Save for comments about dryness, wrinkles and fine lines, talk of menopausal acne is kept quite hush hush. Thought you got rid of that pesky friend in high school, didn’t you?
But the good news, a silver lining for the unabashed silver ladies, is that with a personalised approach and the right skincare routine you can comfortably keep this mid-life bout of acne in check. Let us (briefly) break down the known causes and prevention to guide you through.
A huge hormonal shift, obviously. But let’s unpack that further. The female hormone estrogen plummets rapidly during menopause (peri and post included) throwing off the very delicate balance of androgen, specifically testosterone, which have until now been playing nicely together for a calm and healthy complexion. As estrogen levels drop the resulting spike in testosterone causes an increase in sebum production, that then leads to congestion. And a lovely little colony of facial hairs can crop up on the chin around this time too as most androgen receptors live in this lower area of the face.
Our old friends estrogen and testosterone are the same two sex hormones responsible for causing skin mischief in key life stages like puberty, early adulthood, and pregnancy. During these periods, however, it was more of an ebb and flow, one fluctuating, then the other, as opposed to the drastic drop in estrogen experienced during menopause.
As any woman who has or is experiencing menopause will be quick to note, stress is also a defining factor of this life change. Generally falling between the ages of 45-55 years, this full-body response to our reproductive organs essentially calling it quits, comes at a time when perhaps your career is reaching its peak, you’re raising irritable teens, you’re navigating this new sense of self and desire while maintaining healthy relationships. A rise in the stress hormone that is cortisol, can often manifest as breakouts too. Attempting to bring more calm to your lifestyle during these years is really paramount for skin health and overall wellbeing.
The most effective treatments for menopausal acne focus on trying to correct the hormonal imbalance we mentioned above, which means, often taking an inside-out approach. So after a visit or 74 to your trusted GP (which we highly recommend), you might be prescribed anti-androgen medication that blocks these acne-causing-facial-hair-sprouting hormones from working in overdrive.
From a more topical standpoint, your common acne fighters like benzoyl peroxide and retinol might be of assistance, but you want to be careful with these actives because they can make dry skin (also very common throughout menopause) even drier. Instead, or in conjunction with these treatments, seek out gentle products/ingredients that are known to deeply nourish and intensely hydrate.
AHAs - your ‘ah hah!’ moment, if you will, in building an effective skincare routine during menopause. They break down the glue that holds skin cells together, which forces cell turnover to speed up. Increased cell turnover = new skin cells and a good wallop of glow. We recommend incorporating these into your nightly routine 2-3 times a week for clean, unclogged pores.
A master moisturiser for dry skin, ceramides (present naturally in the skin, though production starts to slowly slack off after the 30 year mark), help with plumping, restoring and protecting that barrier. Present in rich moisturisers and cream masks, ceramides will reinforce the skin’s moisture barrier and help regulate oil production.
Don’t sleep on hyaluronic acid either - like a tall glass of water for your confused, menopausal skin. Because of the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid it’s able to easily penetrate the skin and get to work attracting and holding moisture there for maximum plumping and juice-ifying effect. After absorbing into the skin, hyaluronic acid will hang out there and continue to draw and hold water. What’s not to like?
A routine for menopausal skin should be founded on three key principles: being gentle, locking in moisture, preventing said moisture from escaping. This decade or so is really going to test the integrity of your skin, so lean on these super nourishing solutions to ensure a happy, healthy, calm face (and don’t forget, your face stops at your boobs).