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76. Menopause Masterclass

Updated: Mar 21

We celebrated World Menopause Day by hosting a masterclass to discuss the stages of menopause and how that affects the skin. As females, menopause is something that all of us will go through during our lives and each of us will have a unique journey. Thankfully it is becoming a more openly discussed topic. Socially it is taking a great direction and experiences are more openly talked about. Hopefully we can discuss a few pointers that can help others who are going through this journey.

Menopause is not an illness or medical condition, it is a normal life event for women and everyone's journey is different. Did you know that 3 out of 4 women will experience common symptoms such as hot flushes, mood changes, brain fog, and fatigue? Today our focus is on the skin and hormones and how it can impact the skin. Hormones play a huge role in ongoing changes in our skin - as women we go through puberty, menstrual cycles, menopause and some experience pregnancy. Menopause can have a negative impact on our wellbeing, because there's often a shift in our mood and self confidence levels.

The study, Redefining the Menopause, found that two thirds of women experiencing the menopause or perimenopause feel that brands aren’t doing enough to support them, while 76% don’t feel represented at all by brands’ advertising and marketing.

The menopause journey starts in the endocrine system with our hormones, the body process happens slowly and cell renewal slows down. Skin isn't just a target for hormones secreted by the endocrine system. Hormones can be secreted by the skin also, there are numerous sensors from our immune system, nervous system and endocrine system. Skin is a living breathing organ that has many receptors and hormones play a big role in how our skin reacts.

Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands that travel all over the body. They focus on tissue and organs as they travel through the blood stream. Hormones help to regulate lots of different processes in the body - sleep, heart rate, sexual function, mood, body temperature, stress levels - they are the body's natural chemical messengers that affect different processes. Hormones also affect growth and development, which are kick started during puberty and female hormones go through a monthly cycle throughout our lives, and then menopause causes a steep decline.

The study also found that the most common menopausal symptoms were related to negative impacts on feelings and mood (67%) and self-confidence (59%). - Redefining the Menopause

Oestrogen is a well known sex hormone for women. It's produced in the ovaries, and there are several types. Estrodial is the most produced oestrogen, we produce these in many other areas, but there are actually four types that power the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen fluctuates throughout our monthly cycle and our lifetime. In menopause the levels drop dramatically because ovaries are slowing down. Oestrogen is also produced in the body fat and that's why we can retain more around the middle that's harder to shift once our body enters perimenopause. In the news recently it's been rumoured that women that are menopause age, typically 40+ are going to have regular 'MOT check ups'.

Skin is a diverse living organ and quite complex. What we consume or put inside our bodies as well as what we use on and in our environment will affect the skin. The skin goes through so many cycles of change each month and throughout our lives. These six points explain why women start to see a dramatic change in the skin as we progress through each stage of menopause.

Oestrogen and Skin:

  • stimulates sebaceaous secretions - which keep skin lubricated

  • stimulates production of hyaluronic acid - what makes our skin plump and moist; during menopause our skin becomes more dehydrated

  • produces ceremides - found in between our skin cells and the ceramides are the lipids that help maintain our barrier function - during menopause ceremide production slows down and skin can become more sensitised

  • helps collagen production - fibroblast cells, our youth hormone and the collagen structure for our skin which minimises lines and wrinkles. During menopause the collagen production declines and lines and wrinkles become more noticeable in the skin

  • helps temperature regulation - during menopause some start to experience hot flushes

  • supports wound healing - during menopause our skin and body can start to take longer to heal

Women produce 3x more testosterone during menopause, it is lower during perimenopause and then drops significantly post menopause. Testosterone is important for muscle, bone and cardiovascular health. Once we're post menopause, there is often a noticeable impact in the body when the testosterone levels drop.

Menopause Stages:

There are three stages to the menopause cycle and it doesn't happen overnight. Our body goes through several stages which are normal in every woman's life.

