Anti-Aging Skin Care for After Menopause
By Cynthia Bailey MD.
Anti-Aging Skin Care for After Menopause
Your skin changes dramatically after menopause and your skin care should too. Discover the best way to care for your aging skin to keep it healthy and attractive.
A woman’s hormones help support youthful skin. After menopause, your skin starts to change. It’s not your imagination!
Compared to your skin before menopause, your postmenopausal skin starts to show:
- Atrophic withering and crepey skin
- Slackness (especially on your forearms and face)
- Progressive dryness and scaliness
You will also notice that fine wrinkles and crinkles will deepen into courser wrinkles after menopause.
Postmenopausal skin may also become fragile, tearing and bruising more easily. It is also drier and more prone to dry skin eczema conditions.
As if menopausal skin changes were not enough, most of us “women of this certain age” can add intrinsic aging (the passing of years) and sun damage to the list of reasons why our skin is becoming thin, wrinkled, dry and fragile. It’s a perfect storm. Luckily, the skin care remedies are similar for all three causes.
Why does your skin change after menopause?
You are probably wondering what, exactly, is happening to your skin after menopause? Scientific studies have demonstrated the following structural changes that happen in your skin after menopause.
- Decrease in skin cell renewal. As the top layer of your skin, called the epidermis, flattens and thins, the skin cells in this layer (called keratinocytes) don’t renew themselves as rapidly. The epidermal cell layer is also drier and holds water less effectively than before menopause. This results in your skin becoming scaly, rough, and dry looking.
- Collagen reduction. The second layer of your skin, called the dermis, loses as much as 30% of your dermal collagen within the first five years after menopause. This is followed by a slower loss of about 2% per year over the next 20 years.
- Water abatement. Also, in the dermis, important water-binding substances, called dermal glycosaminoglycans, (including hyaluronic acid) are decreased.
- Oxidative stress. Oxidative damage in your skin is accelerated after menopause, causing greater damage to skin structures such as cells, collagen, and elastin. This damage is beyond the normal amount that occurs from sun damage and natural aging.
What products and skin care practices work best to reverse the skin changes of menopause?
There are six different ways your skin care products and routines can reverse and slow the changes of menopause on your skin. Discover these actions below.
- Build collagen in the dermis, the second living skin layer. This is really important. Look for products with professional formulations of retinoids, like retinol and prescription tretinoin (Retin A), glycolic acid products, and vitamin C products.
- Rebuild the living epidermal cell layer of your skin. This can be done by retinoids, which can help strengthen your skin.
- Stimulate your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid. Look for products with over 10% glycolic acid formulated to an acid pH.
- Rejuvenate the appearance of the outer dead cells in your stratum corneum skin layer. This will brighten your skin and give it a more youthful glow. Products with glycolic acid, retinoids, and BHAs like salicylic acid will do this.
- Slow skin aging. Professional antioxidant products and zinc oxide broad spectrum sunscreens can help slow the effects of aging.
- Hydrate and avoid drying products so skin stays moist. Because post-menopausal skin is often also older skin, it is more prone to dryness. Use only sensitive skin cleansers and deeply hydrating moisturizers to keep skin from drying out and looking crinkled, wrinkled and dull.
How do you build a skin care routine that works to slow menopausal skin changes?
First, you need to know that effective skin care involves 4 essential steps of Complete Skin Care:
These are the steps in a Dr. Bailey Complete Skin Care Routine™. I’m going to cover my skin care recommendations in this same order to help you build an effective routine to care for your own skin after menopause. These are the products I use for my patients and for my own very post-menopausal skin.
What does a dermatologist use on her own facial skin after menopause?
I take care of my facial skin by following a morning and evening skin care routine. It's important!
Morning Skin Care Routine
CLEANSE with a gentle cleanser such as Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser. I do a second cleanse step with my Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner. My skin loves this cleanse combo and I call it my Skin Cleanse Zen.
