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Menopause Skin Care Discoveries

woman having a hot flash
February 18, 2016 Reviewed by Marta 8 Comments

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about menopause. Estrogens have a profound influence on skin. Their depletion as we go through menopause triggers a series of changes that can be confusing and frustrating. I am increasingly thinking that standard anti-aging approaches are not going to crack menopausal aging and I am researching ways we can be more targeted with our skincare choices. This is very much a work in progress, but in my search for the ultimate serums for menopausal skin, I am at least figuring out what some of the key actives should be.

Phytoestrogenic isoflavones

There is evidence that diets with high levels of phytoestrogenic isoflavones are associated with a low incidence of menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis. A good example is soy protein and this does crop up in skin care products every now and then. It is in Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Moisture Cushion Oil-Free Moisturizer ($58 in the shop), and E’shee Cellular Repairing Night Cream ($289 in the shop).

Even more interesting is red clover, which contain high levels of isoflavones. I found a study on rats that were induced to have menopausal effects and given red clover extract with 11% isoflavones. The epidermis of these rats remained normal, with uniform thickness and collagen actually increased (source). The bad news is that I hard time finding serums with red clover that looked convincing.

One exception is by Velvet Skincare, a brand that formulates with an interesting mix of botanicals and peptides. There is a serum that has red clover and some algae extracts that I’ll mention later. I was also very intrigued by GlymedPlus and its Menopause Corrective Skin Serum+ with 1.7% synthetic progesterone and red clover. I also noted that Murad addresses hormonally aging skin with Intensive Age-Diffusing Serum, which has red clover and a few other interesting ingredients that put it above the usual department store mediocrity. Skin 2 Skin has a promising looking serum with soy, red clover and a peptide against sagging skin

Algae and seaweed

Marine extracts have the potential to be hugely important in anti-aging. One symptom of hormonally aging skin is dryness, so extreme that it leaves skin washed out, drawn and fragile. Some kinds of seaweeds (e.g. laminaria digitata) contain polysaccharide alginic acid, which locks moisture in the skin. I found a brightening serum by Repechage that has a laminaria digitata “complex.” Ulva lactuca is a green seaweed that is known and sea lettuce and it is source of aosine, an enzyme that neutralizes the elastase responsible for breaking down elastin in the skin.

Red algae is a good source of glycans, which increase the production of collagen by aiding intra-cellular communication and delivering vitamins and minerals for cellular health.

Although marine actives are supposedly a big beauty trend, it isn’t easy to find good formulas. A recent discovery is Moana Skincare from New Zealand, using high concentrations of red seaweed marine glycans throughout its range with 95% in the Moana Night Repair Serum. Another reason to be interested in the Velvet Skincare product that I stumbled across is that it has three types of seaweed extract as well as the red clover.

Pentapeptides and copper peptides

When all is said and done, it comes down to collagen production and pentapeptides and copper peptides excel. Although there isn’t much independent research, there’s a strong track record in the field for the pentapeptides marketed as Matrixyl and Matrixyl 3000

Benir Beauty BV-9 Platinum Provectus Super Serum ($195 in the shop) checks quite a few boxes with seaweed extract, pentapeptide-18 and Matrixyl 3000. Soleil Toujours Broad Spectrum Moisturizer SPF 20 ($55) has myristoyl pentapeptide-11. Medik8 Firewall ($145 in the shop) has Matrixyl 3000 and copper peptides. And for the more budget conscious, I am currently testing a Matrixyl 3000 serum that is $35 by ASDM Beverly Hills.

  • February 22, 2016

    by Marta

    Good tip Kelly. We'll definitely follow up on this one. Thank you!

  • February 21, 2016

    by Kelly Fleischaker

    Youva skincare has the marine elements and Canadian red clover! My favorite new find!

  • February 21, 2016

    by Emily

    what are your thoughts about this product:

    Using powerful, balancing botanicals, including chaste tree, rhemannia, motherwort, sage, black cohosh and maca root, this therapeutic booster successfully resolves a multitude of cyclic fluctuations and curious complications appearing on the skin.

