Menopause and skin: expert tips and advice

What to choose and what to lose…

In one of our Lunch and Learn Consultant Dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth explained how menopause can affect our skin.

We were delighted to welcome her back to offer her expert tips and advice about the type of products to use, and some you may wish to avoid.

Henpicked: Can you remind us how our skin might change during menopause and why?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Unfortunately our skin is at mercy of our hormones, in particular for women. Our skin’s outer layer – the stratum corneum – has a wonderful skin barrier. This is a protective layer which keeps hydration in and irritants out. One of the first things we can notice as we approach menopause is that this skin barrier can become weaker. It can get drier and more sensitive, losing its ability to hold water. We often notice this more in winter, too.

Skin can also become more prone to redness. And where it might have been smooth and hydrated, some women notice that their skin is rougher, tight and dry.

Going deeper to our middle level, this is where our volume is. This volume comes from structural proteins, collagen, which is like a scaffolding for the skin. This starts to weaken and we can notice thinning, more wrinkled skin.

A terrible statistic, but we lose 1% of our collagen each year after our mid 20s, then 30% in the five years after menopause.

Henpicked: Are there any other skin challenges during this time? We often hear women complaining of spots.

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Yes, I see a lot of women trying to get HRT right suffering from spots and acne. If you’re having testosterone this can also sometimes cause spots. Even if not, as your oestrogen drops your male hormones become relatively higher, which can affect your sebaceous glands and cause spots or acne.

Henpicked: What are your top tips for managing menopausal skin and keeping it looking healthy and glowing?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: When I talk about the changes, as above, I know it can be demoralising and people can get demotivated. But there’s so much you can do. The first thing is to try to work out what your own individual skin needs are. What do you want to achieve? Is your issue sensitivity, dryness, spots, are you looking for volume?

For dryness and sensitivity you may need to adapt your routine to get extra hydration into your skin. Women often use the same products for years, but it’s worth looking at these as you approach menopause.

Dehydrated skin can look dull and lined, and locking in a bit of moisture can get your skin more glowing and dewy. Often people feel you need squeaky clean feeling when they’ve cleansed, but this actually means you’ve stripped your skin barrier. You need a gentle, non-foaming cleanser. Products that foam can affect the acid level of skin, so go for one that’s cream or balm based.

Moisturisers are key. Look for ingredients that can help to boost your skin barrier and keep it healthy and hydrated. Things like shea butter, glycerine, hyaluronic acid and mineral oil. Nice moisturisers will have a lot of these kind of ingredients. If you’ve always used a light lotion then you may need to switch to something richer. Even simple things like cleansing and moisturising are an important part of protecting the skin.

Henpicked: What do you think about Emepelle?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Emepelle is really exciting. It’s the first of its kind, skincare directly targeting menopause skin. It uses what’s known as MEP technology, a type of molecule that isn’t a hormone but simulates the effect of oestrogen on skin. It boosts hydration and scaffolding levels, but without any hormonal effects.

Clinical studies show great results in terms of reduced dryness, helping with fine lines, and increased radiance. It also harnesses other ingredients we know can benefit our skin. I’m not about brands, but interested in ingredients.

Emepelle isn’t cheap so might not be within every budget. But if you’re going to spend that much then it’s a good investment. But don’t worry if you can’t afford it – there is something out there for every budget .

Henpicked: Does itchy skin mean it’s dry or sensitive?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Dry skin equals itchy skin, no doubt. So the first thing to do is get in there and hydrate. Take out irritants from your regime, like foaming cleanser and alcohol, and use a cleansing cream or balm and kind moisturiser. If you get red, flaky patches, ask yourself if you could be sensitive to anything such as fragrance, or preservatives. You might need a medical opinion. But first get the hydration going.

Henpicked: Why do our eyelids get dry?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Eyes are so interesting. Here is the thinnest skin on your body, so it’s not as robust as your cheeks or forehead. If you notice irritation, look at what you’re using around your eyes. Try a sensitive eye make-up remover, don’t used fragranced products.

I’m a bit underwhelmed by eye creams to be honest, if a cream benefits your skin it will benefit it all over. A lot of eye creams have active ingredients in, which may also cause irritation.

Henpicked: Would you recommend collagen supplements?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: No, I’m not a fan. Collagen is a big molecule. Your stomach acids and enzymes break it all down so it goes into your bloodstream in tiny pieces, not directly into your skin. Even if you use a cream, it doesn’t really absorb. Your skin is like a sieve and healthy skin won’t let big molecules through. Your best bet with collagen is to optimise everything you can – eat a protein-rich diet, use sun protection and boost with MEP or other retinoids.

Henpicked: Is there anything we should avoid?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Be careful about using anything containing alcohol or ethanol on your skin. Also avoid things that block pores, like coconut oil, cocoa butter and essential oils. A lot of stuff packaged as ‘natural’ is still somewhat synthetic as they have to contain a preservative, so don’t be fooled.

In terms of lifestyle, the first thing is to avoid excessive sun. And smoking is also horrendous for skin. Try to avoid excess alcohol too – a bit here and there is fine though.

Henpicked: Can you have skin that’s dry and greasy at the same time?

Dr Emma Wedgeworth: Yes, oily sensitive skin is a thing! If it’s oily you use products to dry it, then you dehydrate your skin. Always introduce active ingredients like AHA, retinols and glycolic acids slowly, twice a week to begin with then gradually raise.

This should help your skin tolerate these products better.

Follow Dr Emma Wedgeworth on Instagram.