Does Menopause Cause Breakouts?

Gentle middle-aged woman checking her skin in front of the mirror
Does Menopause Cause Breakouts?
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Menopause is inevitable for every woman, and so are the symptoms that this process brings. 

Everything from hot flashes to weight gain can be experienced during menopause, along with a number of skin changes too. 

What is Menopause?

Menopause is when a woman stops menstruating, and is diagnosed after a woman has gone a year without experiencing a menstrual period. It tends to happen between the ages of 45 and 55. 

What causes menopause? 

As you get older, many functions within your body begin to slow down. One of these is the rate at which your body produces the hormone estrogen.

Without enough estrogen, the ovaries stop releasing eggs, meaning that a woman is then unable to become pregnant naturally. 

You are probably thinking…

How does what’s going on in my ovaries affect my skin? 

To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at the causes of acne…

What Causes Acne?

There are a few different factors that cause acne, but one type of acne, known as hormonal acne, is caused by, as you may have guessed, hormones.

How do hormones cause acne? 

Hormonal fluctuations, meaning an increase or decrease in certain hormones, trigger your skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. It is the androgen hormones that have the biggest impact on your skin’s oil glands, with testosterone being one of these. 

All of this extra oil on your face then ends up making its way into your pores, mixing in with dead skin cells and dirt to form blockages. This then leads to inflammation, triggering a pimple to make its way to the surface of your skin. 

The Connection Between Menopause and Acne

As you can see, both menopause and acne are caused by hormonal changes, but are the two actually linked? 

The answer is yes. 

When your estrogen levels drop during menopause, your androgen hormones begin to rise. This then sends your sebaceous glands into overdrive, resulting in an increase in oil production. 

However, that’s not all…

Once you reach menopause, your cell turnover process declines quite drastically. 

What does this mean? 

It means that your body is no longer producing quite as many new skin cells, and is taking far longer to shed its older and dead skin cells from its surface. This means that dead skin cells end up sticking around for longer, so it’s only a matter of time before they mix in with the extra oil being produced and clog up your pores. 

If all of that wasn’t enough…

Many of the hormone replacement therapies commonly used during menopause can also trigger frequent breakouts. 

Why? 

Because they introduce the hormone progestin into your system, as a way to replace the estrogen and progesterone that your body has stopped producing. As you can imagine, bringing a new hormone into your body can cause an imbalance for a while, resulting in an increase in oil production and acne. 

Menopause, Stress and Acne

With all of the changes going on in your body during menopause, feeling more stressed out than usual is absolutely normal. 

However, all of this stress can actually make your acne worse…

How? 

Because stress triggers your body to release a hormone called cortisol, which helps the body to react to a stressful situation. This is fine in the short term, but when it continuously happens, your cortisol levels remain elevated. 

This extra cortisol stimulates your oil glands into producing more oil, resulting in clogged pores and breakouts. Cortisol also  increases inflammation within the body, which, again, will lead to more acne.

It might be easier said than done, but keeping stress to a minimum during menopause will help with your breakouts, as well as your overall general health. 

Perimenopause and Acne

While acne during menopause is quite common, these breakouts can actually start occurring long before you have actually been diagnosed with menopause. 

Perimenopause refers to the transitional stage before a woman becomes menopausal, and is the time at which estrogen production in the ovaries starts to decline. For most women, this process begins in their 40s, and lasts up until the ovaries completely stop releasing eggs. 

Due to these changes starting to take place during perimenopause, this is the time when your hormones first begin fluctuating, which can lead to a few breakouts. 

Treating Menopause Acne

Experiencing acne caused by menopause? 

Don’t worry too much just yet, as there are several steps that you can take to curb the breakouts…

Cleansing

This may sound simple, but cleansing your skin properly can go a long way in helping to reduce breakouts. 

How? 

Because even though your breakouts are being caused by hormones, dead skin cells building up on the surface of your skin will end up settling into your pores and clogging them up, resulting in even more breakouts. Since the rate at which your body sheds its dead skin cells drastically slows down once you reach menopause, cleansing, as well as exfoliating, is so important. 

However, keep in mind that your skin will also be drying out at this stage in life, so you need to ensure that your cleanser is one that won’t strip away your skin’s natural oils, as you need to preserve these as much as possible. 

Opt for a mild and gentle cleanser, and use this at the end of each day. 

Anti-Acne Treatments

The same anti-acne treatments that are used for other types of acne can also be used to target acne caused by menopause. 

What are these treatments? 

The most common is salicylic acid, which will help to exfoliate the inside of your pores and clear away any dirt or dead skin cells.

Benzoyl peroxide is another popular acne treatment that you may have heard of, but this is something best stayed away from for acne caused by menopause. 

Why? 

