Understanding Skin Changes During Menopause and Care Tips

Last updated 12.18.2023 | by Dr. Karen Pike | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


The skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects us from the external environment, allows us to feel and recognize pain, regulates our body temperature, and performs a whole host of other vital functions. It is also the part of us that the rest of the world sees.

But during menopause, our skin can change. Hormonal shifts begin to alter the appearance, texture, and elasticity of the skin, and understanding these changes can help to keep us looking and feeling our best.

Like most women going through menopause, I’ve noticed that the skin on my face and body isn’t as youthful as it once was. During perimenopause, I also developed occasional acne, and now I experience dryness on my elbows and hands that was never there before. All of these symptoms are a perfectly natural response to falling levels of estrogen. But thankfully, with a few minor interventions and lifestyle changes, I’m still managing to care for my skin and maintain a healthy complexion, and I want to help you to do the same.

So, are you worried about an increase in wrinkles, dry skin, or acne? Have you noticed that your skin is beginning to change in ways you’d rather it didn’t? If so, this post is for you.

Below, I’ll explore how and why our skin changes during menopause. Plus, I’ll look at the different ways we can take care of our skin, to keep it happy, healthy, and glowing throughout this transitional phase.

Why Does Our Skin Change During Menopause?

During menopause, our estrogen levels plummet. This new lack of estrogen has an effect on a vital substance called collagen.

Collagen is our body’s most abundant protein, and it forms the building blocks of healthy bones, joints, and skin. It’s what gives the skin its strength and structure while keeping it supple, elastic, and firm.

Estrogen stimulates collagen production. So, unfortunately, less estrogen means less collagen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, our body’s natural collagen production goes down by a third during the first five years of menopause.

How Does Our Skin Change During Menopause?

A decline in estrogen and collagen can cause several changes to our skin during the menopausal transition, including:

Wrinkles

As the body begins producing less collagen, our skin becomes thinner, and wrinkles set in.

Lower levels of this skin-supporting protein also cause a loss of elasticity and firmness. The skin no longer snaps back to its original shape. Instead, it begins to take on a more saggy, crinkled appearance.

Dry Skin

Lower estrogen levels also impact the body’s ability to produce natural oils and hold onto water. And so, many women notice their skin is much drier during and after menopause. This also makes it more prone to flaking, sensitivity, and irritation.

Acne

Acne is usually associated with our teenage years. But some menopausal women also notice a return of their acne during this transitional time.

As estrogen levels fall, androgen hormones, such as testosterone, can become more dominant. This increases sebum production, leading to blocked pores, inflamed pimples, and oily skin.

Rosacea

Rosacea is characterized by redness, flushing, pimples, and dilated blood vessels. It usually occurs on the face, particularly the cheeks, nose, and forehead.

Rosacea is more common in women than in men, and the condition often begins during menopause. Hormonal shifts during this time can also make existing rosacea worse.

Many women report that hot flashes trigger their rosacea, causing redness and even broken blood vessels.

How to Look After Your Skin During and After Menopause?

When I first noticed menopause related skin changes, I realized that my usual skincare routine was no longer enough to keep wrinkles, dryness, and acne at bay. But thankfully, I’ve discovered several highly effective interventions that can make a big difference to the health of my skin. By following the tips below, it’s possible to minimize any hormone related damage, and even prevent further damage in the future.

1. Drink Water

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your skin at any age. But during menopause, it’s more crucial than ever to keep your fluid levels topped up.

Dehydration dries out our skin and makes wrinkles and sagging much more noticeable. So, before you reach for expensive creams and serums, make sure you’re drinking enough water.

I carry a 1 gallon water bottle with me wherever I go. This helps to ensure I always have enough to drink throughout the day, and enables me to keep track of my hydration goals.

2. Cut Out Sugar

A diet high in sugar and processed foods diminishes the body’s natural levels of collagen. Plus, excess sugar can lead to a whole host of other undesirable side effects, including mood swings, depression, weight gain, inflammation, and disease. So, there’s never been a better time to cut down on the sweet stuff.

But if you’re anything like me, avoiding baked goods and desserts entirely isn’t an option. Thankfully, there are several sugar alternatives, including erythritol and stevia, which mimic the sweet taste of sugar, without its damaging effects. I use these alternatives to bake my favorite recipes, so I can still enjoy delicious desserts without the guilt. 

