Ask An Expert: Dr Dennis Gross, Dermatologist

Want to know exactly what is happening to your skin in the menopausal years? Dr Dennis Gross is the man you need.

Board-certified dermatologist and dermatological surgeon Dennis Gross, M.D., founded his practice in 1990 after completing his residency at the New York University Medical Center.

With a deep interest in skin that is healthy as well as beautiful, Dr Gross has the expertise to transform menopausal skin. Even better, he has his own award-winning product line, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare™.

He and his skincare expertise have been featured in publications including The New York Times Magazine, Elle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, in addition to guest appearances on The Today Show, CNN, and The Early Show.

We asked him to tell us everything he knows about how to keep our midlife complexions looking beautiful. 

What are the hormonal changes affecting skin in the perimenopause and menopause years?

During perimenopause, the level of estrogen, or what is often referred to as the female hormone, rises and falls. It causes tumultuous fluctuations of hormones.

In menopause, there is a significant drop in estrogen and progesterone which are both produced in the ovaries. These changes in hormones cause many changes throughout the body including the nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system and even skin.

READ MORE: What are the 34 symptoms of menopause?

Do symptoms improve as women move from perimenopause into menopause, or are the hormonal changes permanent?

Hormone levels do tend to stabilize after about one year post-menopause, however you may still experience menopause symptoms on and off for the next four to five years.

The stabilization of hormones can happen naturally or through hormonal replacement therapy. The hormonal changes are permanent but you won’t continue to experience menopause symptoms.

Is this a time when women need to review their existing skincare routines?

Absolutely, because hormones play a huge role in our skin. While a lot is still unknown about how hormones actually interact with skin cell receptors, we do know that a drop in estrogen can cause skin to become very dry and prone to irritation.

There are also studies that show that there is a significant decrease in collagen production during menopause. Collagen is the protein that keeps our skin plump and smooth.

Because your skin is going through so many changes, it makes sense that your skincare routine will need a revamp. Look to add a nourishing, hydrating moisturizer to your routine to combat dryness. If you haven’t started using a retinol already, now is a good time to add it to your routine.

Because your skin is going through so many changes, it makes sense that your skincare routine will need a revamp.

With retinol, it is important to select a product that is not harsh and won’t irritate skin which is especially sensitive during this time. I recommend finding a product that combines retinol with anti-inflammatory ingredients like ferulic acid, bakuchiol and rambutan. This will give you all of the benefits of retinol without the irritation.

READ MORE: Here’s why retinol is your must-have skincare ingredient.

What are the most common symptoms?

The most common skin symptoms of menopause are dryness, loss of collagen, hyperpigmentation, increased sensitivity and breakouts.

What are the key product ingredients to help with symptoms, and how does each ingredient affect the skin?

Retinol is a great ingredient that increases cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. It helps fight fine lines and wrinkles, keeps pores clear which prevents breakouts and also diminishes hyperpigmentation.

To help with hydration, look for ingredients that build your skin barrier like bakuchiol and niacinamide. This helps not only lock in moisture, but also help prevent skin from becoming irritated.

READ MORE: These are our niacinamide skincare top picks.

Do you have any favourite products that you recommend to perimenopausal women?

I really love our new Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Wrinkle Treatment (available now in the US and in the UK from Sept 1.) It combines retinol with bakuchiol, ferulic acid, rambutan and niacinamide to tackle the majority of skin problems caused by menopause.

Of course, you absolutely need to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every single day. This will protect skin against damaging UVA/UVB rays. I also like our All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense SPF 30. It is a physical sunscreen that has a lightweight, blendable finish that doesn’t leave a white cast, even on the darkest skin tones.

LED treatments are another really great tool to decrease inflammation, increase collagen production and target acne-causing bacteria. My SpectraLite FaceWare Pro has both red and blue LED light that delivers results in just weeks. You only need to do the treatment for three minutes each day.

READ MORE: These are the best SPFs for menopausal skin.

Can HRT help with perimenopausal skin symptoms?

Yes it can. HRT has been shown to improve skin hydration, thickness and elasticity as well as reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

READ MORE: Dr Louise Newson’s HRT fact sheet.

Are there any supplements that can help with the symptoms?

For skin issues that are caused by menopause, topical ingredients are really the best, most direct way to deliver ingredients into skin.

The only way you can create more collagen in skin is to stimulate your own production of collagen via topical ingredients like retinol or vitamin C. You cannot ingest collagen supplements and have it make its way through the digestive system and into skin.

Any lifestyle/diet changes that can help with perimenopausal skin?

Having a consistent skincare regimen in your 20s and 30s will set you up for success when dealing with hormonal changes during menopause. Wear a sunscreen every single day and avoid excessive drinking and smoking which can accelerate collagen breakdown.

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