Menopause Can Cause Sensitive Skin: Here's Why & What To Do
As we age, our skin changes; this we know to be true. The most obvious things people think of are wrinkling, sagging, and texture changes—or at least these get the lion's share of the attention when it comes to the beauty market. After these, you'll typically hear complaints about dryness—as your skin does lose its ability to trap in moisture with time. One skin issue you may hear less about, but is no less common, is sensitivity. As you get older, your skin can become more sensitive, especially after you hit menopause.
This is why if you're in your 40s or 50s, you may all of a sudden be experiencing irritation to products you never did before. Or why you may break out in rashes or bumps when introducing new products to your routine, and that was never a concern of yours prior.
Yes, with age comes sensitivities.
How menopause can make your skin more sensitive.
Skin sensitivities vary greatly from person to person, and the term "sensitive skin" is a vast one that encompasses a variety of skin conditions (such as eczema and rosacea). In general, though, it "is characterized by skin that is not able to tolerate harsh conditions, chemicals, environments, or even diets," board-certified dermatologist Purvisha Patel, M.D., previously told us about sensitive skin.
And the underlying causes for sensitive skin come in many forms, too. You can have sensitive skin inherently, you can create "sensitized" skin by compromising your barrier with stripping products, and you can develop it with time, like in the case of menopause.
See, with menopause our sex hormones drop pretty dramatically, and our sex hormones have a pretty big impact on our skin health. "As our hormones diminish in menopause, the functions they perform to maintain the health and vitality of the skin diminish as well, characterized by a decrease in sweat, sebum, and the immune functions resulting in significant alterations in the skin surface including pH, lipid composition, and sebum secretion," board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D., previously told us about menopause and skin. "These changes also provide potential alterations in the skin that may affect the skin microbiome."
These functional changes result in a wide range of things, from decreased collagen production (read: your skin becomes less plump and sags easier), less vibrancy, and so on. In the case of sensitives, however, it really comes down to the pH and skin barrier function. "Because the pH level of our skin changes at around age 50, skin becomes more sensitive, and women are more likely to develop rashes and easily irritated skin," says Barr.
What to do about sensitive skin.
Sensitive skin is trickier to treat than other types of skin, as it's more about what you're not using—rather than what you are. To start, limit all common or known allergens like fragrance, or harsher ingredients (yes, this means that even if you used to love strong acids or potent retinol, you may not be able to tolerate them anymore). From there, you can incorporate soothing, healing botanicals that bring some strength back to the barrier.
Barr agrees: "Using fragrance-free products, with anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and soothing properties is key to help maintain and restore moisture and the skin barrier integrity."
You should also focus on balancing your microbiome, with biome-friendly topicals and nixing all stripping actives. In regards to the former, some of our favorites, here, are loaded with pre- and probotics to help nourish the delicate flora. For the latter, the biggest issue is sulfates found in cleansers and washes, which zap away both bad and good bacteria from the skin.
If you can't tolerate the same products you once did in your youth, you're not alone. Menopause causes sensitivities to the skin due to changes in pH and the skin barrier function. If you notice more irritation, be mindful to halt using harsh products and sulfates and to add calming ingredients.