Menopause and Skin Care

Estrogen thickens the skin. Additionally, it is the effect of estrogen on the exocrine glands that helps to keep the skin moisturized, plumped up, and smooth. Lacking estrogen, dryness and wrinkles result.

The skin also shows the results of aging in many ways that can be flattering, softening harsh features, and showing inner character. The deeper layer of the skin loses its moisture and elasticity, and so it shrinks. The outer skin, or epidermis, is now looser than the inner layer and so it hangs, or creases. How and when this aging happens depends on many factors. Your genetic makeup plays its part as does whether you had acne or another skin condition, and whether you smoke. The skin also has slower circulation so it may become blotchy, with broken capillaries, perhaps the result of hormonal ups and downs. The skin becomes lighter and rougher-textured from enlarged pores. Exercise provides help because it nourishes the skin and creates moisture.

Why do many women get upset every time a new wrinkle appears? Perhaps self-esteem gets in the way of reality. In your thirties, you laugh off the first laugh lines or crow’s-feet that spring up around the outer edges of the eyes, or the frown lines that mark the forehead. When you are fifty or more, the accumulation of sun, normal loss of elasticity, and the pull of gravity may cause the little vertical “stitches” that run around the upper lip. The skin may droop slightly under the chin, the jaw line may gather two small pouches on either side, and the skin on the neck may slacken.

You have more than twenty years between laugh lines and lip stitches. If you limit your exposure to the sun, protect against the sun when exposed, and apply moisturizer daily (many are prepared with sunscreen added for protection), you can delay the aging of the skin by many years. Once it begins, there is no cosmetic product that can rid you of wrinkles, age spots, or facial blemishes, although some can give you a mini-lift for a couple of hours.

Retin-A, the new “dream cream” on the market, is showing good results in removing tiny surface wrinkles and lightening brown spots. It is a product that may retard the effects of photoaging of your skin (the aging caused by sun exposure, which shows up as wrinkled, yellowish, rough, lax, and leathery skin with age spots and sometimes with fine veins that mar cheeks and nose). Before considering Retin-A, a visit to your dermatologist is essential for examination, explanation, prescription, and follow-up care.

Aging skin does not bother all women, and it need not bother you. If you can value the outward charm of aging along with the wisdom of your experience, then you will see the beauty and dignity of aging as you are. We are reminded of famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who died in her nineties and whose face grew more beautiful with age. We imagine she used a good moisturizer and little else on that interesting face.