Menopause is a very special period of life when women experience their last dramatic hormonal changes (last “hormonal storm”). Menopause is a natural process – it is a time of the end of women’s reproductive function and reproductive years. Usually menopause happens between the ages of 45 and 55 – women’s reproductive system changes, resulting in a discontinuation of estrogen production, the menstrual cycle, and egg maturation.
Dramatic hormonal changes during menopause not only affect the internal body but affect also the skin – it is difficult period of women life and it could last years. Along with changes to blood vessels, blood pressure, bone structure and general metabolism, a lot of women going through menopause also notice changes to the skin.
Skin is one of the largest and most complex organs in the body and even small changes in women hormonal status can be immediately visible on the skin (especially during puberty, pregnancy and menopause).
SKIN during MENOPAUSE
Many women consider skin as a beauty “object” but in reality the skin is very important and very complex organ responsible for several important functions including the following:
• Immune system – protecting from microbes, infections and external influences;
• Production of vitamin D – skin interaction with sun exposure;
• Body thermoregulation – sending permanent signals to brain temperature center;
• Body hydration regulation – preventing body water loss;
• Stress reactions – sending information about any dangerous skin touch (informing body about potential threats);
• Preventing internal injuries – during mechanical trauma or attack (cut, injury);
• Protecting from some diseases including few types of cancer.
HORMONES during MENOPAUSE
During menopause ovarian hormonal functions are declining causing reduced production of main female hormones (estrogens). As female hormones are responsible for several important functions in the body (including skin metabolism and skin appearance), reduced concentrations of estrogens usually trigger several menopause symptoms (including skin changes). During menopause ovaries also produce more male hormones (androgens) which could trigger several changes at skin level (starting from some hair grow in usual places, voice changes and finishing with severe hirsutism).
Not only ovarian hormonal functions could be changed during menopause but also hormonal functions of other endocrine organs including adrenal glands. It is well know that during menopause women adrenal glands start producing increased levels of male hormones (androgens).
Some experts mention also hormonal changes in thyroid and other endocrine organs.
As hormones play very important roles in women’s body functions, dramatic hormonal changes during menopause could cause wide range of physical and emotional symptoms known as “crazy” menopause symptoms.
SKIN during MENOPAUSE
Hormonal changes during menopause and following postmenopause usually change whole skin physiology and metabolism. Reduced levels of estrogens accelerate aging of the skin (lines, wrinkles, sagging, etc.). Lack of estrogens during menopause is also responsible for decrease in collagen in the skin, loss of lipids and dehydration. As a result most women during menopause notice that skin becomes rougher, drier, harder and older.
Skin changes during menopause could be different in different women depending on genetic, hormonal fluctuations, skin type, skin care habits, etc. Some women could experience gradual skin changes during menopause but some women could have rapid skin changes and could suffer from severe skin diseases during menopause.
Skin dryness is a common menopause symptom – first symptom of skin aging. Skin is losing water, firmness and elasticity.
As it was mentioned above, increased levels of male hormones (androgens) could be responsible for several changes in the skin during menopause. Androgens stimulate sebaceous glands to secrete thicker sebum which is giving not only the appearance of oily skin but also trigger acne development.
Skin hair – hirsutism
It is well known that in general hair grow is stimulated by male hormones. This is why increased levels of androgens during menopause very often trigger hair grow on the face and other body parts – with different intensity in different women. Intensive hair grow called hirsutism.
Skin aging (lines, wrinkles, sagging)
Normal levels of estrogens are responsible for skin well distributed fat deposits. Reduced levels of estrogens during menopause reduce skin fat deposits and, at the same time, skin fat is becoming redistributed and often concentrated over the abdomen and/or on the thighs and buttocks. Because of that changes skin is losing supportive fat on face, neck, hands and arms. The consequence is skin aging during menopause with lines, wrinkles and sagging.
Skin temperature – Hot flashes
Hot flashes are well known as the most common symptom of menopause – direct signal of reduced levels of female hormones (estrogens). Hot flashes are characterized as a strong sense of high temperature (flashing warmth) in the skin (mainly the face), followed by excessive sweating.
Scientists discovered that during menopause women’s sympathetic nervous system is more active causing the dilation of skin arterioles and sweating, as well as the rise in body temperature. Definitely hormonal changes are also responsible for skin hot flashes during menopause.
Skin sensitivity to sun exposure
During menopause skin is more prone to sun negative influence. Melanin is very important skin pigment controlled by estrogens and during menopause melanocytes (melanin production cells) suffer from lack of female hormones – as a result number of melanocytes are reduced. This is why during menopause the skin is sensitive to sun exposure.
During menopause some women could have spots of hyperpigmentation (so called “menopause spots” or “age spots”). Mechanism is also connencted to melaning and mechanism is very similar as above. Sun exposure (even short) could trigger development of brown “menopause spots” which can appear on the face, hands, neck, arms and chest (open parts of body).
Some women could experience also other skin changes or skin diseases during menopause. All depends on genetic, hormonal fluctuations, skin type, used medications, skin care habits, skin care products, UV exposure, etc.
Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.