Updated: Feb 26
When a woman hits menopause and during the year approaching menopause the skin starts to break down in structure.
Apart from ageing and the wear and tear this brings for the whole body not just skin, for women declining oestrogen levels are one of the main factors in skin ageing.
The reason for this is there are oestrogen receptors in the skin. As the whole body oestrogen levels decline so do we lose these receptors at our skin membrane.
Studies have shown that oestrogen deprivation in postmenopausal conditions accelerates many skin changes, including dryness, atrophy, fine wrinkling, and poor wound healing. Oestrogen in women plays key roles not only in reproductive health but other areas of health also. In fact, there are oestrogen receptors throughout the body including the cardiovascular system, bone, nervous system, liver, gastrointestinal tract, breast and urogenital tract.
Oestrogen helps skin ageing in various ways these include, maintains skin moisture by increasing acid mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid in the skin, protects skin collagen preventing it from breaking down and this keeps the skin thick, maintains skin sebum levels, protects skin elasticity and protects the skin against wrinkling.
In some aspects, it may feel like a woman aged over a course of months once hit menopause officially which is after 1 year with no menstrual bleeding. However one needs to be aware of declining oestrogen levels during peri-menopause which may last anything up to 10 years. Once a woman hits menopause skin elasticity can decrease by 1.5% per year, and collagen content by 2% per postmenopausal year.
These are sobering figures in terms of skin health. There are many anti-ageing products on the market that claim to address these areas of deficiencies in mature skin however is this not just putting a mask on a problem? If the main cause of the skin plumpness and elasticity is declining oestrogen would it not make sense to supplement hormone replacement therapy?
This has been a source of controversy for many years as there are concerns with regards to HRT and cardiovascular disease risk. However, there are also some risks for this disease with declining oestrogen levels. There are also concerns with oestrogen sensitive cancers and HRT.
Bioidentical hormones that can be used for those that want to address declining hormones or natural phytoestrogen plant supplements can be used. If you choose to do bioidentical hormone therapy you would need to consult a doctor that can prescribe this medication for you as they contain hormones. However, as a Nutritional Therapist, I am interested in natural alternatives that are researched to make a difference.
As it turns out there are topical oestrogen creams and serums that can be used that make a difference to declining hormones. Some of these products are specifically produced to target menopausal skin again. Research shows the hormones are not detected in blood test so they hormones or plant chemicals have a localized effect and are targeting the oestrogen receptors in the skin.
Some of these creams are highly-priced and may not be available to many due to high costs. Research shows that plant phytoestrogens (plant chemicals that have a mild estrogenic activity in the body) are equally effective for occupying these hormone receptors. some of these natural creams are made using wild yam or soy isoflavones such as daidzein, equol.
Equol is a metabolite produced in vivo from the soy phytoestrogen daidzein by the action of gut microflora. In simpler terms, it is produced in the gut by healthy bacteria that ferments soya. Of course, you would need to have the right type of bacteria that likes to ferment soy products to have the same benefit.
Another plant chemical with a phytoestrogen effect on the same skin receptor is resveratrol found in grapes potent antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties. Apart from these, there are many more plants/herbs that have a phyto-estrogenic effect on the body these include red clover, fermented soy foods such as tempeh, miso, tamari, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, apples, carrots, pomegranates, strawberries, cranberries, grapes, lentils and beans, alfalfa sprouts, and oats and wheat germ, hops.
To target skin ageing I would be inclined to use a phytoestrogen that contains a concentrated source of plant chemicals to have the desired effect. Any other topical treatment would be layered in addition to this.
The nutritional aspect of skin also needs to be considered whenever we talk about skin health.
We know antioxidants have a role to play in skin health and can be protective against skin ageing.
Essential fats are essential for skin suppleness and cell health.
Vitamins A, E and C have important roles to play in skin health.
Water, important to keep your skin hydrated
An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables essential for a healthy body and skin with their plant chemicals, minerals and vitamins
Bone broths contain important nutrients that support a healthy skin structure, hyaluronic acid and collagen.
Get enough sleep every night.
Cut out smoking
Cut down on alcohol as it is dehydrating on the skin.
Cut back on coffee and tea.
Do not expose the skin to the sun for extended periods of time. Cover skin if you will be out and about for long periods of time.
Moisturise your skin to stop it from drying out.
Consider using red light therapy for its anti-ageing benefits.