Menopause can bring with it many unpleasant side effects and symptoms, from hot flushes and vaginal dryness to poor sleep and mood swings.
The shift in hormones can also lead to changes in your skin and nails that are often overlooked.
“During menopause, your ovaries stop producing oestrogen and it’s these falling hormone levels that are responsible for many of the symptoms women experience,” explains nutritionist, naturopath and Healthy Hormones author Belinda Kirkpatrick.
“Oestrogen helps to keep blood circulating and low levels can result in hot flushes, palpitations, night sweats, insomnia and loss in bone density. But it can also increase the rate of declining collagen and elastin, which helps keep your skin looking youthful and plump.” However, it’s not just a loss in youth boosting proteins that affect most women, there’s other skin concerns to be wary of as well. “The ovaries continue to make testosterone after oestrogen production declines – although this hormone will decline with age – and it’s this testosterone dominance that can result in breakouts, oily skin, thinning hair and the growth of unwanted facial hair,” says Kirkpatrick.
Melbourne dermatologist and director of Complete Skin Specialists Dr Cara McDonald agrees, adding that the significant drop in oestrogen levels causes a large change in the appearance and function of your skin. “We see a rapid loss of structural integrity and ability to repair, increased signs of ageing and an increased dominance in male hormones, which shows up in skin as acne and increased hair growth on the face, with thinning on the head,” she says.
Some women may experience specific problems, such as dehydration or a surge of pigmentation and age spots. “Problems will vary between individuals, with genetic tendencies, skin type, previous skin treatments and past skin damage all making an impact.”
Dr McDonald recommends a proactive, multifaceted approach to skin care that includes prevention, protection and repair.
“The number-one priority is daily sun protection,” she explains.
“Further protection can be added by using a product with niacinamide or vitamin B3, which has anti-inflammatory properties, reduces pigmentation and helps skin repair.” When it comes to repairing your skin, you can’t go past key hero ingredients such as antioxidants, retinol and DNA-repair enzymes.
If dry, dehydrated skin is your main concern, avoid harsh, drying soaps and cleansers, and instead look for oily, nourishing formulations.
“Topical ceramides in moisturisers act to replace the most important fatty molecule in your skin barrier, ultimately improving the moisture content and barrier properties,” says Dr McDonald.
If you’re unsure which products you should be using, ask your dermatologist.
“Getting good-quality advice and then sticking to it is my top tip,” she says.
“Consistency is the key and it’s where most people fall down. If you can get into the habit of good skin care before menopause, your skin won’t suffer as much when the hormonal changes hit.” Here are some of our top picks…
1. Up your antioxidants
Paula’s Choice Power Berry Serum ($41, paulaschoice.com.au)
A potent blend of bio-available antioxidants work to defend your skin against ageing and prevent damage.
2. Wear your vitamins
Arbonne RE9 Advanced Night Repair Cream ($133, arbonne.com)
A pot full of hydrating and repairing goodness, including vitamin B3, vitamin C, peptides and brown algae.
3. Stay hydrated
Clinique Moisture Surge Hydrating Supercharged Concentrate ($69, clinique.com.au)
A powerful water-gel hydrator instantly soaks your skin in moisture.
4. Boost your youth
Ultraceuticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum ($140, ultraceuticals.com/au) Hero ingredient retinol works to refine texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Food for thought
Kirkpatrick suggests nourishing your skin from the inside out by upping your vegetable intake, eating protein with every meal and bumping up good fats like avocado, salmon, nuts, seeds and olive oil. “I also recommend drinking two cups of spearmint tea daily to help reduce excess testosterone,” she says.
1. Cool down
A hyaluronic face mist doubles as a dose of hydration and hit of cool to calm the severity of hot flushes. Keep it in the fridge for extra chill. Bybi Beauty Mega Mist ($42, sephora.com.au).
2. Drift off
Sometimes a sleep spray doesn’t cut it. Pour this in your bath before bed to help you unwind and drift off. L’Occitane Aromachologie Relaxing Massage Oil ($39, au.loccitane.com)
3. Tough as nails
Jojoba and sweet-almond oils are blended with keratin to help repair weak and damaged nails to reduce splitting, cracking and peeling. CND Rescue RXx ($8.95 for 3.7ml, cndshop.com.au)
4. Hair hero
A nourishing concoction of frizz-fighting shea and cocoa butters, coconut oil and vitamin E to hydrate thirsty, brittle hair. Sukin Hydrating Replenishing Hair Masque ($19.95, sukinnaturals.com.au)