You may not have been expecting spots at this time – but acne’s not uncommon around menopause. This is why it happens, and how to clear your skin…
Why you may get spots at menopause
For most women, the midlife skin changes they notice are related to dryness, wrinkling and irritation. But for some, acne – which is simply the medical term for spots – can crop up, both on your face or your body, or both. "I was surprised that I suddenly had spots again in my late forties - thought I was WAY past that," says Live Better With Menopause community member Kaz. Menopausal acne may be more likely if you’ve been prone to spots in the past. Hormonal imbalance is the underlying cause but research suggests many other factors aggravate it, including stress and skincare.
So what can you do to manage acne-prone skin during menopause?
Change your skincare
You’ll need a good skincare routine. "I've found that I now have to use a good cleanser, toner and moisturiser as my skin has become really greasy," says Julie20 on our forum. But pick your products carefully. It’s generally best to avoid oil-based products that may block pores. Instead, go for water-based skincare and makeup. That said, the harsh cleansing products you might have used when you were younger may not be appropriate now. Acne is an inflammatory condition and as your skin becomes thinner and more sensitive as oestrogen declines, any products that irritate your skin may contribute to a flare-up. Go for gentle products. And steer clear of scrubs, which can irritate your skin. A cleanser containing salicylic acid may be better for deep cleaning and unblocking pores.
As stress can trigger inflammation, it can make any skin condition worse – and that includes acne. If you’re under a lot of pressure, prioritise stress management steps. Exercise is one of the most effective stress-blitzers, even if it’s just walking. And try to make sure you get plenty of sleep – it can help you manage stress much better, and improving your sleep can reduce levels of hormones linked to acne.
Watch your diet
It’s not an old wives’ tale – research shows what you eat can have an impact on acne. Dairy and foods that release their energy quickly – those with a high glycaemic index, such as white bread – may play a role, so try to cut down on these and base your diet around fresh, whole foods. Lose weight if you need to, as well – excess weight has been connected with a higher risk of menopausal acne.
Talk to your doctor
If acne’s persistent and it bothers you, it’s really worth seeing your doctor. To treat spots at this age, topical treatments can be helpful and a lot of women get benefits from prescription retinoids, topical treatments based on vitamin A that – bonus! – can also help improve the appearance of wrinkles. If you have other menopausal symptoms that are bothering you, HRT may be appropriate and might help with acne – but it’s a hormonal treatment so some women find it can trigger outbreaks.