Ask Dr. Pat

Menopause and Delicate Skin:
Seasonal Change and Complexion Care

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Dear Dr. Pat:

I need fall protection for my complexion before winter damage sets in again. I am two years into menopause and my complexion is getting drier, redder and more irritated every year, with the most unpleasant change occurring in winter. I am of Irish-American ancestry and have always had a delicate complexion. I saw a dermatologist before I entered menopause to begin some anti-wrinkle treatments. I use a Retin-A product and continue to avoid direct exposure to sunlight. For the day and night, I wash my face with a cleanser and cool water and then put on an expensive prescription moisturizer. Most of the year, my skin is okay, but when the weather changes to cold and worse, when there are freezing winds—my skin turns bright red, and it burns. My skin is SO dry. I feel as if I could sleep in a bottle of moisturizer and the skin on my face would still be dry and very red. Actually, it’s so dry that it feels as if it is forming little cracks. Is this the result of menopause? I never spent time in the sun. I never smoke, I drink very little alcohol and I am healthy. What should I do? Last year, I saw a famous dermatologist and bought all his products, but nothing helped.

Joanna

 

Dr. Pat Responds

Dear Joanna:

Your question could have been written by me ten years ago. I used Neutrogena SOAP and water on my postmenopausal complexion, then used various anti-aging potions, changing them when each failed to produce the promised results. My skin became red, dry, and cracked. After this, I attacked the facial skin with an exfoliating cream! I had lovely skin for half a day, then it became discolored, with red, dry patches once again. My friend, Margret Avery, an experienced makeup artist gave me a treatment regimen that worked. She explained that my delicate complexion responded poorly to water. She suggested that I simply use a facial cleanser without water twice a day, followed by application of a toner, which I had never used then a calming thick moisturizer in the winter for day and night.

I tried several facial products and found that my complexion responded best to a simple cleansing routine with Ponds Cold cream twice a day, along with a delicate eye makeup remover from Neutrogena. I apply a toner to my facial skin using my fingers, not a cotton pad, then apply a rose cream moisturizer at night and in the morning from the Dr. Hauschka line. I add a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen for a very quick morning routine. It took weeks for my skin to recover from years of abuse, but this simple and inexpensive routine calmed my complexion and decreased the dryness. I still had capillary damage with areas of redness left that required laser treatment, which worked. Facial skin does change with menopause and with the seasons, and all complexions are different. What works for women with thicker facial skin won’t work for women with thin, delicate complexions.

Dr. Monica Schadlow, who is a dermatologist on the Medical Advisory Board of Women’s Voices for Change, has agreed to discuss your questions for all of our readers. When you choose a simple new routine, don’t give up. It does take time for the skin to recover.

Dr. Pat

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