• Jo Klassen

4 Less Spoken About Menopausal Changes To Skin & Health

Updated: Jan 24


It’s wonderful that the stigma of the menopause with its associations of incompetence, shame and guilt are being challenged by awareness campaigns, which in turn are creating lively conversation and changing women’s experiences.

The most common symptoms of the menopause, and perhaps the most discussed, are hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, thinning hair, sleepless nights, dry skin and adult acne.

These can be experienced during any of the following *three phases of the menopause (NHS quote):

  1. Peri-menopause – the stage from the beginning of menopausal symptoms to the post-menopause.

  2. Menopause – the last menstrual period.

  3. Post-menopause – the time following the last period, usually defined as more than 12 months with no periods (either in someone who has their ovaries or immediately following an oophorectomy).

There are many less known difficult symptoms that some of us will face, so it’s important we help one another become familiar with them.

A couple of months ago I noticed a dark patch occur on my calf, and it’s not a sun tan. I am currently waiting on a GP appointment for a correct diagnosis, but I am thinking that it is a form of hyperpigmentation that can occur during the menopause.

1. Melasma

During the menopause a combination of hormonal changes and sun exposure can cause pigmentation of the skin. Some women experience it more on their face, which is called **Melasma.

It occurs when cells called melanocytes produce too much pigment or melanin. Melasma is more common in women’s skin then men’s skin, and people with darker skin are more prone due to more active melanocytes.

Ongoing stress can also cause over production of melanin. Cortisol helps us cope with stress but too much of it can create an imbalance in oestrogen levels, which upregulates the cells responsible for producing melanin.

Solutions

The simple and most effective solution is to apply sunscreen on a daily basis.

  • Learning how to reduce stress will help manage and prevent overproduction of melanin.

  • According to Dermotologist, **Dr Kourish, environmental pollution can contribute to melasma, corroding the skin’s surface and making it more susceptible to sun damage. Cleansing the skin before bed can help protect the skin (read my blog on this topic here).

  • Keep the skin moisturised to help restore the skin’s barrier and keep it protected.

  • Help your skin fight back the effects of the sun from the inside out. Load your plate with beauty foods rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. This means eating lots of colourful fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, like olive and avocado oil, as well as omega-3 fatty acids like certain drupes/nuts (walnuts and hemp seed) and seeds (pumpkin seeds).

Chemical peels are commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation, but in some cases can cause trauma to the skin and make matters worse. Seek medical advice from a GP or dermatologist for diagnosis before exploring this type of skin treatment.

2. Itchy Boobs

Itchy sensations in the nipples and breasts can be experienced for the first time during the menopause. This is an early sign that hormonal changes, including loss of oestrogen, are taking place. Oestrogen is related to the production of collagen, which produces sebum (an oil that keeps our skin naturally moisturised).

Again, raised stress levels can release histamine, which can cause flushing, itching and skin rashes.

Solutions

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Keep the skin moisturised (link here).

  • Avoid hot baths and showers (link here).

  • Manage stress – make time to relax and unwind and make sure they are not activities that stimulate adrenalin!

  • Combat itchy skin from the inside out with a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, as it plays an important role in skin hydration. Further examples of food rich in Omega-3s include flaxseed oil, mackerel and salmon.

Photo: Jo with Reading Glasses on

3. Vision Problems

As a result of decreased hormones, some women report to having vision changes. The dip in oestrogen can also cause dry eyes.

Some women find that changes to their vision impacts their depth perception and spatial awareness. ****I found an interesting article about women finding it difficult to park their cars straight and bumping into walls! (I have my hand up!).

Solutions

  • Stay hydrated

  • Again, maintaining a healthy diet to help protect vision and reduce the impact of hormones.

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to help reduce inflammation in the body.

  • Again, Omega-3 fats comes out on top here. Oils like primrose, borage and flaxseed can help protect your vision.

4. Cold Flushes

Though it is not as common as hot flushes it’s caused by the same mechanism where hormonal changes create a chemical reaction. This reaction causes overheating, stimulating the body to sweat and causing you to shiver. (I suffered with cold flushes for 18 years and I never use to sweat, but experienced intense cold shiver running through me and I felt cold most of the time). This is not to be confused with low thyroid function, so please check this out if you have any concerns.

Solutions

Manage the menopausal symptoms by:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety (here it is again).

  • Work out what type of foods trigger a cold flush.

  • Stay warm – wear layers to help regulate your temperature and buy plenty of snuggly throws.

  • Magnesium – though I never tried a supplement, some women swear by it. However, if you prefer a healthy nutritional approach a diet rich in veggies, nuts, oils, cashew milk, cocoa powder and oily fish will help maximise your magnesium intake.

Conclusion

The three stages of the menopause have many unusual or less spoken about symptoms. Sometimes we suffer in silence but hopefully articles like this can help you be prepared and know how to respond.

If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to visit your GP to diagnose and discuss options.

Lifestyle habits such as managing stress, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise play a key role in managing hormonal fluctuations and symptoms.

Know that you are not alone, but if you feel so, find a group where you can join in and get the support you need.

*http://www.bridgewater.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/The-Menopause-what-to-expect-when-you-are-expecting-the-menopause.pdf

**I am not giving a medical diagnosis, and if any of these symptoms list in this article ring true for you and you are concerned, do what I have done and book an appointment with your GP.

*** https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/unmasking-the-causes-and-treatments-of-melasma

**** https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/menopause/videos/the-unusual-symptoms/

#menopause #perimenopause #hotflushes #coldfluses #hyperpigmentaion #wellbeing

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