Most conversations about what happens to skin during menopause tend to center on fine lines and wrinkles. The trouble with that is it leaves so many in the dark when menopausal skin starts to act in seemingly inexplicable ways, including the sudden appearance of rashes, rosacea, and acne, along with an overall sensitivity to just about everything.
So, over the next two blog posts, I’ll shed some light on what exactly is going on and what can be done about it. My intent is to help you feel more comfortable in—and in control of—your skin.
The perfect storm of life events
To begin, the changes to your skin that you may have started experiencing are really more the result of a collision of significant circumstances than menopause alone. For one, collagen levels lower with the onset of menopause, even more dramatically than they already were. As a result, skin becomes thinner and drier, and it can feel likes it happens overnight.
There’s less of the dermis, which includes collagen and hyaluronic acid. So, as the collagen becomes depleted, the pores look larger.
Meanwhile, estrogen levels are also dropping, which means there’s less oil production. It also means there’s now more of a testosterone influence on the skin, and that can manifest in different ways, including hair thinning, hair loss, facial hair, and, yes, acne breakouts.
The combination of these events results in a dry, compromised moisture barrier, the outer layer of our skin that protects our bodies from external invaders and irritants. This new hypersensitive, brittle skin is prone to a number of inflammatory skin conditions, such as rashes, rosacea, perioral dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and breakouts.
Skin tone makes a difference
For women of color, perimenopause and menopause look a little different because you’re less likely to have photoaging. In other words, you don’t really get sun spots the way white skin does. Also, your fine lines and wrinkles, on average, will appear around a decade than they will for white women.
But where skin of color may take longer to show sagging and volume loss, it has its own unique challenges, including, namely, hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Skin of color can also be prone to dermatosis papulosa nigras, which are papules of different sizes that appear mainly on the face.
Ultimately, though, every woman’s skin, regardless of its tone, is more likely to develop hypersensitivity, dryness, and the estrogen imbalance that triggers a range of inflammatory conditions. With that cleared up, let’s talk about what can be done about it. That’ll be the subject of my next post.