The Return of the Spots
Peering into the mirror she frowns, reaches for a tube, squeezes and dabs gel onto the rapidly growing spot which – typically – has appeared right in the middle of her chin on the night she wanted to look her best.
No, I am not writing about a teenager here but me, aged 45 and disgusted to realize that acne is another one of those unexpected delights which often accompanies the hormonal roller coaster that is menopause.
I didn't actually suffer too badly with acne when I was a teen many, many moons ago, and I thought the days of perusing the spot prevention/removal/concealer aisle were long past – unless it was to buy products for my teenage children, of course.
But I've found that even with a careful cleansing routine I still end up with what we used to call "zits" which are more down to plummeting progesterone and estrogen than the fast food and a laissez-faire approach to late night make-up removal that left me spotty in my youth!
Why Older Women Develop Acne
Levels of female hormones, i.e. estrogen and progesterone, start to drop at the start of menopause. But levels of male sex hormones like testosterone (which women have as well) remain constant. This effectively causes the body to experience a relative increase in the effect the "male" hormones have, often triggering skin conditions that result in menopausal acne.
So, testosterone levels rise and the skin's sebaceous glands go a bit mad producing too much sebum, an oily substance which can block pores. Additionally, cells can take longer to regenerate in older skin. So excess skin cells build up, block pores already clogged with sebum, resulting in inflammation and infection. Voila! Spots!
Menopausal acne most usually affects the area around the mouth or the back and chest. Or all three, if you're really unlucky. And you might find that although you have spots, your skin is actually dry, so traditional acne remedies might not work.
I found that my hot flushes made my skin feel greasy, and so I took to carrying a small deodorant for my 'pits and gentle face wipes with an antibacterial component for my face and the back of my neck in my handbag, to help me freshen up if I am out and about.
I also now carry a small tube of my new "over 40s" moisturizer because I found using the wipes left my skin feeling dry. I know - what a palaver!
If you too are suffering with spots or being plagued by pimples it might be time to go through your make-up bag and make some changes. Try new products and revise your skincare routine to find what works for you.