Skin changes with the menopausal transition are multifactorial and estrogen isn’t the only culprit when it comes to the appearance of your skin. Other hormones, dietary and lifestyle factors could also be at the root of the problem.
But estrogen is a significant factor so let’s start there.
Where ever estrogen has a role to play, we can find estrogen receptors. And we can find an abundance of estrogen receptors throughout the skin with a large concentration found on the face. (Also legs and genitals)
The reduction of estrogen is linked to 4 issues that I want to discuss with you today. The loss of collagen, elastin, glycosaminoglycans, and the blood flow changes within the skin.
Collagen is a structural protein, that gives the skin its shape. It’s scary just how quickly we can lose our collagen levels. It is thought it could be as high as 1/3 in the first 5 years post-menopause. This change is directly attributed to estrogen loss rather than to the aging process itself.
Elastin is needed for the skin's ability to stretch and recoil, providing elasticity to the skin. Levels start to reduce as our estrogen levels decline. Without it, the skin starts to sag and wrinkle.
Glycosaminoglycans such as Hyaluronic acid are essential for skin hydration as they hold water in the skin, providing hydration and lubrication. Think of them as moisture magnets, they attract and hold water like a sponge. This helps the skin stretch and move, preventing stretch marks, wrinkles, and fine lines. It also promotes faster healing time with less scar formation. As oestrogen levels reduce so do these and your skin starts to become drier in general as it can’t main hydration in the skin.
Estrogen reduction also causes the epidermal layer of the skin to thin out. This is due to the reduction of blood capillaries that provide oxygen and other nutrients to the skin. The growth and maintenance of the blood capillaries are linked with estrogen levels. Therefore your skin becomes thinner and drier and more prone to damage, which takes longer to heal as your skin isn’t receiving as many nutrients that encourage healing.
Now let's talk about other hormonal culprits
Testosterone - If your estrogen levels fall faster than your testosterone levels, a relative testosterone dominance may occur. (This isn’t necessarily a high testosterone reading but rather a higher ratio of testosterone) In this instance, adult acne can occur. This is because testosterone stimulates sebaceous glands to produce thicker sebum that can cause oily skin and acne.
Thyroid hormone - hypothyroidism is linked with having thinner, drier, rougher skin in general.
Insulin - excess of this blood sugar-regulating hormone can promote excess sebum production and may contribute to the development of acne. It can also cause epithelial cell proliferation leading to the development of skin tags.
Cortisol - this adrenal hormone linked to stress, can also increase sebum production and promote acne outbreaks. It can also exacerbate existing skin conditions while leaving your skin more sensitive and reactive to allergens triggering inflammation, redness, rashes, and hives.
That’s enough bad news, now let’s talk about what you can do about it.
Healthy skin aging starts from the inside out and with the right dietary and lifestyle factors you can see a significant improvement.
We need to start with hydration! The difference between a raisin and a grape is water, if you don’t want shriveled-up skin you need to make sure you are drinking adequate water every day! Also be mindful that tea and coffee can act as diuretics, dehydrating the skin.
If you are looking for a food that increases collagen, elastin, and Glycosaminoglycans, I have 2 options for you Organ meat and Bone broth.
If you are looking for a vegetarian option consider a Pycnogenol supplement, this French maritime pine tree bark extract helps increase your body’s natural ability to produce these 3 skin components.
Avoid inflammatory foods such as those you are sensitive or allergic to, processed foods, and sugars. These cause free radical damage to your skin and are linked with dark cycles under your eyes, loss of skin tone, puffiness, acne, lines, wrinkles, loss of facial contour, bigger pore size, and inflamed itchy skin.
Alcohol can also be detrimental to your skin health. Alcohol causes the small blood vessels in your skin to widen. This may cause the skin to flush and a sensation of warmth to occur. Over time this can lead to broken capillaries on your face, it's also linked to dull or discolored skin, enlarged pores, skin sad and dry dehydrated skin.
I often refer to the skin as the body’s brick wall, I see zinc as being the bricks and oils as being the mortar. There is so much fantastic conversation these days about the benefits of good oil such as vibrant skin health and the detriments of bad oils. If you want healthy skin you must consider your Omega 3 to 6 ratio and remove seed oils such as canola, corn, cottonseed, soy, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, and rice bran oil from your diet.
Next up its lifestyle factors
Do you smoke? Smokers have paler skin, more lines, and wrinkles than nonsmokers. This is partially due to reduced circulation caused by nicotine. This results in fewer nutrients getting to the skin and a decreased ability of the skin to release its toxic waste products of normal cell metabolism
Are you exercising? Exercise benefits the skin too. It increases circulation and nutrients getting into the skin fibers. Exercisers also have thicker skin with increased collagen fibers. Giving the skin better strength and flexibility.
Consider what are you putting onto your skin. Your skin is highly absorbent and can allow both the good and the bad entry into your body. Check out the ingredients in your personal care products and look into replacing them if they contain nasties such as phthalates, parabens, dioxins, or fragrances, If you wear make-up even a clean mineral product make sure you thoroughly remove it before bed and consider having make-up free days and allowing your skin to breath.
Are you constipated? The skin is an elimination channel, constipation may promote poor skin health as excess toxins that aren’t being removed from the bowel may try to come out via the skin. This is where extra dietary fiber and probiotics may help to speed up your bowel transition time and improve your skin's appearance.
When it comes to vitamins, Vitamin A is my standout skin vitamin. It rejuvenates mucus membranes, increases lubrication, promotes collagen and elastin formation, and may reduce acne outbreaks. Whereas Vitamin C helps with collagen formation. Vitamin D helps increase new skin production and repair. Vitamin E inhibits free radical skin damage.
My favorite mineral for skin health has got to be zinc, it's a fundamental building block for skin, as I mentioned before I see it as being like the bricks in the wall.
Hyaluronic acid a member of the Glycosaminoglycans family and collagen are also available to take as supplements but before you run off and buy them all please know all supplements come with cautions, contra-indications, and medical interactions. It’s safest to start with dietary and lifestyle changes and speak to your healthcare team about whether any of the other suggestions are relevant for you. I am also available for consultation if you want to discuss this with me. Click here for more details
Specific skin conditions