CORRECT menopause skin issues. This is really important. I use my Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum to fight atrophic withering and crepey skin with high-tech fractionated hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA and glycerin in just the right formulation for maximal results. Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy helps load skin antioxidant reserve to fight free radical damage. Get both in my Layered Up Besties Kit. My complexion loves these products. I apply them every day and I never travel without them.
Glycolic Acid Anti-Aging Face Cream provides professional strength AHA therapy to stimulate dermal collagen renewal, hyaluronic acid skin synthesis and to brighten the outer skin epidermal layer. In the first 10 years after menopause, my complexion became too sensitive for daily glycolic acid because my seborrhea and rosacea would flare up if I use glycolic acid. (I was very sad about this!) I could easily use daily glycolic acid before menopause and I'm a huge fan. The amazing news is that now, 15 years after menopause, I can use glycolic acid every day again. I top my evening retinol night cream with it most nights to get a two-fer for fighting menopause skin 'issues'. I love glycolic acid and if your complexion is tolerant it's a great age-fighting ingredient.
A vitamin C serum could be used instead of these products. Vitamin C does not play well with other products and age-fighting ingredients because it is easily inactivated. It has staying power in your skin and adding it into your routine several times a week may be sufficient to reap the benefits.
Advanced Corrective Eye Cream delivers the right concentration of brightening and collagen renewal ingredients to the delicate eye area. I apply it every morning and love it.
HYDRATE your skin to help keep your skin barrier strength healthy. I use my Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin . I combine this moisturizer with my favorite sunscreen in my Fort Knox for Your Face Kit.
PROTECT your precious facial skin with broad spectrum mineral zinc oxide-based sunscreen. I wear one daily! I use my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 50+ Sunscreen.
Evening Skin Care Routine
CLEANSE your skin to remove the day's product, oil, dirt, debris and pollution before applying your night routine products. Take time to do a really good evening cleansing of your facial skin. If you have a Clarisonic Sonic Brush system this is the perfect time to use it.
If I have applied an oil based product to my skin I may do an oil cleanse with grape seed oil and a warm washcloth before using my Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser. Otherwise I wash off makeup and everything with just my cleanser and warm water. I do a second cleansing with my cleanser and Clarisonic to deeply clean my pores and prepare my skin to maximally absorb my evening products. I always apply my Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner with a cotton pad at night too because my skin loves it.
CORRECT the signs of skin aging after menopause with a powerful combination of age-fighting professional products. Bedtime is the best time for intensive treatment. Use antioxidant replenishing products, ingredients that stimulate collagen renewal, ingredients that plump and firm crepey skin and others that fight pigment problems like age spots! That's a lot to accomplish and I like to use the most powerful products my complexion will tolerate.
The top night treatment choices to fight facial skin aging after menopause include:
- A retinoid such as retinol or prescription tretinoin (Retin A)
- Glycolic acid
- Antioxidants such as green tea or vitamin C
I apply Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum first and apply my other active ingredient products on top.I alternate my Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream (which also contains concentrated green tea antioxidants that help fight skin-damaging free radicals) with tretinoin (Retin A). The Retinol is easier for my skin to tolerate and so I often apply it 4 times a week topped with Glycolic Acid Anti-Wrinkle Cream. I apply the tretinoin just 3 times a week. There is almost always a retinoid on my face when I sleep.
That said, if my face is irritated or my rosacea and seborrhea are threatening to spoil my complexion then I just apply Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy under my moisturizer and face oil.
If your skin can tolerate glycolic acid then your night routine is a great time to apply it. You can top a retinoid with a glycolic acid product such as my Glycolic Acid Anti-Aging Face Cream. Because most AHA/glycolic acid products are creams the product will probably also give sufficient hydration and you may not need an additional moisturizer. Be sure that your glycolic acid product has a free acid content of 10% or higher glycolic acid because less than that does not stimulate collagen renewal.
