How to care for your skin during perimenopause and menopause

Written by: Madeleine White

During perimenopause and menopause, you may experience changes to your skin. For some these can be fairly minor, whereas others may find their skin looks and feels completely different, seemingly overnight.

From accelerated signs of ageing to midlife acne and increased sensitivities, significant changes in the skin can can be upsetting and challenging to manage.

We recently partnered with Norfolk Menopause to host an intimate Q&A session called 'Let's Talk About Menopause'. The talk was full of valuable information about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and lifestyle factors, as well as practical advice on how to care for your skin during and after perimenopause and menopause.

This article mainly focusses on how hormonal fluctuations can impact the skin. With trusted, expert-led information courtesy of Dr Emily Cary and Dr Susanne Ahlund, and specific product recommendations that are available to shop at JUNI & CO, we hope this is something you can refer back to time and time again.

Part 2, focussing on hair and scalp health, can be found here.

Photo of JUNI & CO sign

Norfolk Menopause is a Norwich-based group of specialist GPs and gynaecologists. They aim to transform your menopause journey and empower you to take control. Committed to providing compassionate and expert care to women during this important stage of life, they understand that menopause can be a challenging time both physically and emotionally.

HRT, oestrogen and your skin

The skin is the largest organ in your body and is packed with oestrogen receptors. Oestrogen plays a key role in keeping skin in good condition.

As we age, oestrogen declines and can cause a plethora of undesirable side effects. HRT, by restoring oestrogen levels, can greatly help many of these side effects and can have a positive impact on the skin's appearance, feel and function. Put simply, HRT can reduce and even reverse menopausal skin ageing.

So, how does declining oestrogen impact the skin?

Women demonstrating skincare product

• Collagen

Collagen is essential to providing structural support and strength to the skin.

Studies show that women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause and after that about 2% of their collagen every year for the next 20 years.

Loss of collagen leads to wrinkles and a sunken appearance of skin due to thinning of the supportive connective tissue.

• Elastin

Elastin plays a crucial role in skin flexibility and elasticity – allowing skin to return to its original shape.

Elastin degeneration increases with oestrogen loss in menopause and can lead to a slack appearance of skin, with ‘sagginess’ and increased wrinkling.

• Barrier Function

The barrier function of the skin is essential to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) - AKA dehydration - and is maintained by naturally occurring fatty substances including ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Oestrogen helps production of these hydrating substances.

• Sebum Production

Sebum production can surge during menopause due to changes in the hormone balance and an increased ratio of testosterone to oestrogen in some women. Along with changes to hair follicles this can lead to midlife acne.

Building a skincare routine

It's important to remember that genetics play a significant part in how we age, as do environmental factors (i.e. sun exposure, stress, smoking, etc). Leading a balanced, healthy lifestyle is fundamental to good skin health.

That being said, there are some incredible skincare products available that can help to significantly reduce sensitivity, improve plumpness, texture, firmness and tone, and to create that coveted 'glow'.

When it comes to perimenopausal and menopausal skin, it's best to keep things simple and focus on skin barrier health first and foremost. Below are a few product options to build an everyday skincare routine, followed by optional extras depending on your concern.

Various skin care products on a shelf

Use a gentle, barrier-supporting cleanser

Opt for a gentle cleanser that has been designed to support barrier function. Some of our favourites include:

Hydrate & calm

Incorporating a hydrating serum morning and night can make a huge difference to how your skin feels. That tight, uncomfortable feeling = dehydration. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, aloe vera and glycerin to inject life back into your skin.

Application tip: hydrating serums are best applied to slightly damp skin, so there's no need to wait for your skin to completely dry after cleansing. You could also incorporate a hydrating mist like the Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator.

Seal with a moisturiser

Lock-in your freshly hydrated skin with a moisturiser. Your skin type will determine how rich you want to go here. If you're struggling with breakouts something lightweight will be sufficient. If your skin is feeling particularly dry opt for something rich and more nourishing. You may also want to use an oil.

Think of layering your serum, moisturiser and oil as you would layer your clothes in the winter - a thermal layer, then a jumper, followed by a coat. This approach is far more effective than just using just a rich moisturiser alone.

Protect against future damage

Using a high quality sun protection every day is essential to prevent future damage. UV exposure can result in dark spots and pigmentation, break down of collagen and more serious issues.

Choose a broad spectrum UVA and UVB SPF 30 or higher. 

Targeting specific concerns

Once you've got the above basic steps in place, you can start to think about optional extras to target specific concerns. The three most common issues we see in store are:

acne, breakouts and texture
fine lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness
dullness and uneven tone

Acne, breakouts and texture

If an increase in sebum is causing breakouts and blackheads, it may be worth using a well-formulated salicylic acid based product.

Salicylic acid is derived from the bark of the Willow Tree. It breaks down the outer layer of the skin to encourage skin cell turnover and removes pore-clogging impurities and excess oil.

Using a treatment like Clarify by Pestle & Mortar a few evenings per week will help to reduce breakouts and calm inflammation.

Fine lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness

Ensuring your skin is well hydrated (following the steps above) is the first step in helping to plump fine line and wrinkles. Next, incorporating a retinoid (vitamin A) will accelerate skin-renewal; reversing signs of ageing, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and boosting collagen production.

Retinoids come in a variety of strengths from mild to prescription only. We have several options to choose from at JUNI & CO with the most popular being Pestle & Mortar's Superstar Retinoid Night Oil.

If you've tried retinoid products in the past and found them aggravating, please do get in touch as we can suggest techniques to 'buffer' and reduce the risk of irritation. 

Dullness and uneven tone

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant known for its ability to reduce hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone. With consistent use, it visibly reduces the appearance of dark spots and brightens the complexion.

Vitamin C is also essential for the production of collagen but our bodies can’t produce it. Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine helps the skin’s ability to produce collagen resulting in skin that is more supple, smooth and toned.

Pai's Fade Forward™ Dark Spot Serum is a fantastic option that combines hyaluronic acid, marine algae and vitamin C.