The menopause has gone well and truly mainstream in recent years, transforming a taboo topic into the subject of countless books, articles and podcasts.
Celebrities including Davina McCall, Meg Mathews and Penny Lancaster have paved the way, talking openly about the symptoms they experienced when their periods stopped, while many workplaces have introduced menopause policies to support staff.
Beauty brands have responded by launching skincare ranges targeted at women going through the menopause. With moisturisers, serums, eye creams, face masks and more, promising to tackle the signs of ageing associated with falling hormone levels.
But the question is: Are these products serving a previously neglected demographic, or are they encouraging women to spend money unnecessarily, when regular skincare will do?
Here, experts talk us through how skin is affected by the menopause, and what you can do about it.
What causes skin ageing?
As women get older, their skin has to contend with three types of ageing: genetic, environmental and hormonal.
“You can (partially) thank your parents if your skin is still glowing, wrinkle-free and radiant, as you head into your 50s, 60s and beyond,” says Dr Natalia Spierings, consultant dermatologist and author of Skintelligent (drnataliaspierings.com).
“But even with the best genetics, if you spent time in the sun in your younger days, you will more than likely start experiencing pigmentation, crepiness, laxity, redness, visible thread veins, and fine and coarse wrinkles, as you age.”
Even if you weren’t a sun-worshipper, ambient UV exposure is another environmental cause of ageing, as is smoking, which is known to rapidly accelerate the effects.
“Hormonal ageing comes as a result of the gradual shift in your hormone profile, and symptoms include a loss of elasticity, medium to deep wrinkles, and dry and thinning skin, with a dull or lacklustre tone,” says Tracey Wilmot, international education director at Murad (murad.co.uk).
“Acne will either be long gone, or women may experience adult on-set acne as part of their hormonal ageing symptoms.”
What happens to skin during menopause?
According to Spierings, skin is “probably” impacted by the drop in oestrogen levels that occurs during the menopause, for which some people choose to have hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
“We know that oestrogen is important for maintaining skin hydration to some extent, but HRT is not used ‘just’ to treat skin dryness,” she says.
“If you find your skin feels less dry or crepey as a result of HRT, that’s great, but it is not a reason to start it in the first place. The only two reasons to begin HRT, are to improve bone health and to reduce the symptoms of menopause.”
Hormonal fluctuations may also cause women to notice “a sallowed look to their cheeks and skin, as well as hair around the lower half of the face”, says Wilmot.
“A decrease in collagen and elastin production contributes to the deeper wrinkles and lacklustre appearance, often seen in the later stages of life. Thinned skin, loss of elasticity, and increased skin sensitivity can also occur during this time.”
Should you invest in menopause skincare?
“The short answer? No,” says Spierings. “Unless you are developing an actual problem with your skin, because of hormone fluctuations.”
If you start getting acne breakouts, for example, she advises: “See a professional to get the correct diagnosis and management plan – it can be treated.”
Wearing sunscreen every day (yes, even in winter) is essential for combating wrinkles, while vitamin A derivatives, such as retinol or tretinoin, can help to boost collagen production.
“Look for products that fight multiple signs of ageing in one step,” Wilmot says. “You may want to target firmness, wrinkles, loss of collagen, dehydration and breakouts all in one go.”
Spierings says: “Get a prescription tretinoin cream from your doctor,” and keep the rest of your routine simple, with “a basic balm or oil cleanser once a day, to remove make-up and sunscreen before bed”.
To hydrate dry skin from the inside out, Wilmot recommends the ‘eat your water’ approach.
“Eating foods that are rich in structured water, especially raw fruits and vegetables, will not only help your body hold onto water longer, you’ll get the added boost of important antioxidants, fibre and other nutrients.
“You could eat foods that are natural sources of vitamin C, antioxidants and omega-3, such as mango, pomegranate and flaxseed.”
Finally, you might want to try the TikTok-famous ‘slugging’ technique, which involves applying a thick layer of basic moisturiser to your face before bed.
“My fave is good old-fashioned Vaseline,” Spierings says. “Any dry skin issues will disappear over night, and you will save a fortune on skincare products.”
Menopause menu: 5 expert-approved products to try
Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum, £86
Lierac Arkeskin Rebalancing Comfort Cream – Day, £40, Escentual
No7 Menopause Skincare Nourishing Overnight Cream, currently £22.95 (was £32.95), Boots
Vichy Neovadiol Rose Platinium – Fortifying and Revitalising Rosy Cream, £27.20, Escentual
Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly, £2.99, Boots