The global anti-aging industry is larger than ever at $60.42 billion (and projected to grow to $119.6 billion by 2030), but among the wrinkle-erasing injectables and youth-preserving creams, there are a number of beauty brands changing the narrative around getting older and embracing a group simultaneously exploited by anti-aging marketing and made to feel invisible by it: women going through menopause.
“Women are not getting the necessary information they need to navigate this life stage,” says Rochelle Weitzner, founder and CEO of Pause Well-Aging. “As of now, fewer than 20% of physicians are trained in any sort of menopausal care. Very little research has gone into understanding menopause or providing science-backed solutions.”
Now, her brand and others — Naomi Watts launched Stripes, a menopausal beauty and wellness brand, earlier this year — are trying to destigmatize menopause. By featuring midlife women in marketing campaigns, speaking about the uncomfortable parts of menopause and fighting back against online censorship, Weitzner says, “menopausal brands are taking charge of educating women about the 34+ physical and emotional changes that accompany menopause, reassuring them that they are both normal and universal and offering solutions and a safe haven where needed.”
The period of transition happens to anyone who menstruates, and as Weitzner notes, it comes with a number of side effects, such as hot flashes and insomnia. These changes start as the body gradually stops ovulating, in what’s known as perimenopause. Once it’s been 12 months after their last period, it’s officially menopause. Throughout perimenopause and menopause, the changes can also affect the skin.
“Menopause is characterized by a decrease in estrogen production and many women recognize skin changes that come along with this,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skin Care. “Skin can become drier and have a loss of elasticity that leads to sagging and more pronounced lines and wrinkles.”
Instead of fighting the signs of aging, a skin care routine tailored to menopausal skin can help support its health and function. But before we get into the details of the best menopausal skin care routine, it’s signifcant to note that menopausal beauty goes beyond products and trends. The experts we spoke to echoed the desire to erase the belief that menopause correlates to a decreased quality of life. “We want to take the fear and stigma out of getting older,” Weitzner says. “A lot of women see aging as a period of decline. This doesn’t have to be the case. Sexiness, health, vibrancy has no age limit. Taking care of your health can greatly influence your quality of life as you age.”
Sandra Chiu, founder of Lanshin, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and master of science in Traditional Chinese Medicine, thinks that “it’s important to reframe the idea that women should expect certain changes as we near menopause, as if it’s any different a moment than what occurs in the normal course of aging that happens to everyone.”
Ahead, we speak to the experts about what exactly menopausal skin care is and what the best menopausal skin care routine looks like.
While there are plenty of anti-aging ingredients and products out there, menopausal skin care is formulated specifically to treat the skin transitions that come with the change in hormones.
“Studies show that women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause and elasticity decreases by 1.5% per year after menopause,” says Dr. Shari Auth, licensed acupuncturist and herbalist and co-founder and chief healing officer of WTHN.
At Pause, Weitzner creates clinically tested formulas that address those changes. “it’s important to us that we demonstrate to women how using products specifically suited to menopausal skin can deliver far greater results than the products they used in their 30s,” says Weitzner. For example, she cites that decreased collagen and elastin lead to sagging skin around the neck and jowls, so products that help boost the body’s collagen production can result in visible skin improvements. In addition, skin experiencing a lack of sebum production and decreased skin cell turnover requires products that can both rebalance natural oils and exfoliate skin.
Ciraldo agrees, but notes that it’s more about the formulas than the marketing. The dermatologist recommends that “all women use products that have high levels of actives that are proven to improve the unwanted skin changes and that they start these as early as possible.” Having a consistent skin care routine will help you delay the visible effects of menopause on the skin, and the dermatologist says to start using active skin care as early as your twenties.
Moreover, menopause may be universal for women, but the experience of menopause is not standardized for all. When it comes to the effects of menopause on the skin, Chiu says that the awareness in the West “is skewed toward how the skin of white Caucasian skin behaves as it ages,” but “for women of color, our skin and health changes can look quite different.”
For example, Chiu says, common changes for those with lighter skin tones include excess dryness and changes in elasticity and skin strength. Those with darker, melanated skin are more prone to issues with hyperpigmentation and melasma.
With this in mind, here are the experts’ tips and product recommendations for a complete menopausal skin care routine.
Because dryness, lack of elasticity and hyperpigmentation are common effects of menopause on the skin, your skin care routine should focus on retaining hydration, boosting collagen and fighting dullness. But that doesn’t mean you need a 10-step routine. In fact, Weitzner says “you don’t need a long, complicated skin care regimen to achieve healthy, radiant, firmer-looking skin.” By keeping it simple and strategically choosing what active ingredients to apply, you can achieve glowing, healthy skin without a laundry list of products.
Cleansing is “the cornerstone of any skin care regimen,” Weitzner says. Those going through menopause will want to look for cleansers with gentle, hydrating formulas that won’t exacerbate dryness.
“We need to keep our skin free of dirt, debris, excess oils and pore clogging dead skin cells and products like our Hydrating Cleanser do this without stripping or overdrying,” says Weitzner. The creamy formula features the Proprietary Pause Complex (found in all of the brand’s products), which is composed of six vitamins, antioxidants and peptides to support collagen production.
This dermatologist-approved cleanser contains hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin to keep moisture close to the skin, even when washing away makeup, sunscreen or daily grime.
