For most people, there are certain life stages that prove more troublesome to the skin than others. The teenage years usually provide the first hint of the role hormones play as we age. Menopause is another. With so many spa-goers over the age of 50, it stands to reason that menopause is an issue that needs to be addressed. Many spas and skincare companies have already begun to tackle the topic with programs, workshops, and even specific product lines formulated to treat menopausal skin. Here, a variety of skincare experts share the effects menopause has on the skin, ingredients with the potential to help, and advice on how your spa can help women through this transitional time.
Cause and Effect
While menopause can create a variety of unwanted changes in the body, one of the most visible is the effect it has on the skin. “I consider menopausal skin to be somewhat of a syndrome,” says Howard Murad, M.D., founder of Murad Skincare. “The sudden reduction of hormones in women in their 50s and 60s who are experiencing menopause will cause their skin to look and feel quite different, due in some part to poor circulation and blood flow to the complexion, which in turn, causes a dull and lackluster appearance.”
Dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., also points to the decrease in estrogen that menopausal women experience as being a major culprit when it comes to causing dry and itchy skin. Women may also notice diminished skin elasticity and more wrinkles due to the loss of collagen. “During menopause, normal hormone levels are affected, and fluctuations occur,” says Melissa Morris, corporate educator for Pevonia. “Estrogen levels decrease, and the skin may experience symptoms such as dryness, dehydration, hyperpigmentation, sensitivity, and more.”
According to Karen Asquith, director of education for G.M. Collin, the skin may also experience reduced lipid production between the cells that make up the skin’s protective barrier. The fact that the aging process has shifted into overdrive may seem sufficiently challenging, but it doesn’t stop there, as an increase in sebum is also a possibility. “During the initial phases of menopause, it is not uncommon to observe the appearance of breakouts in some women,” says Morris. Needless to say, menopause doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Fortunately, spas are in a prime position to help women meet these challenges. While anti-aging products and treatments have long played a prominent role in the industry, few spas give menopausal skin the attention it deserves. “The greatest challenge of treating menopausal skin is that the cause of these symptoms need to be treated,” says Murad. “It’s much more than just spot treating the symptoms topically—we need to treat from the inside out. The cause of the symptoms is a lack of estrogen. In order to obtain improvements in the visible effects of menopause, you need to address this.” For some women, that may mean hormone replacement. For others, it means adopting an inclusive approach that incorporates a healthy diet, proper stress management, and a reliance on high-performance topical ingredients.
Diana Howard, vice president of research and
development for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, recommends hydrators like hyaluronic acid, as well as lipids, such as argan oil, avocado oil, evening primrose oil, sweet almond oil, and tocopherol, to help reinforce the barrier lipid layer. “Alpha hydroxy acids help to even out skintone and exfoliate the epidermis while retinoids and vitamin C help build collagen to fight wrinkles,” says Howard.
According to Morris, some of the latest ingredients to benefit the skin include sorghum extract for loss of elasticity, diacetyl boldine and oligopeptide-68 for hyperpigmentation, and natural peptides for collagen and elastin support. On the horizon are new stem-cell related ingredients, which Morris notes as showing promise in treating menopausal skin. Jan Marini, CEO of Jan Marini Skin Research, also notes the use of anti-inflammatories, tyrosinase inhibitors, retinoids, telomerase boosters, and even growth factors.
Some ingredients, such as phytoestrogens, are noted for their ability to address hormonal imbalances. These plant chemicals mimic human estrogens and can now be found in a myriad of products, including Murad’s Resurgence line. “To address the signs of aging that are associated with menopause, look for phytoestrogens like black cohosh, soybean, and wild yam,” says Murad. Howard cautions, however, that phytoestrogens may be somewhat limited in the benefits they provide. “Some studies suggest phytoestrogens may help protect against photo damage, but as for building collagen to fight signs of aging, they will likely not penetrate deep enough, and our skin lacks the enzymes required to convert them into active components that mimic estrogens,” she says.
While technology evolves, skincare companies are working to fill the void left by diminishing estrogen levels. For example, G.M. Collin launched its H50 Therapy line to counteract the effects of menopausal skin at the hormonal, chronological, and environmental levels. “We address the loss of estrogen with iris florentina root extract, a natural ingredient that mimics estrogen, and palmitoyl tetrapeptide 7, which mimics DHEA, to preserve the structural integrity of the skin,” says Asquith.
G.M. Collin also introduced a half-day seminar on menopausal skin to help equip estheticians with the knowledge to treat and educate the growing number of clients dealing with the skin challenges that accompany menopause. “Hormonally disrupted skin was not something that was addressed as a specific concern until recently, as most skincare products simply focused on anti-aging in general,” says Asquith. “With more than 600 million women older than 50 years old in the world and an estimated 78.2 million baby boomers in the U.S., we could see that there was definitely a need to provide advanced education to skincare professionals with regards to menopausal skin.”
According to Marini, it’s no easy task treating menopausal skin. “Because menopause is multifaceted and complex, facial skin needs to be treated in a multifaceted manner,” says Marini. “There is no one product, service, or treatment that will address a multitude of issues. Adding to the challenge is that menopause affects everyone differently.” Some women may experience hot flashes, for example, which may affect their comfort level during a treatment. Howard recommends creating a relaxing setting to put them at ease. “Remember that menopausal women may have warmer body temperatures and often do not like to be wrapped up in hot blankets or have treatments on a heated pad,” she says. In fact, she suggests incorporating cooling packs on the neck to ensure a more comfortable service.
In whatever way you’re able to help your menopausal clients deal with this natural stage of life, it’s sure to earn you their loyalty. It’s become such a relevant topic that many spas are going beyond just skincare to tackle other related symptoms, such as a waning sex drive, difficulty sleeping, and more. In fact, Miraval Resort & Spa (Tucson, AZ) actually has an on-site expert on this midlife transition. Sheryl Brooks, R.N., a National Menopause Society-certified practitioner and a certified health coach, leads a workshop titled, Menopause: What You Need to Know. “Spas can help women create a lifestyle that enables them to become the healthiest version of themselves as possible,” says Brooks. “For some women, this means focusing on relaxation and stress management techniques, such as meditation. For others, learning how to make healthy food choices or creating an exercise plan that they can sustain takes precedence.”
If your spa has yet to address this natural phase, now is the time. “The best thing a spa can do to help women through this transitional time is to treat everyone as an individual and address the underlying causes, as well as the visible symptoms, by taking an inclusive health approach,” says Murad. “Everybody is unique. What affects one woman will not necessarily affect another.” However, all women could use some help in making the journey through menopause a bit easier.