As we age and the female body undergoes changes due to the menopause, one of the most common symptoms noticed are changes to our skin—conditions such as acne, dryness, redness, fine lines, clamminess, irritations and inflammations are just a few of the most common issues that can impact and appear to suddenly arise even where the complexion had never been a cause for serious concern to date.
While lifestyle habits and external stressors undoubtedly impact general health and wellbeing, most of us find coping mechanisms to combat this over the years which is why the perceived acceleration of issues that seem to suddenly occur during the menopausal phases—despite our trusted fixes that always used to work - can feel extremely distressing... and this is because our skin is a reflection not only of our health and habits but a key result of our hormonal composition also.
Hormones play an intrinsic role in a host of internal processes and they work in synergy with one another affecting how our bodies respond to and cope with stress and other influences. The change in the levels of hormones that bring on menopause such as the slowing down of oestrogen production that causes the cessation of periods has an impact on much more than the reproductive cycle. Dropping oestrogen levels may cause the complexion to become more brittle and less elastic - meaning little creases can develop into dry, deep creases, lips and the skin surrounding the eyes might sag etc. In addition to these symptoms, insufficient oestrogen can also trigger bone loss, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, sleeplessness, mood swings, and night sweats.
However declining oestrogen levels in women over 40 is only one four major hormones making a difference to our skin and health and which can cause early signs of aging.
Testosterone. cortisol and our thyroid hormones are further critical players too. While lower oestrogen can influence dull, dehydrated skin — naturally declining testosterone levels during menopause can also lead to dryness and irritation since testosterone activates the sebum-producing glands which are crucial for providing natural oils to protect skin.
Levels of sebum production can also be affected by cortisol — known as the stress hormone— which activates the adrenal glands as a stress response and our thyroid hormones additionally influence the appearance of skin where under-activity can lead to dry, rough skin with a reduced ability to sweat normally while overactive thyroid hormones can generate the characteristic hot flushes and sweaty clammy skin typically associated with menopause. With all that said it might appear as if our hormones are just here to happily work against us as menopause progresses, and its not just a matter of topping up a hormone where we have a deficiency as these not only naturally fluctuate throughout our transition but excess levels can have alternative adverse effects—high levels of oestrogen can cause ‘melasma’ or hyperpigmentation, for example, too much testosterone can result in oily or acne-prone skin including for those of us who never experienced acne as a teenager and consistently high levels of cortisol in reaction to stressful circumstances may exacerbate inflammation and aggravate practically any skin problem including eczema, rosacea, acne, vitiligo and many further disorders…. the proverbial vicious cycle—causing many menopausal women feel as though their skin will never improve.
So what to do?
THE KEY IS IN ACHEIVING BALANCEOur hormones actually have a beautiful protective function in our bodies and we are not just impacted by their natural fluctuation during menopause — every aspect from our eating, sleeping and exercise patterns also affect how our hor-mones behave and therefore how our skin ages meaning that simply overhauling the skincare routine is unlikely to make all the difference.
Identifying our daily habits and some of the seemingly innocent actions that impact our hormonal wellbeing is a vital starting point for a holistic and rebalancing approach. Experts agree on stress and anxiety being major factors while certain medications like birth control can upset hormones and cause nutritional deficiencies. The presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in skincare - problematic ingredients such as parabens, certain sunscreens and fragrances — is a further aspect compounding hormone disruption.
Addressing wellbeing across the key areas of sleep, skincare and diet has therefore been a primary aspect in the Shhh… approach to formulary - supporting menopausal lifestyle changes in working with some of nature’s most potent natural ingredients that have a profound effect on rebalancing and normalising the body’s processes alleviating stress and tension but most importantly also helping to regulate and optimise hormone production - with topical (on the skin) transdermal (through the skin) olfactory (through inhalation) and dietary supplementation and support.
Powerhouse ingredients such as zinc, selenium, maca, seaweed and magnesium are staple Shhh… botanicals that have been the subject of much research citing their vital function for women’s health and specifically the beneficial effects for perimenopausal and menopausal women. In particular, magnesium's efficacy–as an essential mineral responsible for over 300 metabolic processes within the body has been established in a number of investigations and clinical trials rounded up in a 2017 literary review(1). Not only has it been proven to help slow down the ageing process by boosting glutathione production, telomere shortening, and lowering oxidative stress, but the importance of the mineral for regulating hormones cannot be overstated.