When Menopause And Stress Collide, This Is How Your Skin Reacts
As women experiencing the three stages of menopause - perimenopause, menopause or postmenopause - we've already got enough on our physical, mental and emotional plates. But add in the type of next-level, pandemic-related stress we've all been dealing with for the last six months and guess what?
Our skin is not happy.
While we've got plenty of skincare solutions to stressed-out skin (hello, Detox Serum! more on that, and other Pause Well-Aging skin saviors, below), we wanted to dive deeper, and explore what really happens when menopause and stress collide.
To do that, we tapped the help of Beverly Hills celebrity dermatologist Ava Shamban. Although we were interrupting her summer "work-cation" in Aspen, "Dr. Ava," as she's known, was very generous with her time and insights.
Dr. Ava's Key Takeaways On "Menopause Meets Stress"
1. Due to menopausal hormone imbalance, the deck is already stacked against us.
"Menopause is basically multifactorial, with hormone imbalance being the top culprit for our skin issues," Dr. Ava says. "All hormonal fluctuations cause skin changes - periods, ovulation, pregnancy, perimenopause, etc." In other words, if you're a woman, expect a lifetime of complexion ups and downs.
2. Stress greatly exacerbates our built-in hormone imbalance.
"Stress is often partnered with hormone spikes, restlessness or sleeplessness and emotional eating - all of which contributes to more damage to the dermis, along with a different set of hormone changes," she notes. "The combination of stress and menopause can lead to a plummet in some hormones and a spike in others - androgens, testosterone and cortisol - that can actually cause acne breakouts."
3. Pandemic challenges are making "menopause meets stress" much worse.
While stress-related flareups are affecting every age category, Dr. Ava says she's seeing an uptick in such conditions as eczema, rosacea and psoriasis in her perimenopausal and menopausal patients. The "trifecta of added stress, hormone changes and lack of in-office care during the quarantine" have kept her extraordinarily busy in recent months.
4. Due to a shift in our pH level in menopause, we can be extra "mask sensitive."
Aaaah "maskne," the pandemic-generated skin condition Pause Well-Aging Founder and CEO Rochelle Weitzner addressed at length in this blog post. According to Dr. Ava, masks are one of many skin irritants for menopausal skin. "Our pH often changes with menopause, and therefore we are more reactive or sensitive to masks, anti-bacterial products, general skincare pollutants and pathogens."
5. Our hair is also paying a steep price for the excessive stress we're under.
Because dermatologists consider the scalp an extension of facial skin, it makes sense that Dr. Ava would include hair in the "menopause meets stress" equation. At midlife, she says, "Hair changes are noticeable, with two of the worst-case scenarios colliding during this time and and exacerbated by stressors. As estrogen and other hormone levels fall, we start to experience dry, damaged, brittle hair or hair loss on our heads, and unwanted hair along the lip, jaw or chin." For help with the latter issue - excessive facial hair - read our comprehensive guide to removal.
The Pause Well-Aging Anti-Stress Strategy
Stressed-out? We get it. We're feeling the effects of the pandemic - not to mention age-related hormone imbalance - right along with you!
In addition to maintaining a daily skincare regimen consisting of a gentle cleanser (our soothing Hydrating Cleanser just won an O-Ward from The Oprah Magazine!), Collagen Boosting Moisturizer and Eye Renewal Treatment, we've been relying heavily on these skincare MVPs:
1. Hot Flash Cooling Mist to spritz away stress-triggered hot flashes.
2. Detox Serum to fight stress-generated hormonal acne, treat and prevent maskne. Bonus: it not only balances, it brightens, too!
3. Fascia Stimulating Tool to defuse tension (and boost collagen production!) It really gets the kinks out of our neck and shoulders and is a staple of our self-care routines.