Here’s a sobering fact: a new report by Avon reveals that nearly 60% of British women weren’t expecting the perimenopause when it hit.
Perhaps that’s because the hormone changes associated with menopause can begin as much as ten years before a woman goes through the menopause proper (defined as not having a period for 12 months, which happens, on average, aged 51 in the UK).
During the perimenopause – which means time around the menopause – levels of oestrogen and progesterone hormones begin to fluctuate, causing imbalances that can affect physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Symptoms range from erratic periods and disrupted sleep to low moods, hot flushes and brain fog, but these changes also have consequences for our skin, as ageing accelerates when collagen and oestrogen rapidly deplete.
‘The skin contains oestrogen receptors so it’s affected by lowering levels,’ explains Dr Fiona McCarthy, aesthetic doctor at the Bronte Clinic in Chelsea, London, which specialises in women’s health. ‘Around this time, the body also loses collagen, which gives skin its structure and support.’
The older we get, the harder it is to produce collagen. After age 20, we lose around 1% annually and, although it varies individually, in the five years before menopause, we lose roughly 30%.
‘And that’s 30% of what’s left,’ says Fiona. ‘It’s a massive acceleration, hence why people suddenly start to sag, get jowls and wonder if something else is going on beyond normal ageing. It’s a cumulative effect but just like other perimenopause symptoms, they can be very subtle and creep up.’
Sadly, that sagginess isn’t the only decline. ‘Cell turnover decreases so skin becomes more dull due to a build-up of dead cells on the surface,’ says aesthetic physician Dr Sophie Shotter, who finds most clients at her clinics in London and Kent are booking during perimenopause.
‘Skin also becomes drier, so dehydration is a problem. Pores can get bigger due to collagen loss and many develop conditions like rosacea or acne. While nobody knows exactly why, it’s likely down to this hormonal shift.’
Although suffering with teen acne doesn’t signal a repeat during perimenopause, drier or rosacea-prone complexions will probably be exacerbated.
‘Everyone’s hormone pattern is unique and they will experience things differently,’ says Sophie. ‘But even after perimenopause we age faster than before – it’s not something that happens then pauses. Those first changes are quick, so I call it an ageing spurt, and if you don’t address it, it will continue and can happen again.’
While a slew of skincare products are now labelled specifically for perimenopausal or menopausal complexions, sceptics say this marketing targets women already feeling vulnerable.
Dr McCarthy and Dr Shotter agree that although brands such as Vichy do it well – and without costing a premium – the focus should fall on ingredients that are going to be most beneficial and may already be in your favourite formulas: strengthening ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, protective antioxidants, line-fighting retinol and occlusives like glycerine to create a veil that helps lock moisture into the skin.
If, after consulting a medical professional, you find a form of hormone replacement therapy that could work for you, this may also bolster skin.
A new study by No 7 and the University of Manchester suggests it can minimise changes, finding that in post- menopausal women not taking HRT, the skin barrier was thicker and working less effectively, skin was more lax and there were fewer ceramides in the upper layers.
No matter what your approach, consistency is the key to success.
‘It’s what you do every day that has the biggest impact on your skin,’ says Fiona. ‘You don’t need to spend a fortune, just use a few things you will stick to and most importantly use sunscreen, as UV rays break down collagen and undo your good skincare work.’
Enrich your cleanser
As skin is drier, infuse it with as much moisture as possible, starting with your cleanser.
‘Instead of adding steps, choose richer textures,’ says Sophie. ‘Look for formulas that add hydration while still being gentle and protecting the skin barrier to help with sensitivity.’
CeraVe Non-foaming Hydrating Facial Cleanser
CeraVe is championed by skin experts for its use of ceramides, favoured for retaining moisture, and which decrease as we age. CeraVe’s non-foaming Hydrating Facial Cleanser also includes hyaluronic acid and glycerine, hydrating skin over time thanks to a slow-release delivery system.
Buy it for £8 from Boots.
Sonal Keay’s This Is Silk, Silk Cream Cleanser
Inspired by her own skin issues, Sonal Keay created This Is Silk, Silk Cream Cleanser, a deliciously thick cream to massage on and remove with a hot cloth. It’s packed with softening mango seed butter and silk peptides that soothe, nourish and support new collagen production.
Buy it for £39.99 from This Is Silk.
Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cleanser
Or spend 30 seconds massaging Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cleanser over irritable skin to remove make-up and grime. Milk polypeptides calm inflammation and restore the lipid barrier, while manuka honey gently soothes dryness.
Buy it for £38 from Kate Somerville.
‘I look for humectants like hyaluronic acid or glycerine that draw hydration to skin,’ says Fiona. ‘You also want to upload plenty of ceramides [oils that hold skin cells together, locking in hydration] and lipids.’
Curél Deep Moisture Spray
For a fast fix under or over make-up, Curél Deep Moisture Spray is a fine mist packed with ceramides plus cooling eucalyptus – perfect from the fridge if skin is hot or prickly.
Buy it for £15.60 from Boots.
Skingredients Good Fats Moisturiser
Skingredients Good Fats Moisturiser is a ceramide and glycerine-rich cream that leaves a buttery soft finish after one pump.
Buy it for £49 from Skingredients.
Angela Caglia’s Soufflé Moisturiser
Angela Caglia’s Soufflé Moisturiser feels light but packs a hydrating, brightening punch when skin is dehydrated and dull, and can be used to flood lips and the eye area with moisture too.
Buy it for £55 from Net-A-Porter.
Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Lift and Firm Night Cream
And Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Lift and Firm Night Cream teams ceramides with protective red algae, firming tetrapeptides and tightening edelweiss extract to approach skin ageing from all angles.
Buy it for £68 from Feel Unique.
‘Using acids such as lactic or glycolic for exfoliation a few times a week will get rid of dead cells and help put the skin’s glow back,’ says Fiona. ‘Antioxidants, especially vitamin C, are great for protecting against UV damage and protecting collagen. And as you want to stimulate as much collagen as possible, retinol is key too.’
There is a caveat, though.
‘If skin is already or becomes more sensitive, irritated or dry, cut back on acids and leave retinol until you build up the skin barrier,’ advises Sophie.
Face Gym Skin Changer
To help increase cell turnover and improve texture, sweep on Face Gym Skin Changer using a cotton pad. As well as exfoliating, the succinic acid reduces breakouts, while pumpkin extract takes down redness and amino acids improve bounce.
Buy it for £38 from Cult Beauty
Vichy Neovadiol Meno 5 Bi-Serum
Vichy Neovadiol Meno 5 Bi-Serum is an oil-in-water all-rounder that utilises glycolic acid to even tone, plus collagen-protective and anti-pigmentation antioxidants C and E, omegas to restore lost lipids, plumping cassia extract and strengthening Vichy mineral water. The clever dispenser makes applying the ideal dose a cinch too.
Buy it for £38 from LookFantastic.
Pure Retinol 1% Night Concentrate
With retinol, if you’ve already tolerated a particular brand well, a higher strength version is likely to work for your perimenopausal complexion.
No 7 has introduced Pure Retinol 1% Night Concentrate (£34.15, boots.com), its strongest retinol formula, aimed at regular users who want to strengthen existing collagen fibres as collagen-peptide technology signals skin cells to make more, creating a plumper, fresher and smoother surface.
Buy it for £37.95 from Boots.
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