HYDRATE every night. Use your time in bed to boost your skin's recovery from any moisture and lipids that have been lost during the day's exposure to the elements.I use my Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Dry to Normal Skin and I boost the lipid content using a few drops of the healing botanical oils in my Omega Enriched Face Booster Oil.
- The sea buckthorn in this therapeutic face oil supports the barrier weakness secondary to my rosacea and seborrhea.
- The cypress extract fights skin yeast.
- The borage oil is one of the best sources of the essential fatty acid gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) proven to have strong anti-inflammatory benefits.
I made the Omega Oil for those of us post-menopausal gals that struggle with dry, sensitive or seborrhea prone skin. My complexion loves it and desperately needs it to help control my rosacea and seborrhea. It also helps me to succeed with retinoids now that I am post menopause.
Oily complexions may prefer an oil free moisturizer such as my Daily Face Cream for Oily to Normal skin.
If you are using a glycolic acid or retinoid product with a hydrating base then that base may provide sufficient moisturizing function.
Dermatologist's Tips for Creating a Skin Care Routine to Fight the Problems of Menopause if You Have Sensitive Facial Skin
The skin care routine I just described is intense. Sensitive complexions may need to use less of a vitamin C, glycolic acid and/or retinoid. Start low and go slow! I typically start my patients on a low concentration product and with just one of these powerful ingredients to “train” their skin. Once their complexion has gained compatibility with that product, we add the second, and then slowly the third.
At the first sign of irritation or sensitivity, we stop all of these powerful products and allow the skin to rest for several days or weeks. We then resume with less frequent application of one of these three products. Slowly, as tolerated, we work in the other two. Note that prescription tretinoin usage must be supervised by the prescribing physician.
Trending ingredients to fight the complexion problems of menopause I didn't mention.
If you love one of these you may wonder why I didn't mention it. It's because I went for the highest 'return on investment' (ROI) products. Other well-loved ingredients include:
- Niacinamide (it can brighten skin somewhat but I have a number of patients that struggle with redness and skin sensitivity from it).
- Azelaic acid (it can help with acne, rosacea inflammation and pigment problems but a number of my patients find it irritating at therapeutic concentrations.)
- Hydroquinone and botanical skin lighteners. These are very beneficial if your complexion suffers from pigment problems such as age spots. I typically have my patients apply them after the toner and before applying other products. My Pigment Fading Pads are ideal.
- Antioxidants like Coenzyme Q10 (these are in many of my products. The benefits are nice but of lower ROI.)
- Squalane, ceramides, sodium PCA and other nice skin hydrating ingredients. (These are also in my products and play a nice supporting role.)
What is the best post menopause skin care for crepey, thin, dry, withering skin on the rest of the body?
It's really important!
Skin Expert's Tips for the Best Body Skin Care for Women After Menopause
Time is of the essence when it comes to fighting crepey skin and skin thinning after menopause. Many of the ingredients I mentioned for your face don't really work well on your body. My patients and I have tried them all! The only real standout is glycolic acid.
Glycolic acid is the best ingredient to fight the changes of menopause on your arm, leg and body skin because it:
- stimulates your skin to make its own hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate and plump your skin,
- fights dryness and flaking to hydrate and polish your skin into a youthful luster,
- buffs-off and softens barnacles and crusty age spots (seborrheic keratosis) so that they are less crusty,
- lightens the flat brown age spots (solar lentigines).
And, the sooner you start glycolic acid on your body, arm and leg skin the better!!
To maintain and rejuvenate non-facial body skin after menopause, follow these skin care tips:
Use powerful products such as my Ultra-fast Body Smoothing Triple Action Kit at least twice a week according to the instructions. This routine involves applying a strong glycolic acid body lotion after physically exfoliating your skin in the shower.
- Always apply rich moisturizer after every other bath or shower. I use my Natural Lotion.