Because one of its side effects is the way in which it is extremely drying on the skin. As mentioned above, dryness is something that you will already be experiencing during menopause, so you definitely don’t want to be exacerbating it. 

If you feel as though you would really benefit from using benzoyl peroxide, you would be best off using it as a spot treatment. 

What does this mean? 

It means you apply the solution directly to each pimple, rather than to your entire face. 

Supplemental Estrogen

As mentioned above, HRT medications can sometimes increase breakouts, due to the way in which they change the levels of different hormones in your body. 

However, certain types of HRT can actually help with acne, with many women experiencing a clearer complexion because of this. 

Tempted to give HRT a try? 

Well, you will need to be showing some of the other detrimental menopausal symptoms first, as a doctor will rarely prescribe these medications solely for skin care purposes. 

The side effects of HRT are also quite serious, and include: 

  • Heart disease 
  • Increased risk of stroke 
  • Breast cancer 

Dietary Adjustments

With your skin being the largest organ in your body, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that adjusting your diet can have a huge impact on your skin. 

Many people don’t realize just how significant their diet is when it comes to acne, even acne caused by menopause, but a few simple changes can really help to reduce breakouts. 

What should you be changing in your diet? 

Here are a few tips: 

  • Cut back on dairy – while dairy doesn’t cause everyone to breakout, milk contains hormones that can increase the amount of testosterone and other androgen hormones that your body produces, resulting in breakouts 
  • Eat more phytoestrogens – as you can tell from the name, phytoestrogens are foods that are able to mimic the natural estrogen in the body. While they may not be as powerful as your natural estrogen, they can still trick your body into believing that more of this hormone is present, resulting in fewer breakouts. Foods that are high in phytoestrogens include soy, nuts, nut butters and seeds, all of which also have many other skin-boosting benefits 
  • Cut back on sugar – sugar causes inflammation within the body and skin, which exacerbates breakouts. Not only that, but cutting back on sugar will help to minimize the other symptoms that menopause brings too 
  • Spearmint tea – research suggests that spearmint tea can help to reduce the amount of androgens circulating through the blood, but make sure that you don’t drink more than two cups a day, even if you find that the tea is helping with your breakouts 
  • Oral supplements – there are a few dietary supplements that can help to stabilize fluctuating hormones. These include biotin, folic acid, vitamins C and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and iodine

Topical Retinoids

Retinoids are a form of vitamin A, and are not only famous for being one of the most effective anti-aging ingredients out there, but are also fantastic for treating acne. 

How do they do this? 

In a few different ways…

Firstly, retinoids mildly exfoliate the skin, helping to reduce the build-up in pores that lead to acne. 

Retinoids are also able to increase skin cell turnover and control the amount of sebum the skin produces, both of which also help with acne. 

Wondering what the anti-aging benefits you can expect to experience are? 

Well, retinoids are effective at stimulating the body into producing more collagen and elastin, both of which will help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while also thickening and strengthening the skin. Since the skin thins with age, this is something that can really help to prevent the visible signs of aging from appearing sooner than they need to. 

Of course, you do also need to be aware of the side effects of retinoids…

This is an extremely potent ingredient, and when you first start using it, you will likely experience dryness, flakiness and redness. 

This is the point at which many people stop using retinoids, but that’s the last thing you should do…

Instead, hold out and wait for a few weeks, giving your skin some time to learn how to tolerate and adapt to the ingredient. Side effects will fade and you will soon notice nothing but improvements in your skin. 

During the first few weeks, you need to make sure that you are only use retinoids a couple of times a week, and have opted for a low dose. After your skin has grown accustomed to it, you can then switch up to a higher dose and begin using the ingredient more frequently.

One more thing to keep in mind when it comes to retinoids…This is an ingredient that gets degraded when exposed to sunlight, meaning that you will experience the best results if you save your retinoids for night time use. 

Light Therapy

Light therapy makes use of different wavelengths of light, also known as colors, to target different parts of the skin. 

When it comes to acne, blue light therapy is the most effective. 

Female patient undergoing blue light therapy for her face

How does this actually work? 

The light targets the P.acnes bacteria on the skin, which is the bacteria responsible for breakouts. It destroys them and prevents breakouts from occurring. 

If oily skin is exacerbating your menopausal acne, blue light therapy can help with this too by reducing the amount of sebum your skin produces.

Unfortunately, this is not a permanent solution, and you will need to undergo light therapy treatments quite a few times a year. 

If you find that this method works well for you, it may be more convenient to purchase an at-home light therapy device, so that you can enjoy the treatments in the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you. 

Menopausal acne can be tough to deal with, especially when you are already coping with all of the other symptoms that menopause brings. Rather than letting your acne bring you down, follow some of the treatment steps mentioned above to reduce your breakouts and clear your skin up, allowing the health of your skin to thrive. 

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