I first heard about the menopause as a child when my Mum and Nan talked about in hushed tones. Then one day, my mum announced ‘I’m going through the change darling!’ After listening to her long list of complaints (and experiencing her moods) I was so glad that I had years ahead of me before I even had to consider it.
Although it came at the normal time (late 40’s) it was still a shock when my GP informed me I was peri-menopausal. And who was the first person I called? My mum of course! The interesting thing for me was how my mum just accepted physical changes that took place, especially the aspect of accelerated ageing. When I complained to my mum about that and asked how she dealt with it, she was non-plussed…‘really? Is that why my skin got so dry and spotty?’
It is well documented that the menopause is an incredibly complicated process that affects your mood, weight, and internal workings. What is not so commonly reported on is how it also affects the skin and your appearance as well. The hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause tend to change the skin’s physiology in new and different ways.
I remember my nana at 60 looking…well like a ‘Shreddies Nana’! In general, women are certainly looking younger nowadays; 60 the new 40 and all that, but is this due to attitude or is it more awareness of how we deal with the menopause and its effects on the skin?
If you are entering this stage of your life, celebrate the fact that never before has there been more help and information out there, to ensure you have the ‘smoothest’ transition possible and at 60 there is no need to opt for the blue rinse ‘n’ set (unless you want to!)
I met up with Dr Nina Sheffield at the Royal Tunbridge Wells Skin & Laser Clinic to identify and explore exactly what anti-ageing treatments are available to women in this stage of their lives.
“After identifying your issue, it is important that you keep on top of these changes”, says Dr Sheffield. “We have many clients who complain about a very sudden change in their skin condition and equally volume. Their skin care routine is no longer working and they very rarely associate this with the menopause.”
Ways the menopause can affect your skin
Listed below are the most common ways that the menopause can affect your skin, along with the treatments that Dr Sheffield recommends for each:
Prone to Acne! During the reproductive years, B-Estradiol stimulates a more fluid sebaceous gland secretion (“anti-acne” effect). During menopause, as oestrogen levels decrease, testosterone is no longer masked in the woman’s body. Testosterone reveals itself by stimulating sebaceous glands to secrete thicker sebum, giving the appearance of oily skin (and the tendency toward adult onset acne in some women).
Treatment: We would recommend combining a number of options including Laser or Intense Pulsed Light treatments with antibacterial and balancing oil production chemical peels (including Glycolic, Lactic & Salicylic Acid) or a Microdermabrasion to unblock pores in order to stimulate healthy skin renewal and help prevent future outbreaks with specific home care products.
Hyperpigmentation/Age Spots: Oestrogen regulates the production of melanin. As oestrogen levels fall, melanin production increases causing the appearance of brown age spots, particularly on areas which have been more exposed to UV rays over the years.
Treatment: We would recommend that you book a free consultation with a reputable aesthetics practice. There are various solutions (Laser, IPL, chemical peels, prescription creams) to remove unwanted facial and body pigmentation and each can be extremely effective in dealing with the problem. However, treatment needs to be tailored as in many cases, a combination of treatments is necessary.
Facial Hair: This is also due to the unmasking of testosterone; some women may develop facial hair, particularly in the chin area.
Treatment: We would recommend that you start by preventing unwanted hair growth by balancing your hormones, taking a high-quality multivitamin to fill in any nutritional gaps, reducing stress, and keeping your body fat under 30%. Both stress and excess fat can lead to increased androgen production.
To support this, look at hair removal lasers and IPLs treatments to address unwanted hair growth. At our clinic we offer an entire range of hair removal lasers and IPLs including the Alexandrite and Nd Yag Laser. We are able to treat all skin types including black and Asian, delivering permanent hair reduction.
Sagging Skin and Wrinkles
Women in their 40s and 50s experience a decrease in collagen and elastin production. Collagen provides the structure and cohesion of the skin. Elastin provides resiliency, giving our skin its ability to bounce back. The decrease in production means that the skin is less able to undergo quick stress recovery and the ability to “snap” back into shape. The effect is loss of volume, hollowing, sagging and wrinkles.
Treatment: We would recommend course of laser collagen stimulation procedures that benefit from zero down time or very latest alternative to plastic surgery; Co2 fractional laser technology. This treatment will remove wrinkles by resurfacing and tightening the sagging skin around the eyes, mouth, neck or hands, with just a few days of redness.
The results are visible immediately after the treatment, but continue to develop for 3-6 months as new collagen is developed. If you feel you are not ready for advanced laser procedures, you could choose a prescription ‘home care’ product to slowly but surely transform and improve your skin from inside out. For skin tightening, treatments with a radio frequency (RF) or an infra-red light source (Titan) are very gentle but effective procedures that will improve your skin tone and texture.
Very popular are wrinkle injections such as: Botox or Dermal fillers. These injections will temporarily improve your facial appearance by lifting your eyebrows and reducing or completely removing wrinkles and folds. Results are immediate and very impressive.
While the aging process cannot be stopped, with proper care you can maintain your rejuvenated appearance for many years!
Facial Volume Loss: One of the key effects of the menopause is that our faces lose volume. When we are young, our faces resemble a grape, full and voluminous, without any wrinkles. When we reach this stage in our lives, the volume in our face decreases and resemble a sultana; the volume is lost and wrinkles and folds start to form. For some patients, a loss of facial volume can lead to saggy cheeks or jowls, which can give a droopy or tired perspective to the face.
Treatment: Today we have a great solution for you. Look at volumising Dermal Fillers such as Juvederm, ZFill, Radiesse. These are injectable hyaluronic acid and Calcium based volumisers that re-contours the face to restore volume to chin, cheeks, and cheekbones that have become hollow or thin due to weight loss or age-related facial fat loss.
Immediately after treatment, you should notice that your facial contours appear fuller and rounder, giving your face a softer, more youthful appearance. Result is immediate and lasting over year or so.
More Prone to Sun Damage
The maintenance of Melanocytes (cells that manufacture the pigment Melanin) is under the control of oestrogens. As menopause progresses, the number of melanocytes in the skin is reduced (they degenerate). With less melanocytes, we produce less of the protective melanin and skin appears lighter. Menopausal skin is, therefore, more prone to sun damage, making it even more important to protect the skin with a sunblock.
Treatment: Always use a sunscreen. In our clinic we recommend using Obagi Medical Nu-Derm Sun Shield SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion every day in summer and in winter; Nu-Derm Sunblock Lotion SPF 32. This is an advanced formula that physically blocks the sun’s damaging rays without irritating chemical sunscreens. Always remember that the sun rays are ageing and this applies all year round. An artificial tan is more healthy solution for your skin.
All Change!: The effects of fluctuating hormones on the skin’s physiology and structure will require new professional treatment remedies, as well as a revision to the at home skin care regimen. What worked in your 30’s and early 40’s is will become ineffectual during your menopause and even if you do find something that works, this can change overnight!
Treatment: VISIA Complexion Analysis. VISIA provides us with instant customized reports which allow us to determine the best skin care treatment for correcting your individual issues and maintaining the optimal health of your facial complexion. We use VISIA to track your progress from the skin care treatments we provide. Besides this quantitative data, you will see noticeable benefits in the appearance of your skin.
Michelle is a working mum, living in Tunbridge Wells and Dr Nina Sheffield is the Clinical Director at the Royal Tunbridge Wells Skin & Laser Clinic www.skinlc.co.uk