Adult Acne & Menopause
Menopause is usually associated with symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes, but Erin Courtenay, an Everyday Health columnist, cites acne as a common occurrence during this life stage. Acne can happen at just about any age, starting in the teen years, so some women struggle with it throughout their childbearing years. Others have clear skin until they reach menopause, when hormonal changes suddenly spur pimple crops.
Acne is a common skin condition that often starts around puberty. The Mayo Clinic explains that clogged skin pores lead to a variety of lesions known as pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, papules, pustules and cysts. They can be solid or filled with pus. They usually show up on the face, but they can also appear on the neck, chest, shoulders and back.
Acne has the same root causes no matter when it occurs. Pores get clogged up with oil and dead skin cells and grow into pimples. Bacteria often complicates the problem. Hormones can play a role in making skin more oily. Courtenay explains that estrogen levels go down during menopause. Women also have male sex hormones, and those remain steady. The testosterone often triggers more oil production. Older women tend to have slower skin regeneration, which exacerbates the problem.
A woman begins her hormonal changes in a period called perimenopause, which typically starts several years before menopause. The acne can start during this time as estrogen goes down. Perimenopause usually starts during the 40s. The acne can last through menopause, but Courtenay states it usually resolves itself once hormone levels have readjusted themselves and become steady.
Menopausal women can use standard acne treatments like over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide creams, says Dr. Geoffrey Redmond of the Hormone Center of New York. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also help. HRT alleviates many menopause symptoms, and Courtenay states it often improves a woman's complexion. However, it has certain risks that must be discussed with a doctor before embarking on an HRT regime. It can also make acne worse for some women.
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics or isotretinoin for patients who don't respond to standard treatments and who do not wish to use hormones. The Mayo Clinic warns that isotretinoin users must be monitored carefully for physical and emotional side effects.
Older women have more delicate skin, according to Courtenay, so they should wash it carefully with a mild cleansing product. Vigorous scrubbing can irritate the skin and worsen acne. Washing should not be done more often than twice a day. The skin can scar more easily during this life stage, so women should never pick or pop their pimples.
Dr. Jerilynn Prior of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research advises women to avoid oily cosmetics that can add to natural oils and make pores clog even more. She recommends mineral or water-based make-up. Cosmetics should be thoroughly washed off every night before bedtime.
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