments to prevent the spread of hair thinning at his clinic, Glenn recommends women who are considering HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and have not had a hysterectomy go on a hair-friendly form of HRT.
How to update your haircare routine

So, how should you look after your hair during and after the menopause?

One surprising piece of advice from Glenn is that we should actually be washing our hair more often during this period of our lives, not less.

‘The best advice is increasing hair washing frequency, which enables conditioner to be applied more regularly,’ says Glenn.

He also says you may need to visit a hairdresser to adapt your cut to the hair’s new texture, and should consider visiting a colourist if greys are getting you down.

MORE: BEST SHAMPOOS FOR GREY HAIR

‘While grey hair can look stunning on some women, on others it often has a more ageing effect in appearance,’ says Glenn. ‘Therefore, colouring the hair with full-colour tints or with highlights is a major consideration with this age group.’

Lifestyle changes to help your hair

Although your changing hormones are largely responsible for any changes in your hair density or manageability, Glenn says there are a couple of lifestyle changes that can help.

‘Minimising stress levels can have a beneficial effect on both scalp and hair care,’ he says, although of course this is easier said than done.

Regular exercise can also help indirectly, says Glenn – so lace up those trainers, pronto!

MORE: HAIRDRESSERS TIPS FOR HOW TO GO GREY
(Images: Getty)

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  • The symptoms that often emerge when women are going through the menopause, what is useful for you to look out for
  • The reasons behind why hair and nails get affected
  • Solutions for those who are experiencing this, from products that are available to pieces of advice that can help manage this.

What types of symptoms should I be looking for relating to brittle hair and nails caused by the menopause?

  • Easy breakage of nails, lengthwise splits.
  • Nails that peel across from corner to corner
  • Nails are easily cracked and chipped
  • Dry, limp and lacklustre hair
  • Hair loss and hair thinning
  • Hair brittle to the touch, high breakage
  • Slow hair growth rate

Why are hair and nails affected by the menopause?

  • Oestrogen has a significant impact on the growth of hair and nails.
  • Oestrogen keeps hair in ‘growing phase’ and the longer the growing phase, the longer your hair can grow. Reduced oestrogen levels cause your hair’s growth cycle to shorten and your hair sheds before it reaches the length that it used to be able to.
  • Androgens (male hormones) are found in women as well as men. These hormones also decrease during the menopause, which can cause thinning of the hair on your scalp, as well as produce excess facial hair.
  • Androgens do not necessarily decrease your number of scalp hairs, but reduce their diameter and length. The result is a loss of volume or ‘body’. Your hair may not be falling out more, or failing to grow back – but the replacement hairs are weaker and finer.
    • A lack of water and dehydration in the body likely causes brittle nails, and oestrogen is one of the hormones that also contributes to regulating water levels in your body.

What can I do to help combat brittle hair and nails during menopause?

  • Use a nourishing lotion after washing hands and when showering. Wearing cotton gloves at night time will help encourage an intensive moisture treatment. Using a nail oil can also help with maintaining the health of brittle nails.
  • The appearance of menopausal hair loss can sometimes be improved by cosmetic practices, e.g. reducing the use of straighteners, hair dryers and other heat damaging tools. This along with the use of thickening shampoos and conditioners may improve hair appearance.
  • Diet plays a key part in maintaining healthy hair and nails throughout the menopause. Ensuring you have a rich and healthy diet is vital, with vitamins also giving a boost.
  • Topical solutions can be used for thinning hair.

Impact on the hair and nails can often have a damaging psychological impact on women going through the menopause, as these are both often associated with femininity. There are a whole host of products that exist and that can help with these symptoms, and using all of these or one of these solutions can hopefully improve both your self-esteem and confidence.

Skin Disorders During Menopause

Stages of Menopause

During perimenopause, irregular menstrual cycles and a series of clinical manifestations occur5 that may precede menopause by 2 to 8 years.6 The term menopausal transition is used by the World Health Organization to describe the phase of perimenopause prior to the end of menstrual periods.7 The World Health Organization also suggests that the term climacterium should be substituted for perimenopause in the period ranging from just before the onset of menopause to 1 year after menopause. Climacterium is the period of transition between the last years of the reproductive stage and postreproductive life, which begins with the gradual disappearance of ovarian function.8

Menopause is the cessation of menstrual periods due to the loss of ovarian function and is a normal physiologic process in women when it occurs after the fifth decade of life. The mean age at menopause is 51 years, and the clinical criterion used to establish the diagnosis is complete absence of menstrual periods for 12 months.6

Throughout a woman’s life, the total number of primordial ovarian follicles decreases and most become refractory to the actions of pituitary gonadotropins. As a result, the circulating level of estradiol progressively decreases and progesterone production by the corpus luteum becomes irregular and subsequently ceases.8 Increased production of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone occurs as a consequence. Conversely, the changes in circulating androgens are more complex and controversial.9 It has been documented that testosterone production is lower in postmenopausal patients and that sex hormone–binding globulin decreases and the free androgen index increases.Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate linearly declines as a function of age, but it lacks an obvious relationship with ovarian function.10

The Importance of Hormones on the Skin

Ovarian failure and the resulting hormonal changes during menopause affect almost all aspects of women’s health and may present with signs and symptoms in nearly every body system.5 Symptoms are experienced differently according to ethnic, educational, and sociocultural variability. Asian American women report a low frequency of physical, psychological, and psychosomatic symptoms compared with black women.11 Brazilian women have a higher prevalence of vasomotor symptoms compared to women in other developed Western countries.12 Also, medications used during perimenopause to prevent and treat osteoporosis are capable of inducing hot flashes.13

