How and why your skin changes during menopause

Skin is like a looking glass to a person’s inside health. If lacking in essential vitamins and nutrients, the skin may become easily bruised and slow to heal. If suffering from fatigue skin may become pale, lined and unhealthy looking. If experiencing dehydration skin may become slack, wrinkled and sluggish to bouncing back. 

Menopause and its associated hormone changes also have dramatic effects on the skin.

However, as with all skin change, the effects of menopause are not uncontrollable or inevitable. If hormonally triggered skin changes are forewarned, a person may use specific skincare practices to help compensate for internally begun change.

Taking action now can have significant benefits for many women experiencing menopause, peri-menopause or pre-menopause. 

How does menopause affect your skin?

Menopause is characterised by an overall simple change in hormone balance – levels of oestrogen decline and existing levels of androgens are relatively increased. This may often be referred to as the unmasking of androgen hormones which in women are usually hidden by higher oestrogen levels. 

The most prominent and noticeable effect of menopause on the skin is seen in the decline of collagen levels – a structurally supportive skin protein able to resist fine lines, wrinkles and skin sagging. Averagely 30% of a person’s skin collagen degrades within the first 5 years after menopause. A level which continues to decline at an average of 2.1% post menopause for the next 20 years1.

Menopausally provoked collagen changes will, if uncompensated for a result in;

  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Jowls
  • Crow’s feet
  • Sagging skin

However, there are also several less well-known skin changes provoked by menopause. 

Can menopause cause skin problems?

Due to the sensitivity of skin in relation to hormone change, skin can often be the first organ to visibly cue the onset of menopause. While hot flushes are usually the first noticeable sign of menopause, watching out for these lesser well-known signs may help you effectively counteract menopausally caused skin problems;

  • Increased skin oiliness
  • Dehydration and dryness (often combined with oily skin – explained in detail soon)
  • Sensitivity
  • Itchy, easily irritated skin
  • Age spots/liver spots
  • Slower skin cell turnover rate i.e. natural exfoliation
  • Increased vulnerability to sun damage
  • Thinner, more easily bruised skin

Can menopause cause skin sensitivity?

Sudden changes in skin type are a strong warning sign a person’s hormone balance is beginning to change. While the hormone changes experienced during puberty are most frequently associated with oily skin, the hormone changes experienced during menopause can bring about a confused – sensitive, dry and dehydrated yet also oily skin type.

Developing a sensitive skin type during menopause is a consequence of an increased skin pH level2. To survive skin has an acidic pH level ideally below 53 – pH runs from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. However, due to the hormone changes occurring in menopause, a person’s skin pH becomes notably more alkaline4

When skin’s pH level is high, skin’s health is not optimal and therefore skin’s barrier properties become impaired. Bacteria, irritants, viruses, and allergens normally defended against may more easily diffuse into skin causing sensitivity.

Such changes can be helpfully counteracted with appropriate skincare, for example;

  • Using a pH balanced sensitive skin friendly cleanser such as the griffin+row Cleanse Skin Cleanser.
  • Designing a skincare routine made from pH balanced skincare.
  • Incorporating a rich barrier repair moisturiser such as the griffin+row Enrich.

Is itching skin a sign of menopause?

Tied closely into the experience of sensitive skin during menopause, lowering levels of oestrogen can also provoke 2 key skin changes resulting in the symptom of itchy skin;

  1. Increased skin permeability/decreased barrier function
  2. Dry, dehydrated skin – similar to what’s known as the winter itch

Developing an itch, rash or skin reaction is all signs skin’s immune function has been activated. A result of what the body perceives as foreign entities invading their cellular space. For the very same reason, skin becomes more sensitive during menopause, the skin may also become intensely itchy.

Dry, dehydrated skin is also a well-known cause of itch. A reduced barrier function not only results in outside irritants being let in but inside hydration being let out. A combination which easily leads to winter or menopausal itch.

Counterintuitively menopausal skin may be both dry and oily. Dry because skin’s barrier function is impaired leading to increased moisturiser loss a.k.a. increased trans-epidermal water loss and oily because although menopause causes sebum excretions to lower5 the unmasking of testosterone can cause existing sebum excretions to become thicker and more noticeable.

Itching skin can be helpfully reversed by following the right skincare practices;

  • Using skincare designed for sensitive skin i.e. griffin+row 5 step skincare system.
  • Avoiding skincare high in fragrance.
  • Using a richly hydrating and conditioning moisturiser such as griffin+row Enrich.
  • Protecting skin daily with sunscreen.
  • Limiting time spent showering and ensuring the temperature of bath water is tepid rather than hot. 

