We speak to menopause specialist Dr Laila Kaikavossi about how ‘the change’ can affect skin — from dryness to adult acne — and what to do about it.
From dry and sensitive skin to oiliness and acne, much like puberty, the hormonal changes of perimenopause (a period of hormonal change and imbalance that can happen for years before periods stop) and menopause can have a dramatic effect on the condition of your skin.
I asked GP and menopause specialist Dr Laila Kaikavoosi — founder of the UK’s first online menopause clinic, the Online Menopause Centre — some key questions.
Why does skin become more sensitive when in menopause and what would you recommend?
Oestrogen plays an important role in keeping our skin healthy, supple and hydrated. With the drop in this hormone during menopause, women experience a number of skin changes, such as thinning, itching and sensitivity, which is sometimes described as prickly skin. Oestrogen also acts as an ‘immune modulator’, keeping the activity of immune cells balanced. With the drop and significant fluctuations in this hormone during menopause, immune cells become imbalanced, resulting in the emergence of autoimmune diseases, as well as skin sensitivity. I recommend keeping hydrated. Avoid stimulants that can trigger skin sensitivity like alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and choose clothes with less synthetic materials.
Why do some women experience dryness and others oiliness?
The symptoms women experience at menopause are wide and varied and this includes symptoms relating to skin. Lack of oestrogen causes skin, as well as the mucosal surfaces, such as the eyes and vagina, to become dry, itchy, and sensitive. Testosterone is another important female hormone. The ovaries and adrenal gland often continue to produce testosterone way past the time oestrogen production has stopped. This imbalance of testosterone/oestrogen production can result in oily skin, acne and excess facial hair. Acne at menopause isn’t usually severe enough to warrant medical treatment and in the majority of cases it settles down once your hormones have been balanced. It’s worth having a chat with your healthcare professional if you experience severe acne or you don’t see an improvement with hormone replacement.
Why do dark circles and/or puffiness get worse?
Oestrogen keeps skin hydrated and is also necessary in production of collagen. With the drop in oestrogen levels at menopause the elasticity and hydration of skin is dramatically reduced, resulting in the appearance of signs of ageing like dark circles.
Can HRT help with any issues?
Absolutely. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is important in improving menopausal symptoms relating to the skin. HRT helps to replenish the skin by alleviating symptoms of allergies, itchiness and dryness and it improves signs of skin ageing.