Menopause means a lot of changes for most women. It means changes in the menstrual cycle, body temperature, weight, and hair. Many women also see changes in the appearance and quality of their skin, too. All of these changes are brought on by fluctuating and declining hormones, but when it comes to differences in skin quality, depleted estrogen is the root cause.
When estrogen declines, testosterone becomes dominant. When this occurs, the body produces more sebum; an oily, waxy substance that is made in the sebaceous glands, which are responsible for lubricated the skin and hair. This overproduction gives the skin an oily appearance, and in many women causes blemishes and acne. According to the American Association of Dermatology, 54 percent of menopausal women struggle with the onset of acne during middle age. Acne causes many women to feel self-conscious, and some individuals even avoid social situations or relationships because of the condition of their skin.
Increased facial hair is another consequence of testosterone dominance. During menopause, many women experience thicker, darker facial hair that develops around the chin area and along the jaw line. Increased facial hair often evokes feelings of embarrassment and self-consciousness, and is a source of frustration for many women.
When estrogen levels decrease, fat levels in the body also change. Fat deposits in the face and neck are redistributed to areas like the abdomen and thighs. This redistribution leaves the facial skin unsupported and sagging.
“Sagging, unsupported skin is more susceptible to wrinkles and creases in comparison to skin that has a lot of fat beneath it, lifting and plumping up,” says Dr. Bill Johnson, M.D. Johnson is a Dallas, Texas, cosmetic physician that offers an array of skin rejuvenating treatments for patients concerned with their skin quality.
Not only does skin sag with estrogen reduction, but it also becomes less elastic, according to Johnson.
“Estrogen controls the production of proteins like collagen and elastin,” Johnson said.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and helps give tissues their structure. It is important for firmness and elasticity of the skin. Elastin gives the skin its elasticity and ability to bounce back to its original shape after being stretched or contracted.
“When these proteins are reduced, the skin is unable to repair itself,” Johnson said. “The inability to repair itself leaves the skin very susceptible to sun damage and scarring.”
Many menopausal women develop sunspots as a result of hormonal changes in combination with sun exposure. These flat, brown spots are also known as age spots and appear on the face, hands, neck, and chest due to an uneven production of melanin. Melanin is the body’s natural defense against the damaging rays of the sun, and production of this protein is regulated by estrogen. These spots make individuals appear older and may also lead to feelings of embarrassment for some individuals.
Menopausal women may have one or two of these conditions, and some women experience all these skin changes. Many turn to over the counter skin care products to try and treat their skin problems. That may or may not yield results. These products may aggravate some skin issues while trying to treat others and leave skin unbalanced or dry and flaky.
Johnson offers several treatments to help balance and rejuvenate the skin. One of these treatments is a facial fat transfer, in which the patient’s own fat harvested from an area like the thigh or abdomen, and is injected into the face, replacing lost fat and plumping the skin up again. Collagen production is kick-started as a result of the procedure, yielding skin tightening and smoothing benefits.
Johnson offers Fraxel Laser therapy to treat sun damage and signs of aging, as well as the VI Peel, a chemical peel that is effective for treating acne scars, signs of aging and uneven pigmentation. The VI Peel is the first chemical peel safe for use in darker skin tones, who for years were cautioned against chemical exfoliation.
Johnson recommends patients interested in skin rejuvenation schedule a consultation with a cosmetic physician to explore their options to treat their menopausal skin problems.