Skin changes are a normal part of aging. I had long accepted this as fact. My assumption was that these skin changes would be gradual. Slowly, I would adjust to my aging skin. I would practice gratitude as the signs of a life well-lived gradually accumulated. Graceful. Except that no one had told me about what can happen to menopausal skin. And no one had shared with me the 4 rules for great skin.
Skin Changes Overnight
I swear I woke up one morning and saw someone else looking back at me in the mirror. I was always prone to dry skin, but this dry skin was next level. Sagging skin around my mouth was suddenly alarming. The skin on my neck was crepey: thin and wrinkled, like crepe paper. And wait a minute! Is that a…wattle!?!
To add insult to injury I also had acne. Isn’t that supposed to be part of puberty?!
Are skin changes part of perimenopause?
I Googled ‘skin changes’ and Google autofilled ‘skin changes menopause’. The first thing that popped up was the following from the American Academy of Dermatology:
Jowls, slack skin, and wrinkles
Studies show that women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause. But I haven’t achieved menopause yet.
Estrogen Deficient Skin
I learned from a dermatologist that perimenopause can also cause significant changes to your skin. Estrogen levels can be very erratic in perimenopause before their eventual decline. Estrogen plays a role in collagen production. As collagen production decreases you will notice changes in skin elasticity and skin firmness. Check.
You can probably also check off dry skin and sagging skin. Yep.
Fluctuating estrogen levels can also bring on facial hair. And you may also develop, or see a return of, acne prone skin. Good times.
Other Skin Changes
Other skin changes can include itchy skin and redness. Signs of sun damage may become more prominent. Bone loss can also contribute to the facial changes women notice. Bone loss accelerates during the menopause transition. Two to three years after our last period the rate of bone loss levels off; we continue to lose bone with age, but not at the same rapid pace.
Once again, declining estrogen is at play. Estrogen helps build bone, so as estrogen fluctuates and drops, so does our bone mass.
So what’s a perimenopausal woman to do?
It can be tempting, and very easy, to spend a lot of money trying to deal with the onslaught of skin changes perimenopause can bring. I know, I’ve been spending some money recently. In a panic.
And I have been getting a lot of compliments lately about how great my skin looks. Yay!
I recently completed a very expensive laser treatment, which may be helping. It takes some time for the full benefits of the treatment to take effect.
So what is prompting the compliments on my skin? I believe it’s the addition of two products to my skin care routine. A nurse at a dermatology clinic recently confirmed my suspicions, when she told me that there are 4 rules for great skin. You can add more products and treatments if you want, but all you really need are these 4 rules for great skin:
1. Use Vitamin C Serum
Applying Vitamin C Serum is a new addition for me and now the first step in my skin care routine. It has been shown to reduce wrinkles and improve the texture of the skin. Vitamin C can also help reduce redness and the appearance of dark spots, evening out skin tone. Due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties vitamin c can also help with acne.
Vitamin C serum can cause irritation, so best to start with product with a lower concentration. Most products have concentrations in the 10-20% range.
There are many Vitamin C serums on the market, with a range of formulations and a wide range of prices. The product I’ve been using is Serum 10 by Vivier.
2. Incorporate a Retinol Product
I believe this has been ‘the’ game changer for my skin. Retinol is said to increase collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. My skin definitely looks plumper since I started using it about 6 months ago. Exfoliation is also a benefit, along with increased skin cell production and helping to unclog pores. Retinol can also lighten dark spots due to sun damage.
Retinol works. It is a powerful product. So you need to be careful as it can cause negative reactions. Be sure to follow the product instructions. And know the following:
- Retinal can cause burning, itching, redness, peeling, flaking, dry and/or irritated skin.
- Your skin will look worse as it adjusts to the retinol. This is normal and part of the process.
- Test it on a small area of your skin before applying to your neck and face.
- Start with a low concentration.
- Apply every 3 days; increase to daily as your skin adjusts.
- Consider switching to a higher concentration as your skin adjusts, but use caution.
I started with Alastin Skincare Renewal Retinol .25. I apply this product after the Vitamin C Serum and a few other products – see my comment about panicking above. Then I move on to rule 3.
If you aren’t already doing this twice a day. You need to start. What moisturizer should you be using? There are no shortage of opinions on that question. Ask for samples from cosmetic counters and Sephora. Find one you like that suits your skin type and budget.
I have skin that tends to be dryer and I live in a dry climate. Alastin Skincare Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer has been working well for me.
4. Sunscreen Everyday
According to the nurse at my dermatologist’s office, you need to apply sunscreen to your face and neck everyday. No exceptions.
A lot of sunscreens are tacky and unpleasant to apply. But I finally found a face sunscreen that I love. Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 feels like another moisturizer and blends easily into my skin. They also have a tinted version of this product. Next on my list is to try their lip balm with SPF.
Other Tips for Perimenopausal Skin
Yes, I am using other products and trying various treatments. But thanks to the Vitamin C Serum and the Retinal the panic is gone.
The other things that have been important for my skin include:
Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep is said to accelerate the ageing process as you loose out on the body’s opportunity to repair. Disturbed or shortened sleep can also lead to dehydration. So beauty rest is a thing. And this can be a tall order, especially in perimenopause.
It took me a while to get the perimenopausal insomnia sorted. But the effort to do so was absolutely worth the benefits. You can read about that experience here.
Switching to a Gentle Cleanser
The other important change I made to my skin routine was to switch from a natural soap to a creamy cleanser. I liked idea of using natural soap, but it became to drying for my skin. I switched to a cleansing cream that removes dirt and makeup well, but doesn’t rob my skin of moisture.
I firmly believe that how I am feeling on the inside, shows up on my face. Practicing gratitude, even just briefly, on a daily basis has made a difference. When I feel good, I look good. Not sure that I’m aging gracefully, but I’m definitely grateful.