In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that my skin is changing. I had expected a few more wrinkles on my face, but I’ve found that I my skin has become a lot drier, more sensitive, and less resilient to injury.
Credit these changes to going through menopause since changes to the skin are a result of going through this aging process. "Skin can take much more abuse when it’s younger," said Dr. Holly Thacker, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health in her book, The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. "By the time women hit menopause, it doesn’t heal as fast as it used to. For instance, look at what happens with cuts. Your child’s cut will heal just hours later, but you’ll still be wearing a Band-Aid the next day and maybe the next day after."
According to LIVESTRONG.com, estrogen production, most of which is created in the ovaries, declines in premenopausal women. "Diminished levels of estrogen contribute to a decline in elastin (a protein within the fibers of connective tissue that accounts for the elasticity of the skin and other organs) and skin collagen (which gives skin its rigidity)," stated Dr. Robin Phillips in The Menopause Bible. "During the first five years of menopause, 30 percent of skin collagen is lost," Keri Gardener wrote for LIVESTRONG.COM. But it doesn’t stop there. According to Phillips, skin continues to lose about 2 percent of skin collagen every year after reaching menopause. Skin also loses its capillary blood supply during this period.
Dryness and tender skin can be a problem for women as they go through menopause. Thacker noted that as they age, women produce less oil, which results in all-over itching or dry patches. In addition, bathing products, laundry detergents, perfumes and cosmetics can start to irritate the skin. (In fact, I just changed laundry detergents and softener to a brand designed for sensitive skin; they seem to be helping)
Menopausal women also may suffer from formication, which is a disorder caused when nerve endings in the skin deteriorate. According to Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge in The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause, women who have this disorder experience itchiness and a sensation that bugs are crawling on the skin. They noted that in a study of 5,000 women, one in five suffered from this disorder within 12-24 months after their last menstrual period; furthermore, one in 12 women will continue to suffer from formication for more than 12 years after the end of their periods.
To take care of dry skin, Thacker recommends using an emollient lotion or substituting standard bar soap with a moisturizing bar of soap. She added that bathing too much can also be problematic if you have dry skin. She recommended applying moisturizer while your body is still damp after bathing, which helps to protect the skin from losing hydration. Phillips recommends using cocoa butter, apricot kernel oil, almond oil and olive oil to add moisture to the skin.
Thacker strongly encourages adding specific foods to your diet to provide important nutrients to your skin. These foods include:
- Yellow and orange foods, which have vitamin A.
- Berries, which are high in antioxidants.
- Fatty acids (salmon, walnuts, canola oil and flaxseed), which assist skin cell membranes in remaining healthy.
- Health oils, which keep skin lubricated.
- Whole grains, cereals, turkey and tuna, all of which contain selenium.
- Green teas, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Water, which hydrates skin, helps remove toxins, and assists in bringing nutrients.
Phillips also recommends drinking at least eight classes of water a day and getting a number of nutrients - zinc, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, coenzyme Q10, and alpha-lipoic acid - either through diet or supplements. She also warns that constipation can affect the appearance of skin, and encourages women to make sure they have enough fiber in their diets.
Knowing that changes in your skin are related to aging and menopause is important to understand. Now you need to figure out how to love the skin that you’re in through changing your diet, adding appropriate supplements, and changing the way you take care of your skin.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.