An oil based cleanser will help preserve the skin’s hydration while melting away makeup and dirt. Made with a patent-pending Lipid Lock Technology to protect the skin against trans-epidermal water loss, this cleanser marula, moringa and neroli oil-based cleanser will leave your skin feeling soft and plump.
Serums are a great way to target specific skin concerns that come with menopause. You can even pick one that features ingredients that address several issues (a vitamin C serum to treat hyperpigmentation that also contains hydrating ingredients like glycerin, for example). Vitamin C, retinol, ceramides, linoleic acid (vitamin F) and peptides are common skin care ingredients that Ciraldo recommends for menopausal skin. Just remember not to overdo it and alternate the days or time of day you use certain actives if needed. “Active anti-aging ingredients are best when matched to skin type, concern and tolerance,” Chiu explains.
Rich in ceramides, this nourishing serum “replaces skin-healthy oils like lipids and omega fatty acids like linoleic,” says Ciraldo. In addition to shielding the skin from dehydration, the antioxidant liprochroman defends against pollutants and UV damage and vitamin E and F calm redness. I’ve been using it for years and love its silky texture that absorbs into the skin for a dewy, plump effect.
A hydrating tonic Chiu loves to use along with other serums, this liquid is made with humectants that preserve moisture. Along with green tea, vitamin B5 and pre- and post-biotics, it contains licorice root extract — one of Chiu’s favorite herbs for skin health. Others she looks for include bakuchiol, cica and ginseng.
Ciraldo says this serum “combines vitamin C with hyaluronic and botanical stem cells and is clinically proven to increase skin elasticity by 50% in four weeks, the equivalent of resetting the clock on skin bounce by decades.”
“Red Ginseng contains various ginsenosides that increase collagen production to reduce wrinkles and other visual signs of aging,” Auth explains. This budget-friendly serum features the ingredient, along with snail mucin filtrate to even the skin tone and treat hyperpigmentation and boost elasticity.
Used and recommended by Chiu, this nighttime serum brightens, smoothes and supports skin elasticity with melatonin, bakuchiol and vitamin C.
Moisturizer is a must have for the morning and night, according to Weitzner. A great face cream locks in the benefits of any serums applied prior and adds yet another layer of all-important hydration. In the daytime, just remember to layer sunscreen on top, too, as UVA rays are linked to signs of aging like wrinkles and sunspots.
Ciraldo says No7’s menopause-focused line is helpful for women who want to lessen the changes they see in their skin. Co-created with menopausal women, this face cream hydrates dry, sensitive menopausal skin with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and lipids.
Weitzner says this day and nighttime moisturizer consists of “ingredients like kakadu plum, glycerin and Progeline that help relieve dryness and add back moisture, reduce dark spots and help skin look brighter and more even, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping skin, all while helping boost the body’s collagen production.”
Made with ectoine, a hero ingredient that helps regulate the water balance in the skin, this moisturizer from Naomi Watts’ menopause brand provides lasting hydration. It also contains niacinamide, squalane and vitamins C, B and E.
“For drier skin types I love using facial balms as a final occlusion step that seals in all the moisture and hydration,” Chiu says. It’s the same idea behind skin slugging, where an oil or wax-based occlusive agent is layered over your traditional moisturizer to prevent trans-epidermal water loss and lock in your other skin care’s benefits. This petrolatum-based balm is one of Chiu’s favorites.
The eye area is the first part of the face to show signs of aging due to its thinner skin, therefore, dark circles, eye bags and puffiness require some extra attention (and skin care) to look their best. Like serums, you can choose an eye cream tailored to your specific concerns. Fight crepey skin with hydrators like squalane and glycerin, de-puff with caffeine, fight crow’s feet with retinol and brighten with vitamin C.
Fight dark circles and puffiness day and night with a potent blend of caffeine, ginkgo bilbao extract, vitamin C and peptides.
Chiu uses this retinol and peptide cream on her TCM dermatology clients. It can be used on the under-eye area or anywhere on the face that needs a dose of the wrinkle-smoothing and pigmentation-evening ingredients.
Another multi-use product, this lightweight cream is made for two areas of the face that are especially delicate and prone to showing signs of aging — the eyes and lips. It depuffs, brightens and smoothes with squalane, avocado polyphenols, vitamin C and more. Plus, it was one of associate editor Lindsey Smith’s favorite products she tried in the fall.
Chiu and Weitzner are proponents of facial massage for its beauty and wellness benefits. Chiu is an expert at gua sha, a TCM practice in which a tool is used to strategically stroke the face. The technique has become popular on social media for its sculpting effects that can visibly depuff, contour and lift the face. There is also growing belief that gua sha is correlated to boosting collagen, and Weitzner notes that Pause’s facial massage tool “borrows science from physical therapy touting movement as a pathway to greater elasticity.” While you can certainly do variations of facial massage with your hands alone, having a chic tool can make it feel more like a self care ritual.
It’s also worth mentioning that gua sha is one of many TCM modalities that can ease the side effects of menopause and boost the skin’s health and function. Auth and Chiu highlight the power of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, too. “Scientific studies have shown that acupuncture increases collagen and elastin to improve facial elasticity and skin moisture, and reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging,” Auth shares.