Changes in estrogen levels that occur with menopause have direct
effects on the skin. A drop in these levels causes dryness and thinning.
A decrease in the supportive tissue, collagen, is responsible for
wrinkles and diminished tone. While we can't turn back time, Dr. Emily
Pollard offers some treatments that are helpful in the care of the skin.
— Beverly Vaughn, MD, Medical
Coordinator, Menopause and You Program
Your skin is considered your largest organ, covering about 20 square
feet and weighing about 6 pounds. Skin is unbelievably complex,
performing many functions, from keeping disease-causing organisms out of
the body and protecting against injury to regulating body temperature
Your skin's health and appearance can be affected by many factors,
including age, grooming, eating habits, climate, family history, and
ethnicity. With all that your skin does, and all the conditions that can
affect it, it's no wonder you need to take good care of it!
Soothing Dry Skin
Dry skin is a common problem. When bathing, avoid long hot baths, which
can strip away natural oils. Consider using a moisturizing body wash,
pat your skin almost dry, and then apply moisturizers while skin is
still damp. Drink plenty of water. Use moisturizers containing
petrolatum, mineral oil, shea butter, ceramides, dimethicone, or
glycerine. Properly moisturized skin is less likely to crack and become
Avoiding Ultraviolet Rays
Protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. UVA and UVB rays are known to
cause premature aging, wrinkles, irregular pigmentation and, of course,
skin cancer. All sunscreens are labeled with an SPF, or sun protection
factor. Use the rule of ten when using a sunscreen. Multiply the SPF by
10 to calculate the minutes of protection the sunscreen offers.
Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. This
allows the active agents to bind to your skin.
Common ingredients in sunscreens are PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid),
anthranilate, and zinc oxide. In July 2006, the FDA approved Mexoryl SX
(ecamsule) for sale in the United States. This product has been sold in
Europe and Canada for more than 10 years and it does a better job of
blocking UVA rays than other sunscreens in the market.
Effects of Free-Radical Damage
Free-radical damage can cause deterioration of the skin's support
structures, decreasing elasticity and resilience. Free radicals are
damaging by-products created by environmental stressors like UV light,
air pollution, ozone and the sun during normal cell metabolism.
Antioxidants are supposed to help by either stopping new damage or
reversing earlier damage caused by free radicals. The presence of
antioxidants in the diet and possibly the topical application of
antioxidants and skin care products play a part in slowing down
free-radical damage. Antioxidants are ingredients such as vitamins C and
As skin matures, it becomes thinner and mottled, and it appears rough
and dull. Many treatments can help with this problem:
Retin-A®, Renova®, and Tazarotene: Retin-A®,
Renova®, and Tazarotene (Avage® or Tazorac®) are the gold
standards in treating fine wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, and
rough, sun-damaged skin. All three of these products cause the
skin to shed its dead outermost layer, accelerate skin
regeneration, and thicken collagen. These actions help to
replace the outer, flat, dry cells with new or healthier ones
from underneath. It takes at least six months to see a
noticeable difference in wrinkles. The best benefit is seen if
they are used for at least a year. These are potent chemicals
and should be used under the supervision of a physician.
Alpha hydroxy acids: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
are naturally occurring acids from the sugars and particular
plants. Some examples are glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric
acid, and malic acid. AHAs gradually remove the top layer of
already dead skin cells allowing the regeneration of younger,
plumper skin cells. Products with AHAs are marketed for a
variety of purposes: to smooth fine lines and surface wrinkles,
to improve skin texture and tone, to unblock and cleanse pores,
to improve oily skin or acne, and to improve skin condition in
general. AHAs may be used on the feet, elbows and back of the
Dermal Fillers: Many of the cracks and crevices
in the face can be smoothed with products that are called dermal
fillers. Most dermal fillers are long lasting but not permanent
and usually contain either collagen or hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid is natural component of our bodies. When fillers
are injected into the skin, they provide volume and fullness.
The lines from the nose to the mouth or mouth to chin can be
treated. Fillers are also good for treating thin lips, building
the lip border (lipstick line), and decreasing the appearance of
a downturned mouth. Semi-permanent fillers, such as Radiesse®,
Sculptra® and Juvederm®, can be used in larger-volume
corrections, such as sunken cheeks or flattened eyebrows.
Botox®: Expression-related creases can be
softened by the administration of Botox®. Administered properly,
Botox ® can weaken the frown and scowl muscles of the face, thus
allowing the uplifting muscles of the face to give the face a
more relaxed, serene look. Frown lines between the eyebrows, on
the forehead and around the mouth and neck can be treated. The
effects usually become evident in three to five days and can
last up to four months. This is a medical treatment that should
be administered under the direction of a physician in a proper
and professional setting.
As you have read, there are simple steps you can take every day to
protect your skin from exposure to the hazards of everyday life. While
it's important to properly moisturize and protect your skin to prevent
damage, it is also important to discuss individual concerns with your
physician and to seek consultation before beginning treatment.
This article is part of the Menopause and Youlibrary,
a web-based program sponsored by Women’s Health Source.
It is intended as an information resource providing guidelines for
women. As always, check with your own health care practitioner with your
specific concerns and questions.
To speak with our nurse counselor, call 1.888.876.8764 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Membership on the medical staff of Main Line Hospitals does not
constitute an employment or agency relationship.
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