Just when you think you’re past those awkward years of blemishes, acne, and general awkwardness, POW. Menopause hits. That’s right, acne isn’t just for teens experiencing puberty. Acne likes to rear its annoying face any time your body experiences hormonal shifts. Now, this isn’t to say that you will definitely have acne issues during menopause. Some people are just lucky in the skin department. Others of us, however, will enjoy this (hopefully) brief bout with menopausal acne. I personally am one of the unlucky ones in this department.
As a general rule, acne decreases with age. However, since both puberty and menopause involve significant shifts in your hormones, one of the “perks” can be the reemergence of skin blemishes.
Specifically, one of the hormones that increases during menopause is known as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This lovely hormone can stimulate your ovaries to produce more androgens.
What are androgens and why do you hate them now? Well, androgens are male hormones. An increase in androgens can raise the production of skin oil. Oily skin is often a main cause of acne. Androgens are also the hormone that causes those pesky chin hairs.
What Can I Do?
Chances are, you won’t experience any acne during menopause. If you happen to have a brief bout with acne, don’t feel like you must treat it. It shouldn’t appear the same as a teenager’s acne.
It’s likely that the acne will be short lived and you’ll move on with life. If you feel the need to do something about it, there are a few basic treatments that can help.
Treatments that work for other ages may also work for you. Bear in mind, though, that as you age your skin becomes more sensitive and some treatments may be too harsh. The side effects of medicated options may also increase.
A topical treatment consisting of a hydroxy acid, a topical retinoid (such as adapalene, tazarotene, or tretinoin), and/or benzoyl peroxide can be a help, though. Reducing stress and maintaining a healthy weight as well as an active lifestyle can go a long way toward clearing your skin, too.
Some helpful over the counter products that I’ve used for adult acne:
If topical treatments aren’t working for you, try talking to a dermatologist regarding an “inside out” approach. Sometimes it’s necessary to correct the hormone imbalance in order to help those side effects from it subside.
The oral medication called spironolactone, usually used to treat high blood pressure, is often a go-to option for dermatologists. This medication is an anti-androgen that helps block the androgen receptors in your skin. It will both help prevent acne and excess facial hair growth. This is a medication that I have personally used in the past and recently started taking again. I’m happy to say that it seems to be working.
When Can I Expect Menopausal Acne?
While the biggest hormonal shift will occur during menopause, some women will also experience menopausal acne during the perimenopausal years. This is the transition period that leads up to menopause, usually occuring 2-8 years prior. The average age of menopause is around 51, so the perimenopausal age can begin as early as your early 40s. To add insult to injury, menopausal acne can extend into the postmenopausal years as well.
To sum up, you may or may not experience menopausal acne. If you do, you could see it as early as your 40s and it may last through your 50s. But don’t fret, there are treatments and it should eventually subside. If you do experience acne well past menopause, you should definitely address it with your doctor as other hormone issues could be at play.