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Getting pimples although you used to have clear skin? More inflammation in the second phase of your cycle like rosacea, red patches, enlarged pores? Maybe even eczema? Sagging skin?
Unfortunately we’re not only getting more wrinkles as we age, our skin is also losing elasticity and due to hormone fluctuations can be more prone to acne, breakouts or inflammatory skin conditions.
And then when our estrogen drops, we get more wrinkles, lose elasticity and get really dry skin.
In perimenopause, almost every woman is experiencing estrogen dominance at some point (due to the decline of progesterone that throws off your balance) which is causing the unclear skin (reminder of puberty that now gets into reverse mode YAY).
But many women are also suffering from increased inflammation during perimenopause and throughout menopause.
Did you know that from 30 years on, your collagen production drops 1% each year? This is not something you notice immediately, but that’s why when you get to your late thirties, more lines and wrinkles appear. In the first 5 years of menopause collagen drops 30% and then about 2% each year for the next years.
Declining estrogen is partly responsible for that, as it leads to increased blood sugar sensitivity that makes us more prone to insulin resistance (it means that the insulin your body produces cannot get into your cells anymore, leading to an excess of glucose in your blood and low energy, brain fog and incerased inflammation as a result).
But also declining progesterone makes us prone to inflammation as it leaves room for cortisol to rise. Elevated cortisol will trigger again your blood sugar to rise, but more importantly, it will put your body in stress mode.
Declining levels of both estrogen and progesterone will also affect the good bacteria in your gut and will make you more vulnerable to leaky gut and developing food sensitivities. Go back to my previous article on this here.
And then let’s not forget about your thyroid that also gets sluggish due to the declining levels of estrogen and progesterone and a sluggish thyroid also can cause dry skin (and hair loss amongst other symptoms). Read more here.
So not only do we get more wrinkles, but also our skin becomes more sensitive, and the closer we get to menopause, it gets drier and less plump.
In perimenopause, many women are struggling with adult acne, increased rosacea, breakouts or itchy skin. Be thankful if you’re not!
What role do your hormones play in this?
Estrogen helps your skin keep hydration and produce collagen, hyaluronic acid and sebum/oil. It makes your skin plump, lush and firm.
As estrogen levels fall, the skin’s reducing oil production. Skin becomes drier, and tiny microtears can form, allowing moisture to escape and irritants and allergens to enter. As a result, skin becomes easily irritated, and you may also see an increase in inflammatory skin conditions.
A lack of estrogen leads to:
Dull skin (dry skin combined with low cell turnover leads to dull skin)
Thinner skin (which can lead to hyperpigmentation)
Accelerated skin aging
Increase in rosacea as estrogen is also involved in blood flow and keeping our veins healthy
Progesterone calms the skin and reduces breakouts, irritations and redness.
Testosterone tones muscles, regulates oil (sebum) production and firms skin.
Stages of skin changes:
Progesterone drops: more tendency to hormonal acne
Estrogen AND progesterone drop: sensitive skin, rosacea, lines & wrinkles, acne, dry skin
Menopause: estrogen and progesterone both very low: dry skin, itchy and sensitive skin
When you have higher inflammation and more sensitive skin, it is important to not only work on your gut health and follow an anti-inflammatory diet, but also to not use skin products that are too harsh for your skin or contain too many chemicals.
What solutions are there to manage your skin in perimenopause?
The number 1 thing to keep up your collagen levels is to eat sufficient protein - we are mainly looking for amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline. Now the ideal food for that is bone broth, gelatine or collagen powder. I’ve been taking collagen powder for a number of years now and am a big fan!
Collagen powder is not for everyone though: people with histamine sensitivity will not have a good experience with it.
Also, don’t forget the vital co-nutrient for collagen: Vitamin C! Yes, you need to consume it and also use it in your skincare to boost your collagen production.
Here are my top 7 foods for great skin:
Vitamin C (parsley, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi, guava & citrus fruit and peel)
Omega 3 fatty acids min 2g per day
Water!!! (and minerals)
Green veggies and all the veggies!
Heal your gut!
You may find this surprising, but almost everyone who’s dealing with skin conditions is dealing with food sensitivities and leaky gut. Overgrowth of dysbiotic bacteria is also often related.
As I mentioned above, itchy skin or allergy-type skin reactions are often linked to histamine overload or sensitivity and the root for that is also often in the gut. It can however, also be exacerbated with excess estrogen dominance. Read more in my previous article about histamine.
Balance your hormones!
Sounds crazy to tame those crazy hormones on the peri roller coaster, I know!
Seriously though: specific foods and herbs can help boost or diminish your hormones. Also your liver and gut play a role in that, so making sure your liver is not overloaded and happy and your gut is happy is the baseline for converting, detoxing and expelling your hormones right.
What skin products to avoid?
When your skin gets sensitive and dry, be careful with using the following products:
Clay masks (will dry out your skin)
Retinol can be too aggressive, opt for Bakuchiol instead
Be careful with too much Vitamin C and acids
Don’t use bubbly and harsh cleansers
No perfumes unless organic essential oils: perfumes are hormone disruptors and also harsh chemicals on your skin
Avoid skin peels and microdermabrasion
What ingredients/products are good for your skin in Perimenopause and Menopause?
Cleanse once a day with a gentle cleanser (ideally cleansing oil with dry skin) or micellar water - if using soap, make sure it’s low pH (between 5&7) and nothing bubblySoothing moisturizers with ceramides, shea butter, fatty acids, squalene, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, which add moisture and help keep it there.
Peptides can help improve cellular communication and renewal
Retinol or Bakuchiol - the anti-aging ingredient
CoQ10 (argan oil)
Collagen stimulating oils like apple pit, cherry pit (can be found at Bioflore)
Use gentle exfoliants to improve dull skin and cell renewal like the Mandelbright Serum from Facetheory that I just recently discovered, or glycolic acid or work with high frequency, galvanic or light therapy
Use hyaluronic acid & niacinamide (for enlarged pores) - be aware that niacinamide will give you an initial flush,some Vitamin B3 products do that too, but it’s not harmful it’s actually protecting your skin from reactions
Ingredients for anti-redness
Green tea, matcha (makes a great mask)
Chamomile flower water or cold tea as a compress
Aloe vera gel
Ingredients for acne - same as above plus:
BHA or salicylic acid
Water-based moisturizers, nothing too heavy/oily
If you just get pimples on your chin around ovulation for instance or before your period, tea tree essential oil is great to just dab on the spots or use a drop in your moisturizer
Tools to keep your skin in shape:
Gua Sha is a great and inexpensive tool to stimulate ocllagen production
Face yoga - tone your face muscles
Frownies - not sure if they work it’s basically patching up your expression wrinkles
Silk pillow covers and or face mask will help lock in the moisture
Radio Frequency Therapy - supposed to be good for firmness and fine lines & wrinkles, can also work well for diminishing scars and spots
LED Red light therapy: great for rosacea, collagen production and inflammation. Also good for psioriasis
LED green light therapy: great for acne
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