3. Eat Collagen-Boosting Foods

Swap sugar for collagen-rich foods that support collagen production. Examples include bone broth, egg whites, chicken, fish, berries, citrus fruits, leafy green, garlic, and peppers.

4. Cut Out Smoking

Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but it’s bad for your skin too. Tobacco smoke degrades collagen and impairs new collagen formation, leading to premature wrinkles and sagging skin.

5. Wear Sunscreen

Sun protection becomes even more crucial during and after menopause. That’s because the skin produces less melanin as estrogen levels fall. This, combined with thinner skin, makes you much more susceptible to sun damage.

Sun damage is responsible for 80% of all visible aging. UVA and UVB rays cause the collagen in our skin to break down at a much faster rate than usual. Since wrinkles became a concern for me, I’ve made high SPF sunscreen a non negotiable part of my daily skincare routine, even in the winter time.

6. Moisturize

Dry skin associated with menopause needs extra hydration to keep flaking and irritation at bay. I’ve had particular success with products which contain hyaluronic acid.This compound helps to draw moisture into the skin cells and keeps it there for longer.

7. Adopt a Skincare Routine

When I was younger, I didn’t worry too much about taking care of my skin. Simply washing my face with soap and water and applying a light moisturizer seemed to be enough to keep it looking fresh. But now that I’ve reached menopause, I’ve become more serious about skin care, and part of that care is sticking to a tailor made routine that is designed to stave off the undesirable effects of menopause-related aging.

The most effective ingredients I’ve come across so far are retinol and retin-A, niacinamide, vitamin C, and glycolic acid. However, some of these products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. So, don’t forget to finish with a high-SPF sunscreen and apply it regularly.

To find the perfect skincare routine for your needs, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist.

FAQs

Q. Can hormone replacement therapy (HRT) help with menopause-related skin changes?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works by rebalancing your hormones closer to pre-menopause levels. It’s an effective treatment for many menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, mood changes, and low libido. And it can also help to combat skin changes during this transitional time.
But it’s important to note that HRT comes with potentially serious health risks. So, starting this type of treatment isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.
If you’re interested to know if HRT could work for you, talk to your doctor. They can help you weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Q. What other treatments are available to combat menopause-related skin changes?

Changes to the skin, particularly on the face, can cause anxiety and self-esteem issues for many women. Thankfully, there are treatments available that can help to stave off signs of aging, such as wrinkles and sagging skin.
BOTOX, laser resurfacing, and microneedling are all popular choices. If you go down this route, be sure to choose a qualified and experienced practitioner that you can trust.

Q. How can I manage acne breakouts during menopause?

Many of the skin changes we experience during menopause are permanent. But thankfully, acne isn’t one of them. During perimenopause, I experienced frequent acne breakouts. This was due to fluctuating hormones, including a decline in estrogen. But now that I’ve reached menopause, my body has adjusted to these hormonal changes, and this unsightly symptom has disappeared on its own.
If you’re still suffering from menopause related acne, there are several things you can do to reduce breakouts.
Cleansing regularly with salicylic acid can help to reduce excess sebum and minimize blocked pores. Some women also find acne-busting success by eating a low-carb diet.
If interventions like these aren’t working for you, it might be time to see a dermatologist. They may prescribe an oral medication called spironolactone, which works from the inside out to block the androgen receptors in the skin.

Conclusion

As we journey through menopause, our bodies go through many different changes. But one of the most noticeable of all is the transformation of our skin.

As estrogen levels fall, this has an effect on the health and appearance of our skin. It is important to practice self-care and self-acceptance during this transformative time.

If you’re struggling with skin changes during menopause, talk to your primary care doctor or dermatologist. With their expertise, you can find an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan that works for you.

With the right care and guidance, you can pass the menopausal phase looking and feeling your absolute best.

References:

Author

  • Dr. Karen Pike

    Dr. Pike is a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. She received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played collegiate soccer. She attended Georgetown University for medical school and performed her residency in emergency medicine at Stanford University. She was part of the first-ever, women-majority emergency medicine program in United States. Dr. Pike is also the primary medical consultant for “Grey’s Anatomy,” a role she has held since the pilot episode when she partnered with Shonda Rhimes as the show’s original medical consultant. At her hospital, she was the second woman Chief of Staff. Today serves as the Director of the Emergency Department. Whether in leadership or direct patient care, her dedication to excellence in communication, quality, and collaboration is unwavering.