Ask a Beauty Editor: What Happens to Your Skin During Menopause—and the Best Products for It
Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You've come to the right place. In our weekly series, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, hair care, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.
Reader question: What would be a good skincare regime for perimenopausal/menopausal women? —@lorlina
Most women have experienced "the talk"—you know, the one where your parent (or doctor) sits you down and explains why you bleed once a month, and how to deal with the raging hormonal acne that comes along with it. Unfortunately, most of us don't get the same discussion about what happens later in life, when we no longer have a period.
In addition to some pretty irksome symptoms (like hot flashes, brain fog, anxiety, and trouble sleeping, just to name a few), menopause also comes with large-scale skin changes—and TBH, they're…not great.
"Menopausal women struggle with collagen production the most," says Mindy Pelz, author of The Menopause Reset. "As estrogen declines and a woman moves into post-menopause, she may notice that she has more wrinkles due to this loss of collagen. In the first five years of menopause, a woman will lose 30 percent of her collagen, often causing her to notice how many wrinkles seem to have appeared overnight."
And alas, the acne is back. "Hormonal acne tends to occur cyclically, worse with menopause due to higher relative levels of androgen over estrogen," says Claire Chang, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Hormonal fluctuations typically trigger acne along the chin and jawline, and tend to be deep, cystic acne bumps (though they can present as pink bumps and whiteheads as well)."
In other words, it's puberty all over again, with thinner skin and a side of wrinkles to boot. But not to worry—that just means it's time to start applying specific ingredients that will help take care of your skin as you move forward.
First and foremost, of course, is wearing sunscreen and wearing protective clothing whenever possible. You should also be washing your face and applying a thick moisturizer with plenty of humectants and emollients twice a day to stave off skin dehydration (Pelz says your skin produces less oil at this age). If you haven't already, it might be a good time to invest in a silk pillowcase and bedside humidifier.
Beyond that, there are certain ingredients to look for in your skincare. "The goal should be to boost the normal activities of your skin that become lazy with age," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "The best way to do that is by strengthening the collagen and elastic fibers in the skin." He recommends looking for ingredients like retinol or AHAs/BHAs in your skincare, which will help increase skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen production (read: plumper, thicker-looking skin). He's also a huge proponent of hyaluronic acid, which will help strengthen your skin barrier and retain all that moisture it's lacking.
The good news is that there are beauty brands that already have menopausal skincare concerns in mind—not only do they contain all of the above, they also market them as such so you can easily identify them without having to deep dive into the ingredient lists. (That being said, it's not necessary to use a product marketed specifically for menopausal women—it just makes the search easier.)