Skin problems take on a new meaning once you cross the threshold from your late 40s to 50s. According to Smithtown, NY dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, most skin changes in women 50 and older are due to the effects of perimenopause or menopause. “Hormonal changes and a decrease of estrogen, which plays a role in retaining moisture and supporting skin thickness, cause the skin to become thinner and drier, leading to wrinkling and laxity.” In addition, skin also experiences a drop in the amount and quality of collagen, elastin, and natural levels of hyaluronic acid, making once minor skin concerns major obstacles.
Curious to know what skin over 50 needs? We tapped top dermatologists for their insight, and what they share is quite surprising.
Super Dry Skin
Estrogen levels decrease as menopause approaches, causing the skin to become thin, dry and crepey and lose its youthful, hydrated plumpness. Add environmental factors to the mix, and the amount of moisture the skin can retain decreases dramatically.
Louisville, KY dermatologist Tami Cassis, MD says a lack of hydration becomes an issue with age. “There are natural aging changes and a decrease of hormones, which lead the charge in aging, so the skin doesn’t heal as well, and skin cells don’t turn over as rapidly.” The effect: dry skin that’s hard to quench.
Dr. Peredo shares that more mature skin requires richer, thicker hydrating creams over lotions and serums. “Opt for hydrating ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid. There’s also topical methyl estradiol propanoate (MEP), an estrogen-like cosmeceutical and an active ingredient in Biopelle’s Emepelle line that improves skin dryness, laxity, atrophy, and dullness.”
However, ensuring that your anti-aging efforts don’t sacrifice your skin’s health is critical. For example, Dr. Cassis says strong tretinoins will dry out the skin. Instead, she recommends using a mild retinol nightly rather than a stronger tretinoin a few times weekly.
If all your efforts still leave your skin feeling dry, see a hormone specialist about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BRHT), which reintroduces hormones similar to those lost.
Lackluster Skin That’s Lost its Glow
Dull, do-nothing skin is a common complaint amongst the 50-plus crowd as glowy skin becomes harder to achieve.
The skin naturally sloughs off dead cells, but that process slows with time. So gentle yet effective exfoliation that rids the skin of pore-clogging dead skin cells that can prevent light from reflecting is vital. “Regular exfoliation keeps the skin cells turning over and regenerating,” Dr. Cassis says.
So how often should 50-something skin be exfoliated? Dr. Cassis says as often as your skin can tolerate it, be it weekly or every few days.
Collagen-stimulating ingredients such as retinol and topical vitamin C can also perk up the skin. “Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants, and in menopausal skin, it increases collagen synthesis and production, stabilizes collagen fibers, decreases collagen degradation, and helps with skin brightness,” Dr. Peredo shares.
Breakouts can, unfortunately, be an issue at 50 and beyond. Whether acne has been a long-standing problem or is something new, there’s almost always a connection to fluctuating hormone levels—or in this case, hormonal dips. “Hormonal changes and imbalances and a lack of estrogen can cause hormonal or menopausal acne,” Dr. Peredo says.
The best way to prevent breakouts is by following an effective routine that eliminates bacteria, reduces oil and keeps dead skin and inflammation at bay. Incorporating blemish-busting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide will help keep the pores clear. Retinol and retinoids speed up cell turnover rate while increasing collagen production, which is also helpful. Dr. Peredo adds that lasers, chemical peels and microneedling with radiofrequency can also help clear up the skin.
Dr. Cassis says your dermatologist can prescribe topical or oral medication when needed so that you don’t have to battle acne and aging skin simultaneously, “because menopause is hard enough on its own.”
Stubborn Brown Spots
The effects of the sun sometimes don’t catch up until later in life, so if you’re seeing hard-to-get-rid-of brown spots on your skin, it’s time to erase them. Over time, long-term cumulative sun damage shows up, often affecting one side of the face more than the other, as well as the neck and chest.
Pigment and brown spots can become more noticeable and harder to erase at 50-plus. That’s why a multi-prong skin-brightening regimen that includes retinol, a pigment-correcting cream like Cystamine, antioxidants and in-office treatments such as chemical peels, Intense Pulse Light (IPL) and pigment-targeting lasers are necessary to lighten spots.