While our skin’s needs can ebb and flow with seasonal and environmental changes, a person’s true skin type only changes a few times throughout life. One of the main catalysts for a change in skin type is hormonal shifts, and menopause is a big one.
It can be confusing to know how to care for your skin when it suddenly starts acting differently. To make things a little easier, I’ve put together this guide to skincare for menopause to help you tackle some of the most common concerns. And just so you know, at 52, I’m no stranger to some of these skin changes. I’ve recently had to start adjusting my routine here and there!
How Menopause Affects the Skin
Most people enter perimenopause in their early to mid-40s. The most notable change during this time is that estrogen levels start to dip. This means a decrease in collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, all of which keep the skin looking firm and plump. Other hormones, like testosterone and progesterone, fluctuate, which can cause dryness and breakouts.
These are some of the most common skin concerns people experience with the onset of menopause:
- Increased skin bumps and growths
- More visible sun damage and pigmentation
- Drier skin
- Irritation or sensitivity, including itchy skin and rashes
- Loss of tone
- Dull-looking skin
- Increased facial hair
- Hormonal breakouts
Now, don’t freak out! Most people won’t experience all of these, but you can’t know exactly which ones are in store for you until you get there. This is why, in my mind, skincare for menopause is really about addressing your specific concerns.
Also, keep in mind that menopause is a years-long transition, so not all of these issues will pop up overnight. They will most likely need to be managed on an as-needed basis.
How to Care For Your Skin During Menopause
1. Age-Related Bumps and Skin Growths
Skin bumps and growths naturally increase with age, and so does the likelihood of developing skin cancer. First and foremost, it’s important to get checked by a dermatologist if you see any new and/or changing spots or growths. I had my own skin cancer scare a few years ago, and now I never miss my annual dermatology check-up.
While regular skin cancer screenings should be a priority, you’ll likely also start to notice other benign (yet unwelcome) skin growths. I can certainly say that, at age 52, I’ve had to become diligent about what I like to call “bump management” to stay on top of skin growths. These growths are generally made up of excess skin or enlarged oil glands, and they appear as raised bumps that can vary in texture, shape, and color.
The only way to get rid of skin growths once they appear is to have them removed. Whenever I see my dermatologist, I have her do a once-over for spots and bumps to get rid of them. She usually does this via electric cauterization (watch me get my bumps zapped), but other removal methods include cryotherapy and manual excision.
To prevent new growths from forming and to reduce the severity of those you do get, I suggest using ingredients like exfoliating acids and retinol. Both of these will help prevent the buildup of excess skin cells, which will make bumps and growth less likely to develop. Additionally, be sure to wear sunscreen every day. This is important for skin cancer prevention, but also because UV light contributes to bumps over time.
Read more about all the different types of skin “bumps” and how to get rid of them.
2. Sun Damage and Pigmentation
Unfortunately, this is the time in our lives when the sun damage we incurred early on comes back to haunt us. It’s not unusual to develop some form of hyperpigmentation during menopause, whether it’s melasma or just plain old sun spots. In fact, I started to develop a pigmentation disorder called poikiloderma on my neck in my mid-40s (here’s what I’ve been doing to manage it).
Hyperpigmentation is one of the most frustrating skin concerns because it’s very difficult to get rid of. In most cases, the best we can do is suppress it since it never truly goes away. The main tenets of treating hyperpigmentation include consistent sun protection, avoiding the heat, and using skin-brightening ingredients. At this age, however, getting rid of hyperpigmentation will realistically require some professional treatments as well.
Read this full guide to getting rid of sun spots to learn which products and treatments work best.
3. Dry Skin
I come across so many young people who think they have dry skin when what they’re actually experiencing is dehydration. Dehydration is a temporary condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water content in the skin. Dryness, on the other hand, is determined by genes and hormones. What it really means is that your skin isn’t producing enough oil.
After menopause, many people start to experience drier skin as their oil glands become less active. This decrease in lipids can lead to impaired moisture barrier function, which eventually leads to dehydration as well since the skin can’t hold on to water as well.
The solution to this is fairly straightforward: focus on oil replenishment to strengthen your barrier. You may find yourself needing to switch over to a heavier face cream or add a face oil. Also, avoid any drying products that could strip the skin’s natural oils, including high-foaming cleansers and soaps.
I was a Renée Rouleau Skin Type 2 for the longest time, but over the last few years, I’ve made the transition to a Skin Type 6 as my skin became less oily. I’ve always been prone to producing excess oil and getting the occasional breakout, so this has definitely been new territory for me! That said, I didn’t suddenly start using lots of thick creams and oils. I mentioned earlier that menopause is not an immediate transition, so changes in your skincare don’t need to be immediate either. To compensate for producing less oil, I apply a few drops of Pro Remedy Oil on top of my regular moisturizer, which has a lighter lotion texture. Some people certainly need thicker creams and enjoy the feeling of them, I personally just don’t! I like the oil because I can use it as needed. If my skin is really parched, I will indulge in a nice, hydrating professional facial.
Learn more about how to combat dry skin.
4. Irritation or Sensitivity
Some people can experience newfound irritation, sensitivity, or even rashes during menopause. In fact, some people going through menopause report skin itching. Some people can even experience the onset of conditions such as eczema or rosacea during their menopausal years thanks to the sudden hormonal shift. Drier, more fragile skin is ripe for eczema and similar conditions, while hot flushes can trigger rosacea flare-ups.