  • February 18, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Laura, for what it's worth, the "synthetic progesterone" in the Menopause Corrective Skin Serum is called USP synthetic progesterone. USP is an acronym for the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-governmental organization recognized and used by over 130 countries, which sets public standards for prescription and over-the-counter medications and healthcare products, manufactured or sold in the United States. Hopefully, this rules out horse pee. Synthetic progesterone came about with the advent of birth control pills. As far as cancer is concerned, you can read below in comments, Deborah's research on estrogen. With progesterone, there is a link with cancer with contraceptives such as Depo-Provera. But for hormone therapy (for menopause, for example) doctors generally prescribe both estrogen and progesterone (known as combined hormone therapy or HT). Progesterone is needed because estrogen alone can increase the risk of cancer of the uterus.

  • February 18, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Deborah - good for you! That's great research and I couldn't agree more. The research is not providing a consensus and so it comes down to your own personal risk profile and any professional advice you can get.

  • February 18, 2016

    by Debora

    There is a lot of conflicting evidence regarding isoflavones and women's health. An overview from Wikipedia:

    "It is unclear if phytoestrogens have any effect on the cause or prevention of cancer in females.[37][38] Some epidemiological studies have suggested a protective effect against breast cancer.[39] But a recent in vitro study concluded that females with current or past breast cancer may risk of tumor growth by consuming soy products, since they can stimulate the growth of estrogen receptor-positive cells in vitro. Low levels of genistein and daidzein, the phytoestrogens in soybeans, showed the potential to stimulate tumors, while protective effects were found at larger concentrations of the same phytoestrogen.[40] A 2006 review article concluded that not enough information is available on the effects of phytoestrogens to justify drawing conclusions. While preliminary in vitro results suggest that isoflavins inhibit tumor growth, more research is needed to evaluate how isoflavones affect breast tissue in females at high risk for breast cancer.[41] A more recent epidemiologic study argued that consumption of soy estrogens is safe for patients with breast cancer and that it may in fact decrease mortality and recurrence rates.[42] Thus, even review studies have failed to produce consensus on the relationship between phytoestrogens and breast cancer.

    It also remains unclear if phytoestrogens can minimize some of the deleterious effects of low estrogen levels (hypoestrogenism) resulting from oophorectomy, menopause, or other causes. A Cochrane Review of the use of phytoestrogens to relieve the vasomotor symptoms of menopause (hot flashes) concluded that there was no evidence to suggest any benefit to their use.[43] Another study reported that phytoestrogens such as genistein may help prevent photoaging in human skin and promote formation of hyaluronic acid.[44]"

    In short, there's a lot we don't know. It could be fabulous, it could be dangerous, it could be both. If you're a menopausal woman with a high risk of breast cancer (like myself) it's a subject worth careful consideration. I'm glad this article called isoflavones to my attention. Because of the article I researched the ingredient to find more food sources, only to decide it's probably not a good idea for me and I should certainly speak to my doctor.

  • February 18, 2016

    by Laura

    Hi Marta- I have been subscribing to your newsletters for a few years and truly appreciate your efforts to find quality products. I was very interested in this article because this is an issue I am experiencing. BUT... what exactly is the "synthetic progesterone" in the Menopause Corrective Skin Serum? It's my understanding that a synthetic progesterone is "progestin"and is made in a lab from questionable ingredients (pregnant mare's urine, etc). Also, is it safe for women who have or had hormone-related cancers?

  • February 18, 2016

    by Hollis

    Why not just cut to the chase? The estradiol that's been prescribed for me and that I use daily is compounded in organic olive oil (In the past, I've used emu oil, as well) and I apply it to my face and neck, as directed by my hormone M.D. Besides the other systemic benefits, it definitely helps with my skin tone, pore size, and smoothness.

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