By the time they reach menopause - which officially begins one year after a woman's last period -; many women think they have their lives figured out. Careers are well established; children are grown and independent; and there's more time for leisure and self-care. Yet many women in their 40s and 50s are surprised to suddenly notice changes on their skin, including acne and age spots. Fortunately, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say that while many of these changes are inevitable due to hormones, there is a lot women can do at home to lessen these effects.
Although fluctuating hormones during menopause can result in a number of skin changes, these don't need to be disruptive to daily life. With the right care, women can continue to have healthy, blemish-free skin during midlife and beyond."
Diane S. Berson, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist
To care for your skin during menopause, Dr. Berson recommends the following tips:
- Soothe dry skin: During menopause, estrogen levels decrease, leading to changes on the skin such as dryness and itching. This can be especially noticeable when the air is dry. To help prevent dryness, wash your skin with a mild cleanser, as regular soap may be too drying. After bathing or showering and throughout the day, apply a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid or glycerin. Don't forget to apply the moisturizer to your jawline and neck.
- Relieve itch: To help soothe itchy skin, apply a cool, wet compress. To make a cool compress, soak a clean towel or washcloth in cool water and wring it out until damp. Apply it to the skin that itches. After removing it, apply moisturizer. You can also relieve itchy skin by taking a colloidal oatmeal bath. This soothing product is available in most drug and beauty stores. When bathing, make sure to use warm, not hot water, and pat your skin dry -; instead of rubbing -; to avoid further irritation.
- Treat and prevent acne: Due to fluctuating hormones, some women develop acne during menopause. If you have acne, wash your skin with a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide. However, if the cleanser dries out your skin, stop using it and opt for a mild cleanser instead. You can also consider applying a product containing adapalene to prevent breakouts. Always be gentle with your skin. Avoid vigorously scrubbing your skin or picking and squeezing at acne, as this can lead to scarring. In addition, avoid acne products that dry out your skin, as this can worsen acne. If these tips don't work, see a board-certified dermatologist, who can prescribe treatments for post-menopausal acne.
- Treat and prevent age spots: If you've spent ample time in the sun without sun protection, you may see the effects now. Age spots and larger areas of darker skin can appear on your face, hands, neck, arms or chest. Skin cancer and pre-cancerous growths can also become more common. To prevent age spots, protect your skin from the sun. Before going outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. This can help fade age spots, prevent new spots from forming and reduce your risk of skin cancer. Remember to take other sun-protective measures as well, including seeking shade and wearing protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
If the appearance of age spots bothers you, there are many products available that may help lighten the spots. Many fade creams and lotions are available without a prescription and may help improve the appearance of age spots, depending on how dark the spots are. Look for products that contain hydroquinone, glycolic acid or kojic acid. Apply these products daily for two months. Your dermatologist can also prescribe creams and lotions to help with age spots and perform in-office procedures, such as peels or lasers, to further fade the pigmentation.
"Remember, since skin cancer can sometimes look like an age spot, and since your risk of skin cancer increases with age, it's important to perform regular skin self-exams during menopause," says Dr. Berson. "Doing so can help you detect skin cancer early, when it is most treatable. If you notice any new spots on your skin, spots that are different from others, or spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist."
These tips are demonstrated in "How to Care for Your Skin During Menopause," a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD's "Video of the Month" series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.