If you’ve come up-close-and-personal with the wonderful world of menopause acne, breathe. We’ll take you through why it happens and what to do about it.
Many of us experienced the tween mayhem that is acne during puberty — and how those pimples loved to arrive just in time for a big event.
But what’s spoken of less is that this can also happen on the other side of our menstruation journey.
Yep, along with dry, itchy skin, menopause acne is a thing.
We know — amidst hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings, this seems incredibly unfair.
Know that you’re not alone.
The Peanut community’s got you.
We’ll give you the lowdown on acne and menopause, including what it looks like, how long it tends to last, and what you can do about it.
In this article: 📝
- What exactly is acne?
- Does menopause cause acne?
- Which hormone causes acne in menopause?
- What does menopausal acne look like?
- How long does menopause acne last?
- How do I stop menopausal acne?
- A final word on menopause acne
What exactly is acne?
We hear the word often — but what exactly is this skin condition?
Acne is basically the result of your hair follicles becoming clogged with a mixture of sebum (skin oil) and dead skin cells.
The result is breakouts of pimples and/or lesions that erupt to the skin’s surface.
People of all ages and backgrounds can get acne.
It’s more common in men during puberty and more common in women in adulthood.
Does menopause cause acne?
Unfortunately, menopause and acne can go hand in hand.
And yep, menopausal hormone fluctuations are definitely a key factor here.
But there are other reasons too.
Certain medications may trigger it.
As can endocrine conditions.
There also may be a genetic link that causes acne to run in families.
And some things can exacerbate acne, even if they’re not the original cause.
Pollution, diet, and stress are some of the culprits.
So, it’s a multi-faceted thing.
To understand the link between acne and menopause, our first stop is to check out what happens in our bodies during this chapter of life.
Here’s your crash course:
Menopause is divided into roughly three phases.
There’s perimenopause, which is the time leading up to menopause, and usually happens somewhere between your mid 40s and early 50s.
There’s menopause itself, defined as twelve months after your last period.
And then there’s the postmenopause phase, which is your (period-free) life after that.
During perimenopause, the hormones that have been responsible for keeping your menstrual cycles running fluctuate.
When you hit menopause and you stop menstruating and ovulating, these sex hormones are no longer needed.
As you may have once realized when you hit puberty, acne and hormone shifts have strong ties with one another.
So which hormones are responsible here? We’ll take you through it.
Which hormone causes acne in menopause?
Estrogen is a hormone linked to many symptoms you might experience over the menopause transition.
So does acne fall into this camp?
Well, yes, but it’s complicated.
As your estrogen levels decrease, the balance of androgens (so-called “male hormones” like testosterone) in your system is disrupted.
Basically, in relation to the falling estrogen, they get a greater piece of the hormone pie.
And it’s these higher testosterone levels that can lead to acne and other symptoms like hirsutism (the growth of dark, coarse hair on your face and upper body).
Testosterone has the effect of over-stimulating the skin’s oil glands, making it much easier for those follicles to get blocked.
The result for some?
(It’s that rising testosterone that’s mainly responsible for why teen boys are more likely to get acne than girls.)
So as you start going through hormonal fluctuations in the time leading up to menopause, perimenopause acne may hit.
What does menopausal acne look like?
Menopause acne reveals itself in all shapes and sizes — whiteheads and blackheads are common.
You may also get pimples that have a red base with a pus peak.
Then there are lesions.
They look like little, pink bumps.
You may also experience cystic acne in menopause.
These form deep under the skin and are painful and filled with pus.
How long does menopause acne last?
Luckily, in many cases, menopause acne won’t need serious medical treatment and should hit the road when your hormones balance out in postmenopause.
But if you’re experiencing a painful skin condition that doesn’t go away, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.
If your acne is the result of an endocrine condition, like PCOS, it’s important that you get the treatment that you need.
Ask your doctor about what you made need to do differently to treat your PCOS as you enter menopause.
How do I stop menopausal acne?
While you may not be able to stop acne in an instant, there are many steps you can take that can help.
Resist the urge to pick and pop.
We know — this can be devilishly tempting (and, for some people, weirdly satisfying). Unfortunately, too much intervention from your fingers can attract more germs, which can make the problem worse.
It may also lead to scarring.
Pay attention to your diet
Studies have shown that a high-glycemic diet may not be the best thing when it comes to keeping your skin clear.
So following a low-glycemic diet that doesn’t spike your blood sugar and insulin levels is worth a try.
That means limiting white flour and sweets and opting for non-starchy veg, whole grains, and lean proteins.
(Psst. If you’re looking for a helpful menopause diet, we’ve got you covered.)
Make chilling out a priority
Because of the links between stress and acne, engaging in activities that aim to minimize your stress can go a long way.
Whether that’s yoga, mindfulness meditation, or a dance party with a friend, your skin will likely thank you for paying attention to yourself.
Keep your skin clean and moisturized
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser.
Look for an ingredient called salicylic acid as this helps unclog pores.
Follow your cleansing routine with moisturizer.
And if you want to exfoliate, be very gentle so that you don’t dry out or irritate your skin.
Take a look at your products
Opt for mineral or water-based rather than oil-based cosmetics.
And don’t forget the sunscreen.
Use an acne treatment
If you’ve had acne before and used benzoyl peroxide to kill off some of the bacteria in your skin, you might want to try this again.
Just proceed with caution.
As our skin ages, this treatment may lead to dryness and irritation.
That’s why experts advise it’s best to go with a moisturizing cream-based version.
Azelaic acid or Dapsone are both good topical options for mild acne, but you’ll need to get a prescription from a doctor for them.
And if you want to go the route of oral medication, Spironolactone and Isotretinoin (Accutane) are both effective for hormonal acne but may have some side effects.
Talk to your doctor about whether either of these might be a good option for you.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
HRT works really well as a treatment for a number of menopause symptoms.
Balancing out your estrogen levels can offset the testosterone in your system and lead to clearer skin.
But it’s not for everyone as there are links to other health risks.), like cancer, blood clotting, and cardiovascular disease.
A final word on menopause acne
Dealing with menopause and the time surrounding it can be challenging.
You don’t have to do it alone.
We’ve got a whole community ready to support you.