Dedicated ranges for menopausal skin are now easy to come by – so which products deserve your time and investment?
Menopause is a period of immense change, for your body as a whole but also very much for your skin. Changes that happen to your skin in menopause come courtesy of a notable drop in oestrogen and imbalance of hormones, but up until quite recently, women were poorly served in this category. Mid-life skincare was really always marketed as ‘anti-ageing’, with few mentions of, and even fewer solutions for, the issues underlying sudden rapid skin changes at this time of life.
"The visible loss of collagen is actually just one of many issues the skin experiences during menopause,” says skin expert and facialist Fiona Brackenbury. “It would be a lot easier if there was just one thing that affected your skin as you go through perimenopause and menopause, but there are multiple changes that can influence it and sometimes it can feel like they all happen overnight. You may see all of them or just a few," she says.
What skin changes are caused by the menopause?
Fiona sums up the menopausal skin changes we're dealing with.
Your skin will produce fewer natural oils, and this can cause dehydration and dryness.
- Wrinkles and sagging
Oestrogen binds to receptors which influence the production of not only collagen, but also elastin and other essential proteins that give the skin structure and firmness and help wound healing. As you lose more and more oestrogen and therefore these structural proteins, the skin's ‘support mattress’ becomes thinner. This means skin creases easily and skin structure changes, losing its bounce and plumpness
- A weakened skin barrier – dehydration and dullness
As the skin barrier becomes less able to patch up damage, we see a huge increase in transepidermal water loss, or water leaching out of the skin. The skin can look and feel tired, dull and lose vitality and vibrancy.
- More sensitivity, redness and inflammation
Less collagen means skin is less capable of wound-healing and suppressing its inflammatory response, while a compromised barrier also leaves skin susceptible to environmental damage and irritation. So even skin that previously never suffered from irritation can suddenly become reactive and have sensitive flare-ups
A drop in oestrogen means that your testosterone may become more dominant, which can cause oily breakouts (even while skin is dehydrated), congestion, and spots, even if you never had acne as a teenager or adult.
Do you really need menopause skincare?
The fact is, there are plenty of products out there that are great for menopausal skin despite not being labelled as such: anything deeply hydrating but not too aggressive, for starters, such as ceramide serums and gel cream moisturisers powered by peptides (for suggestions, see below), is a good choice for skin that’s out of balance and in need of hydration and regeneration.
But unless you’re armed with a degree in skincare ingredients, it can be hard to know what your skin needs and what changes you should be making to your regime. This is where a specifically formulated and labelled 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. No one has time to apply all of these ingredients as single-ingredient products, and neither is it necessary," says GP Dr Johanna Ward, founder of Zenii London Skincare.
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 but are unlikely to cause irritation. Bakuchiol (a retinol alternative for sensitive skin) is one example, as are peptides and vitamin C. Humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin alongside barrier-building lipids and ceramides are important to keep skin hydrated, she says, while niacinamide for skin barrier support and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as bisabolol should be prioritised to calm the skin.
For hormonal acne, top skin doctor Sophie Shotter recommends gold-standard breakout busters such as chemical exfoliant salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, while dullness is best tackled with a not-too-aggressive acid toner, she says. Lactic acid is great, or if your skin is oily or relatively strong, glycolic acid is good too – just don’t go for a huge acid percentage.
The best menopause skincare ranges and products
With all this in mind, we’ve had a look at what is now a wealth of ranges that are clearly labelled for menopausal skin. Their popularity is driven by demand: when Boots No7 launched Menopause Skincare, (see below) 75 per cent of the menopausal women they polled said they wanted to see the previously shirked 'M-word' on the packaging.
Here is what we rate about these products beyond their ‘calling a spade a spade’ attitude.
Best-value menopause serum: Superdrug B. Menopause Firming Serum, £16.99 currently half price.
Hydrating humectants and a nice concentration of collagen-boosting peptides in a straightforward serum that will support struggling skin and not irritate it – unless you’re sensitive to fragrance. There's a night cream a day cream and an eye cream in the range too.
Best for irritated menopausal skin: Made Of More Rescue Balm for Hormonal Skin, £45
It’s a fallacy that maturing skin always requires heavy creams and balms – many women are dehydrated but oily and are better off with lighter gel-creams and serums. But others do get seriously dry and lacking in oils, and if this is compounded by increasing susceptibility to irritation, a seriously replenishing balm can bring relief.
This scent-free one by brand-new meno-skin brand Made of More, created by an entrepreneur and CBD brand owner caught off-guard by her own chaotic perimenopausal skin symptoms, focuses on soothing skin, fast, with CBG (an extra-inflammatory cannabinoid), and a proprietary mushroom and plant extracted ‘HC+ Complex’ that shields, heals, nourishes and tones. It’s rich and oil-based so a little goes a long way, but it can also be deployed as an intensive calming mask.
Best for serious collagen boosting: Living M Super A Retinol Sleep Cream, £45
This brand uses long-proven and much-used ingredients in formulations to suit reactive, needy menopausal skin. This overnight cream’s 0.5% concentration of retinol is pretty potent in order to revive ageing skin (if you’ve never used retinol, you’re better off starting with a 0.1% concentration; try CosRX The Retinol 0.1 Cream, £30), but it’s encapsulated and buffered with ceramides and deep-penetrating hyaluronic acid to off-set irritation and flakiness.