- Keep the sun off of your skin! It causes more wrinkles, crinkles, crepey skin, brown age spots, skin thinning and hastens the changes of menopause. Just don't do it - UV is not our skin's friend after menopause.
- Cover as much of your skin with sun blocking clothing during the day.
- Use broad spectrum zinc oxide sunscreen on all uncovered skin.
I'm a pro at this - both professionally and personally. Find the products I depend on here.
Fighting the skin changes of menopause takes a lot of work.
I am updating this article in 2020 at the age of 62. I'm a personal menopause skin care pro! I went through menopause at 45 and then had a second go of it at 55 when my tubes and ovaries were removed thanks to breast cancer and the BRCA gene. That lead to another round of flushing and menopause symptoms which I called 'Menopause 2 - the sequel'.
Yes, after menopause, nature really is conspiring for our skin to be thin, withered, dry and wrinkled. Once our female hormones are dwindling our skin feels the change. You are not imaging it when you look in the mirror. I know that we need to embrace age and gracefully welcome it, but that includes taking good care of our skin.
After menopause, it's important to keep it moist, soft, strong skin. The routines I just described will do that. They will also help keep our skin pretty as we age. They may seem overwhelming, especially if you are starting from the very beginning and coming from a low-maintenance skin care routine. Realize that you are not just working to improve your skin’s appearance. You are working to make your skin stronger and less fragile. This will give you healthier skin as you age.
Start slowly and step into the process progressively if that’s more comfortable. Know that once you have incorporated a skin care routine like this into your daily self-care, it will seem as easy as brushing your teeth, filing your nails, combing your hair and taking a shower.
I'm well past menopause and I know that skin care is an important part of our self-care as we age. I hope you found this information helpful for making decisions about your own skin care options.
Piérard GE1, Hermanns-Lê T, Paquet P, Piérard-Franchimont C, Skin viscoelasticity during hormone replacement therapy for climacteric ageing. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Oct 24.
Quatresooz P1, Piérard-Franchimont C, Gaspard U, Piérard GE. Skin climacteric aging and hormone replacement therapy. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2006 Mar;5(1):3-8.
Stevenson S, Thornton J. Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs. Clin Interv Aging. 2007;2(3):283-297. doi:10.2147/cia.s798
Raine-Fenning NJ1, Brincat MP, Muscat-Baron Y. Skin aging and menopause : implications for treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(6):371-8.
Gérald E. Piérard, Philippe Humbert, Enzo Berardesca, Ulysse Gaspard, Trinh Hermanns-Lê, and Claudine Piérard-Franchimont. Revisiting the Cutaneous Impact of Oral Hormone Replacement Therapy, Biomed Res Int. 2013; 2013: 971760. Published online Dec 21, 2013.
Sánchez-Rodríguez MA1, Zacarías-Flores M, Arronte-Rosales A, Correa-Muñoz E, Mendoza-Núñez VM. Menopause as risk factor for oxidative stress. Menopause. 2012 Mar;19(3):361-7. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318229977d.
Latreille J, Kesse-Guyot E, Malvy D, Andreeva V, Galan P, et al. (2012) Dietary Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Intake and Risk of Skin Photoaging. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44490. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044490
Facial Skin Coloration Affects Perceived Health of Human Faces, Stephen ID, et. al., Int J Primatol, 2009 Dec;30(6):845-857.
Sundelin T; Lekander M; Kecklund G; Van Someren EJW; Olsson A; Axelsson J. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. SLEEP 2013;36(9):1355-1360.
Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Lekander M., Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. BMJ. 2010 Dec 14;341:c6614.
Please remember, the information presented on Dr. Bailey Skin Care’s Blog and web site, and any related links, is provided for general information and educational purposes only and are the opinions of Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Consult with your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns that you have. (This also applies to patients in her medical practice; the information here is not a substitute for, or an extension of, the medical care she provides for you.) Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here.