Perimenopause - can take up to 10 years and start as early as 35, but it is more common to start in our early to mid 40's. This stage is the body's transition into menopause and symptoms will gradually build up around menopause. The average time our body spends in this stage is 4 - 5 years of being perimenopausal. Factors such as our genetics - ask our female relatives about their experiences. (Ask your Mom - ie if your Mom went though the change at 48 then you might as well) Sometimes our bodies can start earlier depending on health, lifestyle and circumstance. For example a hysterectomy can cause our body to go through menopause much earlier than it might have naturally.

Menopause - is when our ovaries have finally stopped working, we experience a big decline in hormones, and have no menstrual period for over a year. The average age for menopause is 51 but some can experience it at before the common window is between 45 - 55 years. If the change is experienced before 40 it's known as premature. Some gynocologists say early 40's is not that early, but the later in our life we experience menopause, the shorter transition we'll experience. Did you know that 300 bodily functions can be altered during menopause?! Some of these include bone formation and skin regeneration, making a skincare routine important to help maintain healthy skin.

Post menopause - means we've finished our menstrual cycle and are a few years beyond having periods, so our oestrogen levels have fully declined and there's a bigger shift in our skin. Did you know there are up to 34 different symptoms that mark this stage?!

There are several different types of common symptoms including feeling more overwhelmed and confused. 71% women describe severe symptoms such as anxiety and mental health as being the most challenging. Davina McCall along with several other publications and tv shows offer guidance to help understand individual experiences of 'the change'.

The study identified common symptoms such as difficulty sleeping (50%) and night sweats (47%).

Affects on the skin:

  • ageing - our skin renewal process slows down, lines and wrinkles begin to show and deepen

  • breakouts - caused by oestrogen and sebaceous gland activity. Over stimulation and sensitisation in our skin leads to breakouts on the jawline, sometimes it can bring back teenage acne and for others breakouts can be a brand new symptom.

  • dehydration - skin can become more dehydrated as hyaluronic acid production reduces and less sebum is produced - it's time to up the level of hydration in your daily skincare!

  • heat - your skin can feel warmer or redness can become more apparent - oestrogen helps regulate body temperature and as this slows down the skin can heat up. Rosacea can be caused by hormones and once we're over 35 these hormonal changes can be trigged or aggravated.

  • pigmentation - melanocyte cells decrease by 10 - 20 % during these years, so uneven skin pigment and pigmentation can start to appear - remember your spf 365 days a year!

  • sensitivity - your skin may respond to things that have never been a problem, making the skin feel irritated or tight. 33% say that topical products can make skin feel itchy. As the skin becomes more dehydrated, the barrier function is not as strong because the ceremide production is slowing down. - it might be time to change your product regime or scale down the active ingredients.

The menopause process can last 4 - 5 years for some, 8 years for others and has been known to take up to 10 years. That's quite a chapter of fluctuating hormones and changes in the skin. As we experience erratic hormone cycles and the slowing of cell turnover, our skin often doesn't feel as vibrant and can feel like it's harder to get the glow. After discussing menopause and the effects within ourselves, let's discuss "How can we can help our body to thrive and maintain healthy skin."

Lesley Salem, founder of menopause support community Over the Bloody Moon, says, “We know from our community that most women are looking for ways to manage their menopause so they can continue to operate at their optimum."

Common Symptoms:

  • Brain fog - and memory loss are caused by the slowing cognitive functionality resulting in depleted memory. This can be caused by our hormones fluctuating which can affect how our brain functions - make 8 hours sleep a priority, reduce screen time, focus on staying positive, and try to reduce stress

  • Digestive changes - bloating, irritable bowel, experience of heartburn or acid reflux, and a change in gut health are all common symptoms associated with the changes in oestrogen levels and unfortunately can affect the skin - maintain a healthy diet, cut out sugar, and reduce caffeine and alcohol intake

  • Hot flushes - heat in skin tissues and night sweats can be really uncomfortable as we wake in the night dripping with sweat and then are cold the next minute. These can come on strong during perimenopause and can reduce as our body moves onto menopause. Oestrogen tells our brain that it's hotter than it actually is, then the brain tricks our skin resulting in flushes and sweats. - hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Oestrogen reduction causes 80% women to have hot flushes.
  • Joint pain - oestrogen helps lubricate our joints and up until we're 30 years old we build more than we loose. As we enter perimenopause our bone density starts to decrease by up to 10% in the first 5 years of menopause. To ease joint pain and stiffness during perimenopause regular exercise is really important. - it might be time to start taking some supplements too!

