You can’t fully understand your skin’s changes until you understand what’s happening below the surface. Knowing your skin is the first step to treating your skin.
“Estrogen is key for the normal functioning of the skin as well as the blood vessels, hair follicles, oil glands, and our pigment producing cells called melanocytes. It is associated with collagen production, increased skin thickness, increased hyaluronic acid production, improved skin barrier function, maintaining skin hydration, reduced sebaceous (oil) gland activity, and improved wound healing. It also plays a role in modulating inflammation,” says Barr.
So estrogen does a whole lot. But it’s not the only hormone that plays a role in all of this.
“The effect of progesterone on the skin is less well defined, but is thought to contribute to skin elasticity, pigmentation as well as increased circulation and sebaceous gland activity observed in the second half of the menstrual cycle is largely due to the influence of progesterone,” she says. “Androgens, including testosterone, play a role in oil gland production.”
So that’s how these sex hormones interact with your skin—so what changes when you hit menopause? Essentially, they start to deplete.
“As our hormones diminish in menopause, the functions they perform to maintain the health and vitality of the skin diminish as well characterized by by a decrease in sweat, sebum, and the immune functions resulting in significant alterations in the skin surface including pH, lipid composition and sebum secretion,” says Barr. “These changes also provide potential alterations in the skin that may affect the skin microbiome.”
While that may seem like a whole bunch of science speak (it is), what we’re really getting at here is the drop in these sex hormones means your skin barrier function is weakened, you produce less oil, and your delicate microflora will likely see shifts as a result. This is why your skin changes.