These changes are likely caused by two main factors: first, declining moisture barrier function, and second, thinning skin. As estrogen levels drop, we start to lose collagen (the protein that acts as scaffolding for our skin and basically “holds it up”). This leads to overall thinner and, sometimes, more sensitive skin.
If you find yourself experiencing rashy, sensitive, or itchy skin during menopause, you may have to be more mindful about the skincare products you use. Avoid ingredients like drying alcohols, sodium lauryl sulfate (found in high-foaming cleansers), and synthetic dyes or fragrances. Whenever possible, avoid very hot showers, saunas, or anything else that can overheat the skin.
In addition to avoiding these harsh ingredients, you’ll want to use products with soothing ingredients such as sea whip extract, beta-glucan, and green or white tea extracts. These can be found in the Skin Type 9 collection, which caters to dry, sensitive skin concerned with managing visible signs of aging. I already talked a bit about the importance of the moisture barrier, but if you’re experiencing sensitivity and irritation, it’s extra critical that you support it with barrier-repairing oils.
While retinoids are great for aging skin, stronger versions may be too harsh. If you were previously using a prescription retinoid but your skin has started acting sensitive, you may want to switch to a gentler retinol formula. My skin was, unfortunately, never able to tolerate prescription retinoids, so I’ve been using this retinol for years and my skin is all the better for it.
Finally, if your skin has become more sensitive and you’re no longer sure which products are best, I suggest trying a “skincare detox.” This involves stripping your routine down to the basics, then slowly adding things back in to learn what works for you (and, just as importantly, what doesn’t).
5. Loss of Tone
As I mentioned, a sharp drop in estrogen during menopause leads to the reduction of collagen, which is what keeps our skin taught and firm. This is why many people start to notice changes like increased skin laxity and fine lines and wrinkles during menopause.
In terms of skincare, really focus on collagen-building ingredients such as vitamin C, retinol, and peptides. I’ve been using both vitamin C and retinol faithfully for a long time, but in recent years I’ve stepped up my peptide game. Peptides help build collagen without causing irritation, so they’re a great ingredient during this phase of life (this Firm + Repair Overnight Serum is my go-to). Of course, you’ll want to stay diligent about wearing sunscreen since UV exposure is the number one enemy of collagen.
While these are all fantastic ingredients, remember that skincare for menopause can only go so far. Certain aspects of aging are still inevitable, and there’s nothing wrong with this! If you do feel like taking it a step further, you can look into an at-home microcurrent device to help lift and tone the face. Microcurrent works on the muscles beneath the skin. I’ve used one and seen good results. Just know you have to use it consistently.
Alternatively, you can always go the route of professional treatments. Microcurrent is offered in a professional setting as well, and there are also options like microneedling and lasers to improve collagen production. And, of course, you can always go the route of Botox and fillers.
6. Dull Skin
Dull-looking skin becomes a concern for many of us as we age, and this is mainly due to two factors. First, our circulation slows down as we age. This means less oxygen and fewer nutrients are delivered to the skin. Second, our skin’s natural cell turnover cycle can become sluggish, which means more dry and expired cells remain on the skin’s surface, giving it a dull look.
To address slower circulation, I recommend using products with energizing, stimulating ingredients like peppermint, vitamin B12, niacinamide, and ginseng root. When applied topically, these ingredients work to slightly dilate blood vessels, which allows the skin to accommodate better blood flow. This can help restore a more radiant complexion. (Another great way to increase blood flow is to try this easy, 2-minute trick).
To address slower skin cell turnover, look to exfoliation. Exfoliating acids help the process along and can return it to a normal speed. This will allow fresh, hydrated cells to be brought to the surface, which will allow the skin to reflect light, giving it a beautiful glow.
7. Increased Facial Hair
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely started to notice more peach fuzz on my face. This is normal, and it’s something many people experience!
Whether or not you choose to remove facial hair, there are a few options. Personally, I choose to shave my face with a dermaplaning tool. It gently removes unwanted facial hair while offering physical exfoliation (which, bonus, is great for reducing hyperpigmentation).
There are other options such as waxing or threading, but I’m not the biggest fan of these methods since they can be irritating. This could be especially problematic for skin post-menopause since it naturally becomes thinner and more sensitive.
8. Hormonal Breakouts
Last but not least, the dreaded hormonal breakouts. It hardly seems fair that we should have to experience menopause and breakouts all at once, but sometimes this is definitely the case!
The biggest mistake you can make is using drying products on your entire face in an effort to tackle a few breakouts. This will only inflame and irritate the skin, and probably make breakouts worse. Instead, focus on spot treating individual blemishes. The best type of spot treatment for hormonal breakouts is something non-drying, like this Anti Bump Solution.
Skincare Products Made For Menopause—Do You Need Them?
Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in brands that specialize in skincare products for menopause. But if you’re at that point in your life, is this really something you need?
On one hand, I think it’s great that brands are working to cater to a broader range of age groups and skin concerns. That said, I believe skincare marketed specifically toward people experiencing menopause is ultimately just that—marketing. At the end of the day, these brands aren’t using ingredients you can’t find in other skincare lines.
Now, this isn’t to say some of these menopause-focused lines don’t have great products that will work for your concerns. If you try something and like it, that’s great! Just don’t be fooled into thinking you must use skincare for menopause specifically to get the results you’re looking for.
Finally, not everyone is going to run into the same issues during menopause. We all still have our unique skin types and concerns. I’ve never believed in “one-size-fits-all” skincare, and this applies to people at all stages of life. I’m not really a fan of these companies trying to fit everyone going through menopause into the same box. Instead, take the Skin Type Quiz to learn your exact skin type and how to care for it.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”