beauty

Turns out menopause can mess with your skin in your 30s. Here's how.

Look, many of us have a rough idea of what goes down when you go through menopause (hot flushes/mood swings/other inaccurate stuff we see in movies), but if you're in your 30s, it's probably something you don't have to worry about for a while. Right?

Fun fact: That's not entirely true.

Watch: Here are seven ways to improve your skin while sleeping. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

While perimenopause is a thing that can happen two to five years before menopause, you can start experiencing some pretty crazy changes way before that - specifically those that affect your skin. 

And it's all thanks to one sneaky little hormone: oestrogen.

Even fun-er fact: Your oestrogen levels will typically start to drop when you're around 30 years old and they take another hit when you're 35.

Meaning? 'Menopause skin' doesn't just affect women over 40. Your skin can start showing the ageing effects of menopause way before then.

Did you know this? We didn't!

To find out more, we had a chat with PhD-qualified scientist, science educator and founder of Qr8 MediSkin, Dr Michele Squire and asked her everything to know about 'menopause skin' and what we can do to prevent it.

What is 'menopause skin'?

To save us from going all year 10 biology on you, oestrogen is a Really Big Deal when it comes to the health of your skin. 

Cause y'see, your skin needs oestrogen. She's great mates with it. And they share a long list of benefits.

Listen: Speaking of hormones... here's how to deal with hormonal acne. Post continues below.

According to Dr Squire, oestrogen does everything from stimulating new skin cells to increasing hyaluronic acid and collagen production and protecting your skin from photoaging ("the rough, dry, deeply wrinkled, saggy skin with uneven texture and tone that results from chronic sun exposure") by acting as a natural antioxidant.

Oestrogen also "prevents wrinkle formation and skin dryness in post-menopausal women," and promotes wound healing.

NBD.  

As we mentioned before, your oestrogen levels can start decreasing as soon as your 30s - so even if you're years from going through menopause, don't think this isn't relevant to you, says Dr Squire,

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"Oestrogen levels peak in your mid- to late 20s and slowly decline to 50 per cent by age 50, then bottom out post-menopause."

Dr Squire said this acceleration of ageing is due to environmental and cultural stressors, particularly in Australia.

"When you combine this with our culture of sun exposure from a young age, Australian women are sitting ducks for more significantly aged skin than their counterparts in other countries," she said.

"A 2018 study showed Australian women reported deeper facial lines and enhanced volume loss in tear troughs and nasolabial folds than women from Canada, the UK and USA. Australian women also reported moderate-to-severe signs of ageing 10-20 years earlier than their US counterparts."

Sounds... not great for us.

So, what does this mean for your skin?

Well, if you're a human with a menstrual cycle, you're going to notice a few things when you look in the mirror. 

As you approach perimenopause, reduced (and then after menopause, absence of) circulating oestrogen will lead to some pretty big changes in the skin’s function and appearance, said Dr Squire.

"These changes are more obvious in facial skin as cells in this area have more oestrogen receptors than other areas of the body."

With this shift in oestrogen levels, there are some common changes you'll experience:

1. Dry skin.

"The skin’s ability to hold moisture reduces, leading to loss of barrier function and increased susceptibility to allergic or irritant contact dermatitis reactions," explains Dr Squire. 

Meaning yes, your skin will be way more sensitive.

"For the younger gals - there is evidence that skin is more sensitive around period time too, possibly as a result of lower oestrogen in this phase of the menstrual cycle."

2. Fragile skin.

"The skin’s wound healing function is reduced, so older skin is less able to repair itself. Take care with resurfacing procedures like exfoliation, dermabrasion, and derma planing."

Read: Be gentle!

3. Dull skin.

You'll also start to notice that your skin becomes more dehydrated, and your skin will lose some of its colour and brightness. "Reduction in epidermal skin cell proliferation and turnover can contribute less youthful ‘glow’," adds Dr Squire.

4. Skin laxity and sagging.

This is a biggie. According to Dr Squire, a whopping "30 per cent of skin collagen is lost in the first five postmenopausal years, with an average decline of two per cent per year over a period of 15 years."

The result? Skin sagging, fine lines and wrinkles. 

"There are also degenerative changes in the skin’s elastic fibres, making skin less plump and ‘bouncy’," adds Squire.

How do you treat 'menopause skin'?

While the beauty market is *bursting* with products targeted at skin ageing, it's not as simple as selecting any old thing with 'anti-ageing' slapped on the front. Nah - there's a bit more to it than that.

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That's why we asked Dr Squire. Because if these superficial symptoms above concern you, there are some things that can help.

"From a prevention perspective, it’s never too soon to start addressing skin functional issues associated with skin ageing," she said.

Before we get into it, though, it's important to note that everyone is different - and what might work for one person, might not work for another. So, it's always best to check in with a GP and get some advice first. Kay?

Here's what Dr S recommends looking into:

1. Prescription-strength retinoids.

Ah retinoids. Heard of 'em? Course you have! It's known as the gold standard ageing treatment for good reason (psst... cause it actually works).

"Prescription-strength retinoids are the only evidence-based anti-aging topical ingredient that can stimulate skin cell proliferation, increase HA, elastin and collagen synthesis, promote changes in the skin that help with wound healing and repair of sun damage, and prevent wrinkle formation."

Overachiever much?

"So, no matter the cause, anyone concerned with ageing skin should be thinking of adding this gold standard topical treatment to their routine."

The key here is to introduce it into your routine s-l-o-w-l-y, though - the last thing you want to do is go mad and burn a whole layer off your face.

"When your skin can tolerate using this regularly, you can then add in other minor players like vitamin C (in the form of L-ascorbic acid) and low-strength AHAs," said Dr Squire.

2. Hormone replacement therapy.

There are also medical options (like hormone replacement therapy) that can be used to treat oestrogen deficiency and other menopause symptoms. However, you'll need to chat to your doctor first and find out if it's right for you.

"Hormone replacement therapy can reverse many of the skin characteristics associated with hormonal ageing," said Dr Squire. 

"There are a lot of myths and misinformation about HRT, but many of  these have been disproved by scientific studies, so it’s definitely something to discuss with your doctor."

3. Topical skincare.

That said, there are some topical products out there that might help to address some of these concerns. 

"The right topical products can also support oestrogen-deprived skin (alone or with HRT)," said Dr Squire.

Seeing as your skin is quite dry and sensitive, you'll want to stick to products that won't piss it off, such as "a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser and moisturiser that respects and improves the skin barrier without irritation."

Oestrogen-deficient skin also struggles to help protect itself from the effects of the sun, so "vigilant sun protection" is a must on the daily (obvs).

Feature image: Getty

Can you relate to any of the above changes in your skin? Please share with us in the comment section below.