Menopause is a period of immense change not only for your body but for your skin too. With the imbalance of hormones and the notable loss of oestrogen come changes that happen to your skin in menopause. Up until recently, women have been poorly served in this category, with mid-life skincare heavily marketed towards anti-ageing, says skin expert and facialist Fiona Brackenbury.
"Actually the loss of collagen is just one of many elements the skin experiences during menopause. It would be a lot easier if there was just one thing that happened to your skin during menopause but there are at least seven different changes that can influence the skin and sometimes it can feel like they can happen overnight. You may see all of the changes or just a few," she says.
When you’re going through a huge hormonal life change it can be hard to know unless you’re armed with a degree in skincare ingredients, what your skin now needs and the changes you should be making. This is why, thankfully, many newer ranges are clearly labelled for menopausal skin. When Boots No7 launched Menopause Skincare recently, 75 per cent of the menopausal women they polled said they wanted to see the M-word on the packaging.
We asked Fiona to sum up the menopausal skin changes we're dealing with. "You have fewer natural oils, and the decline in the lipid production causes dehydration and dryness. The skin's support mattress becomes thinner, skin creases easily, skin structure changes and loses its bounce and plumpness and this is due to the decline in collagen production, oestrogen normally binds to receptors which influence the production of proteins such as collagen, elastin and gives the skin structure, helps wound healing and ultimately gives the skin firmness.
"The skin becomes more sensitive, the barrier becomes weaker and therefore the skin is more reactive and due to this important part of the skin becoming compromised we see a huge increase in transepidermal water loss. The skin can look and feel, tired, dull and lose vitality and vibrancy."
This is where a specifically formulated menopause product or range can be helpful. "Hormonally depleted skin requires an exquisite combination of high-performance ingredients to address the multitude of changes that take place. And no one has time to apply all of these ingredients as single ingredient products - it’s just not necessary!" explains GP Dr Johanna Ward, founder of Zenii London Skincare, who has just launched a menopause and perimenopause-focused day and night cream Zenii London Rebalance £85.
What should a good menopause skincare product have in it? Dr Ward says to look for ingredients that 'talk' to the fibroblasts to increase collagen production such as bakuchiol (a retinol alternative for sensitive skin) as well as peptides, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and ceramides to keep skin hydrated, niacinamide for skin barrier support as well as anti-inflammatory ingredients such as bisabolol (from chamomile) to calm the skin.
There is of course nuance within each range from the type of products on offer, how they feel and how you apply them and that will be determined by your personal preference but at least you can shop with the knowledge that these products are going to contain the ingredients your skin is desperately crying out for at this specific stage of your life. Get The Gloss’ Editorial Director, Victoria Woodhall has tried nearly every dedicated menopause skincare range out there and this is her pick of the best products to try.
With 14 years of research behind it, Vichy has created the Neovadiol range for every stage of menopause and this one is for perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause (which is technically only one day - the one-year anniversary of your periods stopping. Within the perimenopause range, there are two creams - day and night (curiously they haven't put the word perimenopause on the packaging) a day cream, night cream and a serum. The entire Neovadiol range has a host of other products for post-menopausal skin and mid-life necks.
Our pick of the best products
Peri-Menopause Plumping Day Cream, £32
What is it?: As with all Vichy products, this day moisturiser contains the brand’s unique, and super hydrating, volcanic water. It’s teamed with hyaluronic acid to help hydrate even the most parched skin. There is also super skin ingredient, proxylane which helps thicken and plump up the skin.
Victoria’s verdict: "Much French pharmacy skincare can be highly scented and they've definitely dialled it down for this day cream, which is quite rich and does a great job of keeping your skin hydrated and comfortable. It's most suited to drier skin types. "
Peri & Post-Menopause Meno 5 Bi-Serum, £39
What is it?: Designed to be used morning and night, this light serum - it’s almost like an essence in its consistency - contains ingredients such as glycolic acid, vitamin C and niacinamide to target elasticity, boost hydration and get skin glowing again.
Victoria’s verdict: “My skin is usually parched when I wake up and using this first thing is like wetting a sponge. You shake to mix the oil and water. This is a serum that meets all the basic needs of menopausal skin - calming, hydrating and brightening ."
As with most things No7 does do, no stone was left unturned when it came to creating a skincare range for menopausal skin. This collection of four products - there’s a serum, a cooling mist, (which is high in drying alcohol - one to skip in our view) an SPF Day Cream and a night cream. It has been five years in the making and has been put through rigorous clinical testing as well as having invaluable input from 7,000 menopausal women. Read our No7 Menopause Skincare review for all the details.