Estrogens are essential for skin hydration because they increase production of glycosaminoglycans, promote an increased production of sebum, increase water retention, improve barrier function of the stratum corneum, and optimize the surface area of corneocytes. As a result, concerns about dry skin are more frequent among menopausal women who are not taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT).2 Decreased estrogen reduces the polymerization of glycosaminoglycans, while elastin experiences granular degeneration and fragmentation, forming cystic spaces. In addition, there is a reduction in the microvasculature and thinning of the epidermis.14,15

Albright et al16 noted that the skin of menopausal women with osteoporosis showed considerable atrophy, a finding subsequently supported by a study from Brincat et al.17 In menopausal women, the decrease in estrogen promotes a reduction in type I and type III collagen and a reduction in the type III collagen to type I collagen ratio compared with nonmenopausal women.18 Healthy skin is made up of type I collagen (80%, responsible for strength) to type III collagen (15%, responsible for elasticity).2 However, a decrease in androgens is partially responsible for the reduction in sebum secretion, xerosis, and skin thinning or atrophy, accompanied by a reduction in blood vessels, oxygenation, and nutrition of the skin, as well as increased transepidermal water loss.19,20 Regarding skin annexes, the decrease in estrogen causes a reduction in axillary and pubic hair. The reduction in elastic fibers results in a loss of firmness and elasticity. Moreover, with a relative predominance of androgenic hormones, vellus hair may be replaced by thicker hair.21

PMC

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  • Aronica SM, Kraus WL, Katzenellenbogen BS. Estrogen action via the cAMP signaling pathway: stimulation of adenylate cyclase and cAMP-regulated gene transcription. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1994;91:8517–21.
  • Arora S, Veves A, Caballaro AE, et al. Estrogen improves endothelial function. J Vasc Surg. 1998;27:1141–6. discussion 1147.
  • Ashcroft GS, Ashworth JJ. Potential role of estrogens in wound healing. Am. J. Clin. Dermatol. 2003;4:737–43.
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Menopause and Your Skin (Fact Sheet)

What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural event and occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs and, as a result, the levels of your hormones called oestrogen and progesterone fall. Menopause actually means your last menstrual period. It is often difficult to know when this is for many women, especially if you are having more scanty and irregular periods.

The term ‘perimenopausal’ is often used, which describes the time when you have menopausal symptoms in the months or years before your periods have actually stopped altogether. Some women continue to have regular periods even though they experience numerous symptoms of the menopause.

Women are said to have gone through their menopause when they have not had a period at all, for one year – described as postmenopausal.

The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 years. It is common to have some perimenopausal symptoms when you are in your late 40s.

What are the common symptoms of the menopause?

Some women have very few or even no symptoms, and their periods simply stop happening. However, for the majority of women it is not so straightforward; around 80% of all women experience several menopause symptoms. These symptoms often have a very negative impact on your life and can really affect your relationships with your partner, family and work colleagues.

Symptoms vary from woman to woman but can include hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disruption, lack of libido, and poor concentration. Other less well known, but equally as common symptoms are joint pain, changes to hair and skin, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, poor memory, brain ‘fog’, dry eyes and mouth, vaginal dryness, urinary symptoms, palpitations, chest pain and breathlessness, and headaches or migraines.

How is the skin affected during the perimenopause and menopause?

Oestrogen is very important for the development of collagen – a supporting protein found in the skin – and provides strength and structure to it.

As oestrogen levels reduce during the menopause and perimenopause, your skin can become less mobile and thinner. Low oestrogen levels can result in there being less blood flowing to the epidermis (upper layer of your skin) and more water lost from your skin – leading to your skin being less hydrated. You may notice that your skin looks tired and develops more fine lines and wrinkles. The skin often loses elasticity and appears less glowing, as hormone levels decline.

Your skin can become dry and feel itchy. This itchiness can occur during the day and night and be really troublesome. Some women notice abnormal sensations to their skin, such as numbness, tingling, prickling or a crawling sensation (called formication).

During the perimenopause and menopause, many women also experience acne and skin pigment changes.

Does the skin become more sensitive to the effects of the sun?

Menopausal skin is more susceptible to UV damage causing deeper wrinkling and sun damage; like age spots and lentigo – which are small brown spots on the skin.

The maintenance of melanocytes (cells that manufacture the pigment melanin) is controlled by oestrogen. The number of melanocytes in your skin reduces during the perimenopause and menopause, resulting in less protective melanin – so your skin can appear lighter. Menopausal skin is therefore more prone to sun damage.

In areas of the skin that have been exposed to UV rays over the years, melanin synthesis increases during the menopause. This can result in brown age spots appearing on your face, hands, neck, arms and chest.

What are the best ways of looking after your skin during the perimenopause and menopause?

It is really important to use a good moisturiser regularly, to improve your skin’s hydration. Moisturisers smooth and protect the upper layers of your skin and can work to prevent the body losing water through the skin (trans-epidermal water loss).

It is essential that you use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 to protect against UVB rays and avoid sun damage. Sunscreen should be reapplied every few hours and you should also consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

HRT and effects on skin

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can improve skin hydration by replacing oestrogen levels in your body. Many women who take HRT often notice that their skin becomes brighter, with an improved texture and tone. HRT can also reduce ageing of your skin; it often looks firmer and plumper as the oestrogen works to strengthen the collagen and elastin fibres.

For the majority of women under 60 years of age, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks – take a look at our factsheets for more information about the risks and benefits of HRT.

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