Can drier skin be linked to the menopause?
There can be lots of changes in our bodies associated with The Change – as the menopause used to be called – but by understanding these changes and maybe by making some changes to our usual routines, we can make the very best of ourselves, whatever age we are.
You may start seeing some changes in your skin, and be wondering how best to manage these – skin can become drier, duller and less supple as the reduced levels of oestrogen in our bodies starts to take effect. It helps to understand what is actually happening and then we can start to best address it.
What is the science behind dry skin?
Our skin is made up of three layers, the top layer – the epidermis, the middle layer – the dermis, and the third layer, the hypodermis. The dermis contains important structural fibres including collagen and elastin and these bouncy supportive structures start to break down as our skin gets older and the menopause can sometimes accelerate this.
To help keep our support structures – our collagen and elastin – strong and in good condition, it’s important to always protect our skin from the sun, as sun damage accelerates the breakdown of these important structures, and prevention is the best bet here.
What about sensitive skin?
Usually a more immediate concern is dryness and even increased sensitivity. The epidermis, or top layer of the skin, has an essential role as a barrier, helping to keep the moisture that is essential for soft healthy feeling skin, in and bacteria and potential allergens out.
During and after menopause, due to the reduced level of hormones in our bodies, our skin barrier can become thinner and less able to hold on to moisture. This can cause our skin to become drier and potentially more vulnerable to allergens. Additionally our oil producing glands slow down, producing less oil, which may well be a positive to those of us with shiny skins, but can also contribute to drier skin conditions.
So, what's best to manage dryness and sensitivity in older skin?
Routine is key
Let’s start with our routines. In the shower or bath, use a body wash specially developed to take care of dry sensitive skins, which can cleanse the skin without drying. And don’t have the water too hot, as this can lead to dry skin too. Good skin care starts with cleansing gently, so take care with this important step.
After cleansing, try to take some time each day to look after your skin with a suitable body moisturiser. Use one which you love so it is a pleasure every day, and even more of a pleasure when you see how your skin starts to respond to a little self love. Lotions are easy to use over larger areas of skin, but if you have specific areas of dryness, such as knees, elbows and the front of shins for example, try using a cream in these specific areas for extra moisturisation.
A handy tip
And don’t forget about hands – we can spend a lot of time with our hands in water, exposed to the sun and cold and wind, and, of course, the increased hand washing and sanitisers we are all using at the moment. The skin on the backs of the hands is thin, with little support beneath it, and can easily start to show signs of dryness, even soreness and cracking if we don’t look after it.
Use a specific hand cream and keep one by the sink, in your bag, even in the car, to make sure you use it frequently during the day. If you have a moment, massage your hands mindfully as you allow the hand cream to absorb, remember how hard they work for you, and take that moment to thank them – it can be a little bit of peace and gratitude in a busy day.
Which ingredients should I look out for in products?
I’m often asked about the best ingredients to look for when caring for menopausal skin, and I would always suggest some classic moisturising ingredients such as glycerine and hyaluronic acid, which are both fantastic at drawing moisture into the upper levels of skin, and helping to fill out fine lines.
But we also need to remember to reinforce that important skin barrier too, to make sure we can hold on to the moisture in our skin. A natural ingredient I frequently recommend is colloidal oatmeal, which is very finely ground oat powder, and has many ways to help dry and even sensitive skins, by helping to strengthen the skin barrier and leaving skin feeling smooth and healthy.
How AVEENO can help
The AVEENO range is based on Colloidal Oatmeal, and the Skin Relief Lotion (with Shea Butter) moisturises and effectively soothes very dry, irritable or sensitive skin. If sensitivity is an issue, try AVEENO Dermexa Daily Emollient Cream with a prebiotic triple oat complex and ceramides, helping reduce flare ups of intense skin dryness and soothes the skin for immediate comfort.
Finally I think it’s really important to remember that this time in our lives can bring increased wisdom, increased confidence and hopefully a little more time to spend on ourselves to help ensure that this change is a change for the better.
More about our guest author:
Rebecca has over 25 years' experience working with dermatologists and key healthcare professionals to learn all about skin and skincare. She is passionate about skin and about helping people understand their skin and how best to help it look and feel its best.