Can menopause cause acne?

It’s a common misperception that acne is solely a pubescent skin condition, in fact at this very moment women and men of all ages have significant risk of experiencing acne. Being a skin condition closely linked to hormone fluctuations it should come as no surprise menopause may also induce acne. 

Acne begins when a combination of 3 factors collide;

  1. Oily skin/seborrhea – increased sebum production
  2. Dead skin cells collecting inside of pores/having an inability to exfoliate fully
  3. A proliferation of acne-causing bacteria

The skin changes occurring during menopause play directly into 2 of these 3 key factors – seborrhea and dead skin cell collections. The unmasking of testosterone often causes sebum to become thicker or stickier while in others it can cause sebum excretions to rise – however this is rarer during menopause. Secondly, menopausal skin has a much slower skin cell turnover rate meaning dead skin cells can become trapped inside pores. Both factors experienced together to create what’s known as dead skin plugs which then serve as food to acne-causing bacteria. 

Helpfully menopausal acne can be compensated for with appropriate skincare and diet;

  • Daily use of a gentle exfoliant to re-speed skin cell turnover thereby preventing dead skin from becoming trapped inside pores i.e. griffin+row Exfoliate.
  • Focus on light-weight hydration and condition i.e. a combination of griffin+row Hydrate and Nourish.
  • Avoidance of high sugar foods which have been shown to impact sebum excretions and pore size6.

Can menopause cause skin discolouration?

Uneven skin tone is a common side effect of menopause with hormone changes causing both loss of skin pigment and hyperproduction of skin pigment. Which occurs depends on the skin’s experiences to date.

For example, areas of skin which have been regularly protected from sun exposure experience a general loss in pigment production. The overall effect being, skin becomes extremely vulnerable to future sun damage. 

Melanocytes manufacture the pigment which creates skin tone – melanin. The activity of melanocytes is closely regulated by estrogen7 and as menopause begins, a person’s melanocyte count decreases. The result is a much lower expression of melanin and a lighter skin tone.

As melanin exerts a protective effect against UV light, menopausal skin can quickly become more vulnerable to sun exposure.

Conversely, areas of skin frequently exposed to sunlight may become hyper-pigmented a skin condition often referred to as age spots or liver spots. Oestrogen hormones are able to regulate skin’s production of melanin however with decreasing oestrogen levels during menopause, melanin regulation becomes impaired and age spots may form.

Uneven skin pigmentation can be compensated for with a variety of skincare, diet and lifestyle changes;

  • Daily use of a high SPF (UVB protecting) sunscreen also being labelled as broad-spectrum (UVA-protecting) – a high PA rating gives high UVA protection.
  • Avoidance of sunlight between peak hours of 10 am till 2 pm.
  • Consuming a diet rich in tomatoes/tomato paste – studies show eating 40g of tomato paste a day decreases the erythema caused by sunlight by up to 40%8.
  • Exfoliating daily to help smooth and brighten skin i.e. with griffin+row Exfoliate.
  • Use facial creams high in antioxidants, helping to provide additional protection against ageing, pigment-inducing UV light i.e. griffin+row Enrich. 

Does skin become thinner during menopause?

 Skin is multi-layered and continually replaced; a process which slows with age, but healthily averages a turnover rate of every 30 days. It is known that skin thins with age, however, studies now conclude the thinness of skin is directly proportional to the number of years post menopause and not directly proportional to a person’s age9

The same studies also reveal the thinning of the skin may be counteracted by hormone replacement therapy signifying the strong impact oestrogen hormones have on the resiliency of skin.

As a consequence of low oestrogen levels, skin’s vascular supply is often reduced – meaning skin cells receive fewer nutrients for survival. Bruising and even small impact damage to skin, therefore, brings about a much longer recovery time.

While the thinning of menopausal skin may be harder to reverse, there are definite skincare practices which help;

  • Skin’s vascular supply may be temporarily increased with regular and gentle massage.
  • Daily exfoliation can help stimulate the turnover of skin cells to help re-stimulate skin’s metabolism.
  • Vitamin C and Vitamin A containing skincare can be used to help stimulate collagen production and therefore thicken and volumise skin.
  • Antioxidant-rich skincare can be used to help prevent further damage to skin, while also replenishing skin’s existing antioxidant reservoirs i.e. with use of griffin+row Enrich.

