Handling hormones: HRT and our skin

Welcome to Handling Hormones, where we discuss the hormonal roller coaster that is life – and how we can care for our skin throughout its twists and turns. 

For decades, countless people have turned to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in a quest to manage their menopausal symptoms. But what effect does this medication have on the body’s largest organ, our skin?

Menopause can be a minefield. One minute we're having a hot flush, the next a cold chill. Difficulty sleeping can transform us into zombies, while mood changes knock the wind out of our sails. Lucky us, right?

Unbalanced hormones can leave us feeling, well, unbalanced – and our skin is no exception. Each year, thousands of us rely on HRT to help us through ‘the change’. And, if you’ve noticed a difference in the appearance and texture of your skin as a result, you’re not alone. 

What happens to our skin during menopause? 

Oestrogen is a sex hormone that plays a huge role in the body. It’s a multitasking maestro, managing everything from puberty and pregnancy to bone strength and cholesterol levels. 

As our bodies prepare for menopause, our levels of oestrogen fall. Because oestrogen is key to the production of collagen (a skin-loving super protein), our skin can start to lose its elasticity and fullness. The epidermis and dermis (posh names for the inner and outer layers of the skin) can become thinner, leading to a drier and more fragile complexion – and we certainly didn’t sign up for that!

As Dr Ross Perry, Medical Director of Cosmedics Skin Clinics, explains: “The menopause can trigger a whole range of skin conditions. Some individuals experience a resurgence in acne, while others get very dry skin. Some suffer from very sensitive skin and pigmentation problems become more common, such as sunspots and a patchy complexion.”

Although this can sound daunting, it’s worth remembering that these symptoms don’t ring true for everyone. All of our skin stories are completely different, so your complexion will pave its own unique path. 

Can HRT help? 

HRT can help to relieve unpleasant menopausal symptoms by topping up oestrogen levels and rebalancing hormones. But what does our skin think of HRT? Well, it’s usually pretty chuffed!

There’s plenty of research to suggest that HRT can improve skin health and appearance. In fact, one of the most cited studies found that HRT caused a significant reduction in dry skin and wrinkling among 3,000 participants. Sounds good, huh?

But how – in the words of the pop icon that is Cher – does HRT ‘turn back time’? Put simply, our dermal collagen levels lap up the increased amount of oestrogen. This means skin thickness and vascularisation receive a healthy boost too, so your youthful glow can take centre stage. 

The return of acne? 

However, HRT doesn’t make everyone’s skin sing. Some people find that the initial hormone swings caused by HRT make skin oilier. The result? Acne that’s reminiscent of your teenage years. 

Testosterone is the main culprit when it comes to acne. Although both oestrogen and testosterone levels decline during the menopause, oestrogen falls at a much faster rate, creating an imbalance that’s inviting for acne. 

After a few months of HRT, your hormone levels should stabilise and your skin should clear up. But in the meantime, it’s important to nourish your skin with the attention it’s craving. Here’s what our skincare experts recommend: 

Smoothing Cleanser Complexion Purifier

It’s not multi-award-winning for no reason! There really is no better way to start and end your day than with this creamy cleanser. Effortlessly removing makeup and impurities, it rebalances sebum levels so you can bid farewell to breakouts. With green tea extract to fight off free radicals, hydrating aloe vera juice and restoring jojoba oil, deep cleaning never felt so good. 

Clear Skin Blemish Fighting Mask 

Pine for clear skin? Your wish is our command, thanks to this magical mask. Green clay and bamboo charcoal gently absorb dead skin cells and excess oil, while spirulina and goji berries calm angry skin. And don’t forget about salicylic acid – the number one blemish-fighting BHA. Breakouts don’t stand a chance against this dream team. 

Pure Lagoon Blemish Prevention Serum

Trying to balance skin that’s oily in some parts but dry in others? We hear you! Our award-winning serum smooths the way for happy and healthy skin. Bursting with prebiotics, blue spirulina and vitamin B3, it has everything your skin’s microbiome needs to thrive. Oh, and flare-ups? What flare-ups? 

HRT patches

There are various forms of HRT, including tablets, implants and gel. However, HRT patches are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to their convenience and the reduced risks associated with their use. 

HRT patches attach to the skin, sending hormones directly into your bloodstream. Although these patches are really handy, they can irritate and inflame the skin – especially when it’s time to remove them! Instead of ‘ripping off the band-aid’, we prefer ‘gently removing the patch with a soapy flannel and a splash of body oil’. Ok, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but your skin will thank you. 

We recommend our Awaken The Senses Luxury Body Oil. This delicious cocktail of bergamot, macadamia oil and vitamin E makes light work of removing any sticky residue left behind by the patch. Better still, it hydrates and conditions the skin as it goes! 

For some of us, HRT isn’t the answer – and that’s totally ok! Your GP will help you find the treatment that suits your body, so make sure you chat to them first. 

Got any skincare advice for those beginning their HRT journeys? Share them on our Facebook and Instagram pages – let’s help each other. 

There’s no denying that the menopause can be a tricky chapter in our lives, but skincare doesn’t have to be complicated. Our Skincare Routine Finder will help you find the best products for your skin in just a few clicks. 

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