Our pick of the best products
Instant Radiance Serum, £32.95
What is it? A lightweight serum containing No7's lauded powerful peptide blend Matrixyl 3000+t hat targets deep lines and wrinkles, hydrating hyaluronic acid, a soothing camomile extract and ceramides and lipids to strengthen the skin barrier. It comes with a metal roller applicator that has been designed to feel cooling on the skin.
Victoria’s verdict: “The serum feels really soothing on the skin. I’ll be honest I’m not totally sold by the rollerball - I found it hard to manoeuvre and ended up using it to get the serum on my face and using my fingers to massage it in. But I like that they've researched all the effects of menopause and made a serum that tackles each one of the six concerns. My skin did feel very conditioned after using it."
Nourishing Overnight Cream, £32.95
What is it?: A thick, buttery night cream that contains the signature collagen peptide Matrixyl 3000+ and multi-vitamin antioxidant complex as well as ceramides to restore lipids and calming niacinamide.
Victoria’s verdict: “I used this alongside the serum and I think the combination of the two works brilliantly. It sinks into the skin beautifully and I woke up with noticeably less dryness. It is fragranced, but it has a lighter touch than other No7 ranges and less fragrance, which is a big tick from me.”
Prai MenoGlow Best for dull and flushed skin
Prai was one of the first brands to embrace a range for women going through menopause with MenoGlow at M&S and it was created so that women could embrace their menopause journey and feel proud about it. It has got all skincare bases covered with a cleanser, tonic, serum, sleep mask, day and night cream and a hot flush neck cream
Our pick of the best products
MenoGlow Tonic, £23
What is it?: This new exfoliating tonic combines all the big-hitting acids that get skin glowing quickly; glycolic, lactic, citric, malic and tartaric, and aims to remove dead skin cells that lay on the skin surface making skin look dull.
Victoria’s verdict: "This is quite a strong toner but as dullness and pigmentation are key menopausal issues, it works hard to tackle those. Like most Prai products it's pretty scented, which is a personal choice. Used once or twice a week this will help your other skincare skin in deeper because you've removed the crud."
MenoGlow Hot Flush Cool Fix Serum, £30
What is it?: Containing the brand’s signature M Complex that works on boosting collagen production and hydration, it also has a double-pronged approach to help cool flushing skin. The first is the metal rollerball applicator and the second is menthol which feels ice-cool on the skin.
Victoria’s verdict: "I enjoyed using this with its large roller that you can sweep all around the neck and decolletage and if you have hot flushes putting this in the fridge is heavenly. It also reminds you not to forget the chest and neck which almost seem to go crepey overnight in perimenopause."
Emepelle - Best HRT 'alternative'
Both products in this range contain a unique skincare active called MEP. It encourages the skin to behave as it does pre-oestrogen levels dropping by activating key skin cell receptors that activate new oestrogen receptors, which results in fresher, plumper skin. There is a serum and night cream which have been designed to be used together. It's an evidence-based range lauded by doctors such as Dr Sophie Shotter.
Our pick of the best products
Emepelle Serum, £135
What is it? Not only does the silky serum contain the clever MEP technology, but you'll also find niacinamide which is the ‘everyman’ of skincare ingredients - improving tone and texture - peptides, to help improve skin firmness and hyaluronic acid to boost moisture. Victoria’s verdict: "When Dr Sophie Shotter said this worked and was backed up by studies I could see why the price tag was high. The serum is 36ml as opposed to the 50ml moisturiser which may account for the lower price. both are effective, but if you prefer a lighter product then go for this and use it with your normal moisturiser."
Emepelle Night Cream, £175
What is it? As well as the ingredients you can find in the serum, the night cream has the extra addition of the inclusion of retinol to work on the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Victoria’s verdict: "This very rich cream needs only the smallest amount and users saw 'dramatic' result in clinical trials in four to six weeks. If you take HRT you may not need this cream but if you don't, this is a non-hormonal way to help mimic lost oestrogen."
Korres Meno-reverse Best natural and sustainable menopause skincare
This tight range by Greek 'clean' beauty brand Korres has been formulated for post-menopausal skin however, we think it’s perfect for perimenopause and during menopause too. It consists of four products; an age spot concentrate, a serum-in-moisturiser, a richer day cream and a night cream. It's a plant-based range The star ingredient here is white pine which contains polyphenols, which protect the skin from further damage as well as boost collagen production and hydration levels.
