Battling menopausal symptoms and spots? We feel your pain.
As if navigating the perimenopause isn’t bad enough, hormonal changes can trigger menopausal acne, leaving women to deal with painful spots on top of other symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, low mood and difficulty sleeping.
And if you’ve ever experienced acne, you’ll know that it’s a debilitating skin condition that can really affect your self-esteem. In fact, research by the British Association of Dermatologists found that more than half of British adults who’ve experienced acne felt it adversely affected their confidence.
The good news is that there’s help out there. Woman&home asked London-based Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anastasia Therianou about the causes and treatment for menopausal acne, plus we’ve rounded up the top dos and don’ts of managing acne at home so you can find ways to feel your best.
What are the causes of menopausal acne?
“The ethology of menopausal acne is multifactorial, with hormonal imbalance being the major culprit,” explains Dr Therianou. “There’s a decrease of hormones called estrogens in menopausal females, whilst male hormone levels (androgens) remain the same – this can lead to clinical acne.”
As well as hormones, other factors play a part. “Genetics, stress, lack of sleep and exercise, and lifestyle changes are also triggers,” says Dr Therianou.
So is what we eat. Sorry ladies, but if you haven’t already it’s time to limit alcohol and caffeine and ditch the junk food. These treats can overtax the liver, which leads to skin congestion. For healthy skin, eat foods rich in the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 such as oily fish (three times a week) and chia and flaxseeds, and fill your diet with wholegrain, fibre-rich foods.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are especially helpful because they contain a compound known as DIM, that supports hormone balance. You can also buy DIM supplements (currently getting rave reviews for helping to clear up hormonal spots).
It’s also worth considering a supplement such as Menopace by Vitabiotics, which includes 22 nutrients including B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and soya isoflavones to support the body through the menopause and prevent distressing symptoms.
How to treat menopausal acne
Because our hormones react differently depending on our stage of life, treating menopausal acne sometimes differs from treating adolescent acne. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be very helpful in reducing a number of menopausal symptoms, including breakouts “though it’s only used in women who have no history of breast cancer or endometrial cancers,” says Dr Therianou.
If HRT isn’t an option you can try topical treatments, which are applied directly to the skin. “Benzoyl peroxide, anti-microbial creams and retinoids are helpful,” she advises.
If your menopausal acne is moderate to severe, you can try oral medication that include “antibiotics, androgen blockers like spironolactone, and oral retinoids,” says Dr Therianou.
How to manage menopausal acne
- Avoid soap. Instead, wash your face daily with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid. This helps to unclog pores.
- Use an oil-free moisturiser on a regular basis.
- Apply a thin layer of topical product to the whole face, not just spots. This can help prevent future breakouts.
- Invest in oil-free products – such as mineral or water-based products – including sunscreen and foundation.
- Wear PF30 sunscreen. Not only is sun exposure ageing, its drying effect can cause sebaceous glands to overproduce sebum, which can encourage spots.
- Make an appointment with a dermatologist or your GP if your acne doesn’t improve.
- Over-wash or scrub your skin clean as this can irritate and inflame acne. Wash your face twice a day, plus after sweating.
- Use acne products designed for teens. Because ageing causes the skin to become drier, your skin can’t tolerate harsh treatments like it did when you were younger.
- Be tempted to use make-up removal wipes as they may block pores.
- Buy products containing pore-blocking or acne-irritating ingredients. Dermatologist Debra Jaliman told Business Insider that it’s usually best to avoid silicones (present in many foundations) and Mica (found in powder products). “Silicones can block pores and make it more likely to break out or get bumpy. Mica in powder makeup can irritate sensitive skin,” she explained.
- Use old make-up as it can become a hotbed for bacteria. Ditch mascara after three months, foundation and lipstick after a year and eyeshadow and powder after two years.
- Sleep in make-up, even if it’s non-comedogenic.
- Ever pick, however tempting. It may be a stress reliever but it can turn into acne excoriée. Also known as ‘picker’s acne’, it’s a condition where you feel compelled to pick your skin, which can result in scarring. If you think you have this, visit Skin Support for help.
If you have menopausal acne, visit your GP or a dermatologist. Alternatively, Boots has an online clinic service that’s suitable for people with mild to moderate acne between the ages of 16-65, and gives access to prescription-only medicine.