For post-menopausal women, decreasing estrogen levels might contribute to skin aging. Common skin changes associated with being post-menopausal include atrophy (thinning of the skin), wrinkling, dryness, laxity, sallow complexion, and poor wound healing. There are estrogen receptors in the skin and it is thought that the decrease in estrogen that accompanies menopause leads to a loss of estrogen activity and to these undesirable skin changes.
It is commonly believed that estrogen replacement in addition to relieving hot flashes, also gives the skin a younger, healthier, pre-menopausal appearance. However, studies thus far have been conflicting and there is little research to support these claims. A recent study examined if treating post-menopausal women with hormone replacement therapy would improve their skin.
The researchers took post-menopausal women who had crows feet, jowls, and dry skin and gave some women hormone replacement and some women a placebo. Nearly 500 women were enrolled in the study that lasted about a year.
Unfortunately, they found that there was no differences in skin wrinkling or complexion in women who took hormone replacement as compared to those who took the placebo.
The women in the study were 5 to 7 years past menopause, so it is possible that treatment with hormone replacement right when menopause starts might actually help, whereas it did not in these women. Also, the study used low doses of hormone replacement, which has less risk of side effects like blood clots, but perhaps slightly higher doses would have an effect in the skin.
Hormone replacement therapy in post-menopausal women appears to be safest and most effective immediately after menopause. Future studies will look at hormone replacement and its effects on the skin in these perimenopausal women and it will be interesting to see if there is some improvement in their skin.
Hormone replacement or estrogen therapy is not for all women, talk to your physician about your symptoms and medical problems to see if hormone replacement is right for you.
Reference: Phillips, T et al. Does Hormone Therapy Improve Age Related Skin Changes in Post Menopausal Women, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, September 2008.
Photo: Down Town Pictures, Flickr.com
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD
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