  • Mental health and anxiety - brain and hormonal changes affect how we feel - sometimes we can just burst into tears! Oestrogen stimulates serotonin which produces endorphins - the feel good hormones. Testoserone is a natural sedative to help compensate. As our hormones fluctuate we release more adrenaline and cortisol causing us to feel more irritable and more anxious rather than balanced. - remember daily self care is really important

  • Sleep issues - hormones have a big impact on our sleep, oestrogen produces serotonin to help us relax, melatonin and progesterone are released for sleep, then the very very common night sweats can cause us to wake in the night. It's a vicious cycle during menopause but sleep is more important than ever. - if you wake in the night, try to take your body through some methods of deep relaxation like meditation or read a book to help your body relax and fall back asleep.

Along with looking after our bodies as we go through the change, it's important to have a regular skin analysis. Our skin is constantly changing and it's important to check with a professional skin therapist each season for advice on the best home care regime for your skin concerns. Sometimes a change might be required to include more calming or soothing ingredients to help sensitivity, and for others a more advanced treatment plan and active ingredients can help maintain a healthy glow.

Professional skin treatment plans, home care regimes and daily skincare are important in maintaining a youthful radiance

~ Diana

Skincare Specifics:

Double cleansing is an important part of a skincare routine throughout our lives. Using an oil based cleanser first to help breakdown sweat, makeup and sunscreen followed by a skin type specific cleanser to actually clean the skin. Remember to massage each cleanser into the skin for sixty seconds to allow for the cleanser's ingredients to activate and clean the skin.

Perimenopause -

  • Cool - spritz throughout the day to cool and hydrate the skin. Our favourite is Dermalogica's Hyaluronic Ceramide Mist to boost the barrier function, hydrate and cool the skin

  • Treat - the changes in your skin in positive way - breakouts, pigmentation, whatever your current skincare concern is, use a serum to help treat. If you can't decide the Smart Response Serum picks up on your skin's receptors and helps treat according to the skin's response

  • Calm - soothe the skin during fluctuations, when skin is sensitised use the less rule - less heat, less touch and less product. Strip back your regime and keep it simple with dual purpose products that calm like Dermalgoica's Ultracalming Cleanser and Calm Water Gel

  • Protect - use an evening moisturiser and sun protection spf 30+ daily - with hormone changes the skin is more susceptible pigmentation

Menopause -

Look for formulas that are calming and cooling

  • Hydrate - both inside and out. Keep your hydration levels up by drinking 2 -3 litres of water daily and try to reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. Use a hydrating spritz for hot flushes - keep hydrated and cool the skin with a ceremide infused mist.

  • Treat breakouts - spots can be more inflamed and more painful with hormonal changes. Look for ingredients like niacinimide - that hydrates, treats pigmentation, reduces breakouts and promotes healing. Use products designed for ageing and breakouts like Dermalogica's Active Clearing range. They contain salicylic acid that helps to clear while maintaining skin hydration without stripping the barrier function.

  • Brighten - skin can feel lacklustre and dull as the renewal process slows and pigmentation and dark spots can begin to show. Help to brighten and illuminate the skin with vitamin c. Use a serum under your moisturiser twice daily or a light weight moisturising gel if you're still getting the pesky hot flushes

Post menopause -

This stage will take up a third of our lives!! A huge stage and lots of exciting treatments to help us maintain a youthful appearance to age gracefully. Some of the changes in our skin post menopause are listed below, read further for tips on how we can help you prevent and treat these conditions.

  • uneven skin tone and mottled appearance can become more obvious because melanocyte production slows down by 10 - 20% after we turn 30 and the reduction accelerates further post menopause causing even slower cell turnover.

  • pigmentation - brown age spots caused from sun damage which can make us look 10 years older - it's time to do a course of skin peel to even skin tone

  • loss of firmness - collagen and elastin and can become more rigid causing a lack of spring in our skin.

