In some women, testosterone is at the root of these changes. When testosterone drops off, it can cause increased dryness and hair thinning; when levels are elevated, it can make the skin oilier and cause acne and unwanted hair growth.
Waning estrogen, on the other hand, can lead to dryer skin, or skin that has lost what Dr. Alyssa Dweck calls “turgor” or elasticity, as well as vaginal dryness. Estrogen plays a crucial role in the production of collagen, a protein that is a major component of skin and that keeps things smooth and firm. According to Dr. Diane Berson, women will experience an estimated 30% reduction in collagen in the first five years following menopause.
When it comes to aging skin, chronological aging and “photo aging,” or the amount of sun exposure we accumulate over a lifetime, get the most attention. But the way hormone levels impact the look and feel – or “age” – of our skin is just as important.
“Estrogen has a lot to do with pigment change,” Dweck says. “Sun damage can be exacerbated by hormone changes.” Research shows that estrogen and progesterone affect pigment production. Changing levels of these hormones during phases like perimenopause can lead to an increase in dark patches like melasma and age spots.
Perimenopausal Skin Is All About the Pampering
Like birthdays, perimenopause may be inevitable, but there are ways to care for your skin so that it doesn’t feel like your temperamental hormones are in control. “Most women want the least intrusive treatments possible,” says Dweck. “And lifestyle modifications like these can make a difference and help prevent further damage.”
Hydration: This is the most important factor to address. In addition to increasing your water intake, Dr. Berson recommends a moisturizer that contains ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acids to keep your skin nice and moisturized.
Sunscreen: Daily sun protection may be the universal skincare recommendation, but it’s especially important during perimenopause when decreased estrogen can exacerbate problems caused by sun damage. If you’re dealing with perimenopausal acne, choose a noncomedogenic option to avoid formulas that will clog your pores.
Collagen supplement: Definitive proof on the effectiveness of taking a collagen supplement is still outstanding, but there is some evidence that it can help support healthy skin aging as your body begins to lose its natural supply. Look for a product that contains hydrolyzed collagen, which is easier for your body to break down and absorb.
Diet: It may be a trite saying, but it’s true: the best medicine is food. In addition to eating a balanced diet to support your hormones and prevent weight gain during perimenopause, it’s also important to increase your consumption of protein and calcium. Keep an eye on certain things like sugar and caffeine that can exacerbate symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Exercise: Developing a consistent workout routine will not only help to support hormone regulation, which has ripple effects for skin health, but it will also stave off stress, which can further disrupt your internal balance.
Tarlecki Trimble’s skin may be a little higher maintenance than it used to be, but she has found skincare solutions that work for her. In addition to drinking more water, she is religious about exfoliating, uses a moisturizer made for eczema to combat dryness, and applies a barrier repair gel before swimming to stave off outbreaks. Two years after her symptoms began, she says her skin is back to its original state: glowing and beautiful.