How to help prevent rapid ageing after menopause

The most visible and concerning of skin changes occurring during menopause is skin ageing. As oestrogen levels decline, collagen production plummets. The 30% reduction in collagen levels seen in the first 5 years post menopause is the largest a person will ever experience. Such a quick decline leads to rapidly noticeable signs of skin ageing – fine lines become wrinkles, skin becomes slow to rebound, jowls develop and expression lines can become permanent.

Collagen is the most important structural protein found in the skin. Often referred to as skin’s scaffolding, healthy collagen levels impart youthful volume and pliability. As collagen levels decline during menopause, skin becomes saggy and inelastic. Additionally, the new dominance of androgen hormones stimulates skin’s fat deposits to shift from a person’s face, neck, hands, and arms to their abdomen, thighs, and buttocks – thereby accentuating the loss of collagen.

All skin changes are not inevitable and can be compensated for with the right self-care, for example;

  • Vitamin C is essential to the formation of healthy collagen levels, eating a diet rich in vitamin C in addition to using skincare rich in vitamin C can help reboot collagen protection. Studies show the use of skincare containing at least 5% L-ascorbic acid can effectively increase the activity of dermal cells in menopausal women10.
  • Vitamin A found naturally in rosehip oil as used in griffin+row Nourish can at 1% effectively stimulate collagen synthesis while also preventing the breakdown of existing collagen networks.
  • Grape seed extract technically known as vitis vinifera extract when used twice daily for 4 weeks can improve the appearance of aged skin having significantly stronger in vitro antioxidant capacity than vitamin C or E11. Note: Grape seed extract is a key ingredient used in griffin+row centess+complex.
  • Using both sunscreen and antioxidant rich skincare to help prevent further oxidative and photo-induced ageing.

Not all effects of menopause are inevitable, with the right approach to skincare, diet, and lifestyle menopausal skin symptoms may be slowed, controlled and in some cases even prevented. Make self-care a priority and skin need not be revealing of changing hormonal balance.

  1. References and sources

    1. Raine-Fenning, N.J., Brincat, M.P. & Muscat-Baron, Y. Am J Clin Dermatol (2003) 4: 371.

    2. Farage, M.A., Miller, K.W., Elsner, P. et al. Aging Clin Exp Res (2008) 20: 195.

    3. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. H. Lambers, S. Piessens, A. Bloem, H. Pronk, P. Finkel Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Oct; 28(5): 359–370. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00344.x

    4. Farage, M.A., Miller, K.W., Elsner, P. et al. Aging Clin Exp Res (2008) 20: 195.

    5. Skin ageing. J. Calleja-Agius, Y. Muscat-Baron, M. P. Brincat Menopause Int. 2007 Jun; 13(2): 60–64. doi: 10.1258/175404507780796325

    6. Bruno Berra & Angela Maria Rizzo (2013) Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load: New Evidence for a Link with Acne, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28:sup4, 450S-454S, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2009.10718111

    7. Melanin Pigmentation in Mammalian Skin and Its Hormonal Regulation, Andrzej Slominski, Desmond J. Tobin, Shigeki Shibahara, and Jacobo Wortsman, Physiological Reviews 2004 84:4, 1155-1228

    8. Wilhelm Stahl, Ulrike Heinrich, Sheila Wiseman, Olaf Eichler, Helmut Sies, Hagen Tronnier; Dietary Tomato Paste Protects against Ultraviolet Light–Induced Erythema in Humans, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 131, Issue 5, 1 May 2001, Pages 1449–1451,

    9. Type III collagen content in the skin of postmenopausal women receiving oestradiol and testosterone implants. Savvas M, Bishop J, Laurent G, Watson N, Studd J. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1993 Feb;100(2):154-6.

    10. Topically applied vitamin C enhances the mRNA level of collagens I and III, their processing enzymes and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase 1 in the human dermis. Nusgens BV, Humbert P, Rougier A, Colige AC, Haftek M, Lambert CA, Richard A, Creidi P, Lapière CM. J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Jun;116(6):853-9.

    11. In vivo skin antioxidant effect of a new combination based on a specific Vitis vinifera shoot extract and a biotechnological extract. Cornacchione S, Sadick NS, Neveu M, Talbourdet S, Lazou K, Viron C, Renimel I, de Quéral D, Kurfurst R, Schnebert S, Heusèle C, André P, Perrier E. J Drugs Dermatol. 2007 Jun;6(6 Suppl):s8-13.