Best light-yet-intensive moisturiser: Balance Me Tripeptide Plumping Cloud Cream, £45
Balance Me is targeted at busy grown-ups and this latest of their moisturisers is particularly perfect, they say, for menopausal skin. Based around ‘filler’ tripeptide Matrixyl Synthe 6 (good at plumping out wrinkles) and an anti-dehydration and barrier-building complex, it gently fights lines while bathing skin in much-needed moisture. It has a gentle aromatherapy scent for added self-care vibes.
Best all-natural menopausal skin support: Forage Botanicals Cool + Calm Face Mist, £24.99
A herbalist-founded brand specialising in herbal remedies and menstrual health, this is one of two new menopause and perimenopause (the latter leads up to the former but the symptoms are pretty much the same)-supporting products. Full of stress-managing herbs and phytoestrogens to alleviate hot flushes and anxiety, plus clary sage and geranium essential oils to balance hormones, this delicate mist also instantly cools and calms flaring, flushing the skin with distilled rose water.
Best for menopausal dullness: Vichy Neovadiol Meno 5 Serum for Perimenopausal and Menopausal Skin, £29.05
A very light serum with glycolic acid, vitamin C and niacinamide, alongside barrier-supporting oils, this targets elasticity, boosts hydration and gets skin glowing again. It’s a bi-phase that you shake before use to blend the oil and water phases and is pretty effective at getting rid of dull skin. If you’re very reactive, though, the glycolic acid in here may not be the best choice for you.
Best for an overnight boost: No7 Menopause Skincare Nourishing Overnight Cream, £32.95
A thick, buttery night cream that contains the No7 signature collagen peptide Matrixyl 3000+ alongside a multi-vitamin antioxidant complex, calming niacinamide and ceramides to restore lipids. Despite its richness, it sinks into the skin beautifully, ensuring you wake with noticeably less dryness. It’s fragranced, but not as heavily as other No7 ranges, which is a bonus for sensitive skin.
Best for a rosy flush: Prai Menoglow MenoGlow Tonic, £23
Prai was one of the first brands to embrace a range for women going through menopause with MenoGlow at M&S, so props for that. This exfoliating tonic combines all the big-hitting acids that get skin glowing, getting rid of dulling dead surface cells (you have more of those in menopause as skin just doesn’t turn over that fast anymore) in a jiffy; glycolic, lactic, citric, malic and tartaric. It’s quite a strong toner and it’s heavily scented, so avoid when you’re very sensitive and limit yourself to using it twice a week.
Best clinical-grade menopause skincare: Emepelle Serum, £120
By far the most expensive of the meno skincare brands, this is also the one most often supported by skin doctors (and clinical evidence), and sold in cosmetic clinics. It’s built around a proprietary ‘MEP’ technology that restores the natural function of oestrogen-deficient skin, encouraging it to act as if all that oestrogen is still present. On top of that, this serum has lots of active vitamin C and ferulic acid, alongside clinically supported levels of
niacinamide and firming peptides, so brighter, plumper, more resilient skin will be yours.
Best menopause plumper: Korres white Pine Meno-reverse serum-in-moisturiser, £47
Formulated for ‘post-menopausal’ skin, this is just as good for perimenopausal and menopausal skin (remember that the actual menopause is technically only lasts one day before you transition to so-called ‘post-menopause’; frankly the terminology is pointless). The star ingredient here is white pine – it’s rich in polyphenols, which are super-antioxidants that shield the skin from environmental attack and boost collagen production and hydration levels in the process. It’s a gorgeous and bouncy gel-like cream that seems to somewhat volumise the skin upon application – very satisfying.
Best menopause cooling mist: Indeed Labs Me-no Pause Cooling Mist, £18
Indeed Labs were among the first to boldly stick the word ‘menopause’ on the packaging and really own it - and for that we salute them. This is a very refreshing mist with soothing cucumber extract and a host of other botanical ingredients to hydrate and balance. So many cooling mists rely on alcohol for that instantly chilly feeling, but it’s a shortcut that will only leave you with parched, irritated skin in the long run. The cooling effect here comes from the cucumber, and we love the way it revives skin and makes us take a calming breath.
The best all-rounder: Zenii London Rebalance, £85
This is a velvety day and night cream (for the face as well as the eyes, neck and décolletage) with serum-level of ingredients that balances out the many skin issues you may suffer from your perimenopausal 40s onwards. It targets inflammation, reduces free radical damage, encourages collagen production, decreases glycation (sugar damage to the skin), and improves hydration and barrier function. Carefully formulated with anti-inflammatory truffle extract, ceramides, hyaluronic acid and bakuchiol, it’s an investment stand-by to rely on long-term.
The menopause self-care mask: Faace Menopause Face Mask, £31
Unlike the other Faace mask products which are richly scented with aromatherapy oils, this hydrating and calming mask for skin that’s gone out of whack is only very mildly scented (good news for sensitised menopausal skin), while still remaining indulgent, thanks to rose water. It can be left on as a night cream, or used like a traditional five to 20-minute mask, will deeply nourish properly dry skin with fatty acid-rich oils of rosehip, evening primrose, sea buckthorn and pomegranate while offering resilience with a host of antioxidants. There’s kojic acid as well to help fight pigmentation, and zinc to guard against breakouts.