The decrease in firmness - 5 years after menopause we loose 30% of collagen then a further 2% is lost every year for the next 20 years. So by the time women are 55, we've lost 50% of our skin's collagen. Collagen gives the skin its structure and support, it's one of the biggest shifts in our skin as we age. Its not as plump, the structure is not as strong and firm ~ it's time for more advanced services and skincare! ~ Diana
  • wrinkles - caused by a lack of collagen and elastin production

  • dryness - naturally our oil production slows, so water based products are no longer enough. They should be replaced by ingredients that provide cermides and lipids to prevent dry and itchy skin

  • poor wound healing - the skin and body take longer to repair and can be more sensitised

"It's time to introduce more advanced skincare ingredients and skin treatments to help boost cell renewal, reverse the signs of ageing and slow the production of lines and wrinkles."

Youth Boosting Treatments:

  • Good skincare - ingredients and advanced skincare treatments that promote collagen production and help boost the skin's structure. Active ingredients that the skin needs to actively support healthy skin like serums - must look for peptides!

  • Boost cell renewal - add ingredients that boost cell renewal into your daily homecare regime to stimulate skin renewal and boost brightness - look for active acids like glycolic acid, enzyme based exfoliants, and retinol to increase cell turnover

  • Retinol - is a gold standard active post menopause ingredient! It helps to restructure and build collagen, but there are different types in skincare. Retinol itself can by quite hard and needs to be converted in the skin. It's fantastic to make visual improvements in the skin. Retinol as an ingredient needs to be used with a buffer like a moisturiser to build up tolerance. Receptors in our skin decline with age, so if the skin is bombarded with an active ingredient without building up its tolerance it can result in a skin reaction. Build strength and sandwich indgredients for best results. There are lots of scientific evidence for retinol, it is the next best thing to peptides that stimulate cell renewal!

  • Hyaluronic acid - help boost ageing responses by hydrating the skin. The water based hyaluronic acid combined with a lipid based product help the ingredients penetrate into the skin and seal in hydration.

  • Lipid products - are oil based, also known as lipid based to compensate where skin becomes dry. Lipids are used in skincare as oil based serums combined with ceremides to nourish and replenish the skin softness and barrier function.

  • Advanced treatments - be willing to invest in noticeable changes in the skin to help change the infrastructure. A course of advanced facial treatments such as chemical peels, micro current, micro needling, or other aesthetic treatments such as injectables...and as a last result even more invasive treatments such as surgical procedures.

Treating skin through the ageing process takes team work with you skin therapist and a daily homecare regime. By working together we can treat the symptoms and changes as we progress through the stages of menopause and maintain a health glow.

  • Microneedling - changes the skin foundation through controlled wounding, the structure of the skin improves in texture reducing lines and wrinkles. Collagen induction therapy stimulates collagen - it's one of the most searched for treatments at the moment!

  • Nano needling - increases active product penetration and hydration, to know more about this treatment read our blog What is Nano-needling

  • Mesotherapy - minimally invasive process with a series of superfine injections of hyaluronic acid or a cocktail of peptides and antioxidants to help plump lines and boost skin appearance

  • Red light therapy - is a low wavelength red light used to improve skin's appearance, reduce wrinkles, scars, redness and acne. A great add on to many advanced skin treatments.

7 reminders for our Health and Wellness:

  • regular meditation

  • 7 - 9 hours of sleep

  • fitness - daily exercise

  • nutrition - healthy diet and supplements

  • mental health - look after your wellbeing

  • expert advice - of anything you're unsure about, ask for guidance

  • self care - remember to be kind to ourselves

A few recommendations for more information and support...

Dr. Louise Newson is a menopause specialist and has a book, an informative website and and an app that includes a symptom tracker. She also shares articles that might be of interest and has a community where you can share experiences and gain advice.

Menopause Matters is a website that has numerous articles, topics and other useful information

Food Medic - Female Factor written by Hazel Wallace who focuses on being a female and how nutrition can help our health along with many delicious recipes

Thank you for reading ~ Diana x


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