Deep Wrinkle, Plumping + Age Spot Concentrate, £63
What is it? As it says on the tin, this is a targeted treatment to tackle wrinkles and age spots which can become more noticeable and more prevalent thanks to menopause. It’s also excellent for rebalancing oil levels in the skin and helping keep pores clear. Designed to be used post-cleanse and under your moisturiser, day and night.
Victoria’s verdict: “Korres always makes my skin go aaah. This is self-care meets potent plant-based skin care."
Volumizing Serum-in-Moisturizer, £47
What is it? Very much designed to be used in conjunction with the concentrate, this gorgeous, bouncy gel-like cream does all the above and also gets to work on increasing volume in the skin.
Victoria’s verdict: “Award-winning and justifiably so with a beautiful texture. Friends also tell me this is the one they buy on repeat."
Indeed Labs have always broken boundaries in skincare and they were the first to champion bakuchiol as a retinol alternative and have always remained affordable for the level of activities they have and were also one of the first ingredient-led brands to make their messaging more accessible with colourful and fun branding. The Me-No-Pause range has two products: a day and night cream and a cooling mist.
Me-no-pause Restorative Cream, £24.99
What is it? A fragrance-free restorative cream with a phytoestrogen complex that helps with collagen production and building the skin’s moisture barrier and calming the skin.
Victoria’s verdict: "This light-ish cream could easily be your default peri/menopause day/night moisturiser as it covers the most important bases, collagen stimulating, age-proofing and nourishing with shea butter and avocado oils, hydrating and calming and has no fragrance. You can add actives serums to it such as bakuchiol and vitamin C as and when your skin needs them or make it richer with a few drops of oil. This is a cream that suits all the many micro-climates of menopausal skin."
Me-no-pause Cooling Mist, £13.99
What is it? An alcohol-free cooling mist with soothing cucumber extract and a host of other botanical ingredients to hydrate and balance your skin
Victoria’s verdict: "As I recall Indeed Labs were the first to boldly stick the word menopause on the packaging and really own it - and for that alone I salute them."So many cooling mists rely on alcohol to do the work, which makes them a no for my dry skin (and anyone whose skin can be easily irritated. The cooling effect comes from cucumber. I love the freshness that I get from this and the way it revives my skin and makes me take a calming breath."
Created by skin doctor and GP, Dr Johanna Ward this one pot ticks many boxes and covers off all your menopausal skin concerns. Its been designed to be used as a day and night cream from your perimenopausal 40s to post-menopause - and you can also use it around the eyes, all over the neck and décollete. It's not a menopause range as such, but it ticks the boxes of serum, moisturizer, eye cream, day and night cream plus neck cream.
What is it? A velvety cream with ingredients that target inflammation, reduce free radical damage, talk to the fibroblasts (collagen and elastin makers) that decrease glycation (sugar damage to the skin), help improve hydration and improve barrier function so there is less water loss and reactivity in the skin. It also contains a truffle extract that helps reduce skin sensitivity and inflammation along with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and the alt-retinol bakuchiol to soften wrinkles and fine lines – pretty much everything really, ethically sourced where possible.
Victoria's verdict: "Dr Jo spends months, often years, getting the formulations for Zenii right and really has come up with a does it all cream with actives in that make a measurable difference without irritation. It's a delight to use. Yes, pricey, but you know every element is considered and effective. This is an investment cream that peri- and menopausal women can have confidence in."
Vive: Best calming menopuase skincare with CBD
What is it? This new five-piece range was founded by Italian research scientist Marina Tarni, who'd spent her career working in skincare. When she entered perimenopause, she found her skin becoming more reactive and breakout-prone, but couldn't find anything that took down the redness and irritation and that addressed breakouts and dryness too and made the skin more resilient. So she turned to the ingredients that she knew worked to produce a natural range based around the calming properties of CBD, the barrier-building and breakout-busting powers of niacinamide as well as zinc oxide for sun protection, plus protective antioxidant vitamins C and E. She tried them for a year on her skin before launching the products.
Victoria's verdict: "I was really pleasantly surprised at how good the Vive Concentrated Recovery Serum, £60 and Vive Night Recovery Cream, £60 were at preventing trans-epidermal water loss. Many women sweat out a lot of water at night, but this keeps it effectively locked in without feeling heavy or greasy. For daytime, I liked the universally tinted Vive BB Defence Cream, £60 as a moisturiser over the serum, which has a physical factor 15 protection - so you do need a good everyday SPF as well. It's a range that makes you feel looked after and soothed and suits skin that's combination - dry in places yet breakout prone and oily in others."