Acne is something most of us associate with our teenage years. But unfortunately, it can also show up during menopause.
Menopause-related acne can shatter your self-confidence. After all, everyone wants to face the world looking their best, and unsightly acne can make you feel like hiding away.
But thankfully, there are several ways to tackle menopausal acne and improve the appearance of your skin.
In this post, we’ll examine the relationship between acne and menopause. We’ll look at why this skin condition affects so many women and share some expert-approved advice on how to manage and even cure it.
Menopause and Acne: What’s the Connection?
Although acne predominantly affects adolescents, it’s common for it to reoccur during menopause. And according to research, menopausal acne is on the rise. Studies suggest that at least a quarter of women in their 40s experience breakouts, and around 15% of us are still noticing acne in our 50s.
Even women who never had acne during their teenage years may notice oily skin, blackheads, and pimples as they go through this transitional time. But why does it happen?
The answer is hormones. Like all symptoms of menopause, acne at this stage of life is caused by fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone.
These fluctuations can lead to an increase in androgens, such as testosterone. Androgens are responsible for an increase in oil production, which clogs pores and leads to breakouts. Higher levels of androgens can also cause other unwanted side effects, such as hair loss on the scalp and hirsutism: excessive hair growth in areas where hair is usually absent.
What Treatments Are Available for Menopausal Acne?
Dermatologists often treat acne with a topical approach, using creams, gels, soaps, and serums to keep the problem at bay. But while these can help, when it comes to menopausal acne, it’s best to address the root cause of the issue.
Correcting the hormonal imbalance is the key to clearer skin during menopause. Several treatment options can help, including:
This is an oral medication commonly used to treat blood pressure problems. However, doctors and dermatologists also prescribe it to treat acne and excess facial hair (hirsutism). It works by blocking the androgen receptors in the skin, which leads to less oil production and fewer clogged pores.
Oral Contraceptive Pills
Oral contraceptive pills are primarily used to prevent ovulation and pregnancy. But they’re also commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of menopause, including menopause-related acne.
They work by regulating hormone levels, and so, in the right formulation, they can lower androgens and decrease oil production in the skin.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to treat a wide variety of menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes and night sweats. Like birth control pills, it works by rebalancing hormone levels, and some women find it can also help to clear up their skin.
However, HRT isn’t always the answer. Some women find that it actually makes their acne worse. This is most likely to happen when taking a formulation containing progestin, a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone progesterone.
The treatment options above address the root cause of menopausal acne; however, like all medications, they all come with potential risks.
So, if your acne is relatively mild, you may want to try a topical approach.
Topical medications used to treat menopausal acne are the same as those used to treat acne in adolescents. Examples include prescription-strength salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids.
But it’s important to exercise caution. Menopause can dry out your skin, and these topical creams and gels can leave your skin feeling even more parched and irritated. If you suffer from dry skin and acne, consider a natural treatment plan before resorting to harsher prescription products.
Natural Treatments and Preventions Strategies for Menopausal Acne
Menopausal acne is frustrating, but thankfully, there are several natural interventions and lifestyle changes that can treat and even prevent breakouts.
So, before reaching inside your medication cabinet, consider the following:
While stress isn’t a direct cause of acne, it can worsen the symptoms or trigger a new breakout due to its effect on the body’s hormonal balance.
So, if you’re already prone to breakouts, try to keep your stress levels as low as possible. A calm and contented mind leads to faster healing and clearer skin.
Eat a Low-Carb Diet
For many years, doctors thought that acne and diet were unconnected. But more recent research suggests that what we eat can directly impact our skin.
Studies have shown that people who follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet are less prone to breakouts than those who eat a high-carb diet.
So, if you have acne, consider cutting back on the carbs for a few weeks and see if you notice an improvement.
Avoid Milk and Dairy
Dairy can affect hormone receptors found in the skin and lead to breakouts. Not everyone is affected, but many people find that cutting our milk and other dairy products, such as ice cream, butter, and cheese, significantly improves their skin.
Exercise not only keeps you in shape and boosts your mood. It can also make your skin glow and your acne disappear.
Acne is an inflammatory condition, and regular exercise reduces inflammation in all areas of your body, including your skin.
Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a naturally occurring compound created in the body when we digest Brassica plants such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Some research suggests that DIM supplements can treat hormonal acne in a similar way to the prescription drug spironolactone, which we discussed earlier in this post.
But unlike its pharmaceutical counterpart, DIM is a natural product with fewer risks of side effects.
DIM has been shown to balance hormones and block the effects of excess androgens, such as testosterone. As a result, the skin produces fewer acne-causing oils, leading to fewer breakouts.
Menopausal acne is caused by a natural and normal shift in hormones. But several other conditions and disorders can also cause acne breakouts in women during their 40s and 50s. These include insulin resistance, thyroid abnormalities, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and hyperprolactinemia.
Acne can strike at any time in our lives, but it’s especially common during perimenopause.
Everyone is different, but the average duration of perimenopause is around 4 years. Once you hit menopause and have gone 12 months without a period, you’ll enter the post-menopausal phase. That’s when the hormonal fluctuations leading to side effects such as acne will start to settle down. As your body adjusts, your symptoms, including acne, will begin to taper off until they eventually disappear completely.
Most menopausal women with mild acne breakouts don’t need to see a doctor. Simple lifestyle changes and natural interventions are often enough to treat the problem and even get rid of it completely.
But if supplements, diet changes, exercise, and stress management aren’t working, it’s time to speak to a healthcare professional. They can rule out any underlying conditions, such as insulin resistance or PCOS, and recommend a treatment plan that works for you.
Acne is something we all hope to leave behind in our youth. But unfortunately, more than 25% of women experience a surge of hormonal acne during their menopausal years.
Yet thankfully, there are several ways to control, treat, and even prevent menopausal acne. These include lifestyle interventions, natural treatments, and pharmaceutical drugs.
If you’re experiencing acne during menopause and it’s affecting your quality of life, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Help is out there, and with a little time and patience, you can look and feel your best as you journey through your menopausal years.
- Menopausal acne- best treatments according to Dermatologists | MDacne
- Menopausal Acne – Challenges And Solutions – PMC (nih.gov)
- Acne: Does stress cause it and how to treat it? (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Diet and Acne Update: Carbohydrates Emerge as the Main Culprit – JDDonline – Journal of Drugs in Dermatology
- How Exercise Might Help with Acne – Acne.org
- Signs perimenopause is ending and what to expect (medicalnewstoday.com)