The Menopause Effect on the Skin

Menopause basics

As we all know menopause is a normal part of life and leads to changing hormone levels.   These changes usually begin in the perimenopause phase which can occur several years before menopause.  Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone can lead to symptoms during perimenopause and in time when the ovaries produce less estrogen menopause symptoms can start.  The average age of menopause is 51 but can be significantly earlier or later. 

Menopause Symptoms and Effects

Menopause can have lots of symptoms including the well-known hot flashes and night sweats.  In addition to these two symptoms menopause can change the physiology of the skin in new and different ways and accelerate the aging in your skin.  Estrogen stimulates the production of proteins inlcuding collagen and elastin (that helps the skin look smooth and tight) and oils (that help moisturize the skin).  As estrogen decreases during perimenopause and menopause collagen and oil decrease in the skin and this can result in dry and itchy skin that is less able to retain moisture.  This happens all over the body and not in specific areas.  A loss of estrogen levels can also decrease blood flow to the skin which can thin the outer layer of the skin (epidermis).  A thin outer layer of the skin also contributes to a loss of moisture in the skin. Estrogen also helps to keep fat deposits under the skin which helps the skin to look smooth and firm.  As estrogen decreases the fat under the skin decreases making the skin sag more.

Skin Treatments for Menopause

Fortunately there are several things you can do to keep your skin soft and smooth during menopause!  Eating the right foods full of essential fatty acids can help your skins oil barrier to keep the skin hydrated.  Some of these foods include salmon, walnuts, flax, safflower oil, and fortified eggs.  A broad spectrum sunblock will also keep your skin from getting damaged by the sun, which can dry and wrinkle the skin even more.  Cooler showers with gentle soap will also help keep the shower experience from stripping the essential oils off of your body.  Finally moisturize your skin after showers and whenever it feels dry.

Botox Does More for Your Skin Than Just Paralyze

Botox is usually just thought to paralyze the muscles where it is injected but, new research is showing that it is doing much more than that.  Dr. James Bonaparte, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada recently found that people who use botox have an increase in the elasticity of their skin.  This elasticity seems to be coming from an increase in elastin and collagen, which are normal parts of the skin. Collagen and elastin are important components of our skin that keep our skin strong and give it elasticity.

 

Normally when we age, the production of collagen and elastin tends to decrease and repeated facial expressions can cause wrinkles.  While botox has been known to smooth out wrinkles for some, time this recent finding that botox increases elasticity was unexpected.  The increase in elasticity was discovered in a study involving 48 women with an average age of 55 years old.  These women received botox between the eyebrows and around the eyes and were followed for 4 months.  Dr. Bonaparte found that the stretchiness and elastic recoil was increased by the botox and that the women’s faces mimicked more youthful skin.  He also found that the increase in elasticity was not a byproduct of inflammation or swelling caused by the botox shots which was previously thought to be the cause. 

 

Unfortunately the effect is temporary and lasts as long as the effectiveness of the botox which is about 3-4 months.   While the way this works is unknown, Dr. Bonaparte believes that the cells that create elastin and collagen might have a receptor for botox.  If this is true it means that there might be a potential for a future drug that can help the elasticity of skin as we age.  Some other theories are that botox might be an antioxidant which could help neutralize the waste products of the muscles and allows the skin to heal or that inactivity of the muscles caused by botox allows collagen and elastin to be repaired.

 

The next steps of this research will be to see if repeated use of botox can have long-term benefits on the collagen and elastin in the face.  Prior studies have shown that long time users of botox need less botox and this might be explained by a prolonged increase in collagen and elastin.

 

For more information see:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_152673.html