For many women, menopause is a four-letter word. The very idea of it conjures nightmares and feelings of anxiety. The simple fact of the body ceasing the menstrual cycle becomes a symbol for loss of womanhood. Although it
is euphemistically called “the change”, the nickname is more than accurate. It is a change, but ONLY a change. With proper attitude and an adjustment in the health and beauty regiment, many women are able to adapt to these
changes with minimal fuss.
One aspect of these changes is in the hair and skin. The reduced hormone production affects the growth cycles of the hair, as well as the way in which the skin replenishes itself. This can have a cumulative effect with
changes that already occur as a part of the natural aging process. Before we can get into the ways to deal with these changes we must first look at the changes themselves:
Menopausal Changes in the Skin
Because of the decline in estrogen levels (and the aging process in general) skin and mucous membranes in various parts of the body often become drier with the development of menopause. Women who once worried about oily
skin may now find their skin dry and itchy and may need to apply moisturizers and hand creams.
As the body ages and the estrogen level declines, the fatty layer beneath the skin’s surface that makes the skin appear supple and youthful begins to shrink from a loss of elasticity and moisture. The outer skin layer is
now looser than the deeper layers, and begins to fold and wrinkle. The skin may also develop a rougher texture as the loss of moisture results in a hardening of the horny layer of the epidermis.
The shrinkage of the fatty layer of the skin, which causes the development of wrinkles and lines in the skin, results in a thinner skin overall. The thinning of the skin means that the skin becomes more translucent which
affects the overall complexion. At this stage, it is especially important to protect your skin from the sun. Aging skin produces less melanin, the pigment that causes your skin to tan instead of burn. This decreases your
natural protection from harmful UV rays. Thinning skin also reveals any harmful effects of previous years of sun exposure. Limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen is a prudent and effective way to delay aging of the skin.
Menopausal Changes in the Hair
These same hormonal changes which affect the skin also have an effect on the hair and all aspects of its growth. This is logical when you consider that the hair follicles are a part of the anatomy of the skin. Of course,
this makes some aspects of menopausal changes on the hair doubly impacting, since the skin’s condition also affects the hair.
Hair all over the body can change in texture and quantity during menopause. For some women, the increased effects of the body's androgens can result in darker, thicker and wiry body hair on the pubis, underarms, face,
chest, lower abdomen, and back. This sprouting of excess, coarse hair, known as hirsutism, is usually related to hormonal changes. However, not all cases of hirsutism are menopause-related, so check with your physician
for proper diagnosis if the changes seem excessive compared to similar reactions in older female family members.
The softer hair on your head also begins to change in texture as you get older, and menopause causes further change. A loss of luster occurs because individual hair shafts begin to thin and dry as a result of hormonal
changes. The replacement process for normal daily hair loss becomes slower, and new replacement hair is generally dryer, with less shine. Many women also note a thinning of pubic and underarm hair after menopause. Female
baldness, a rare problem, may begin about age forty. See a dermatologist if hair loss persists or seems excessive when compared to older, female family members.
Changes in hair texture and thickness can be minimized by avoiding over-styling. Good nutrition can also slow the brittleness of hair that comes with normal aging.