Why menopausal skincare brands rub me up the wrong way

It’s a while since I’ve had a rant, but stumbling across this The Guardian piece on “Gentle skincare products for menopause” has pushed me into it. (And please spare a moment to pray for Mr 50Sense, who has had me burning his ears off about menopausal skincare for the last 30 minutes.)

Really, I should have known better than to read it in the first place. The standfirst had my hackles rising straight away.

“Let’s hear it for the beauty brands doing their best for middle-aged women” – trumpeted as if we should be grateful. I don’t know about you, but when I hear someone has “done their best”, my brain translates it as: “They didn’t get it right, but never mind. It’s the trying that counts.” While this is true for many things, the idea I should cheer a brand “doing its best” is mind-boggling. I don’t want them to do their best; I want them to knock it out of the ballpark before they get my money.

Then there’s the terrible ageism (and ignorance) that can’t be overlooked. Menopause can hit at any age. I know many women who’ve gone through early menopause in their 30s (our Pausitivity supporter Michelle Heaton, for one) and even younger. Yes, it is more usual in your 40s and 50s, but “menopause equals middle-aged” is a trope that is preventing women getting help when they need it.

Plus being menopausal, even in midlife, doesn’t mean your skin will be affected, just as puberty doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be hit by teenage acne.

There are rules in newspapers about writing headlines and standfirsts and top among them is: do not repeat the same words, so I know the sub-editor who wrote this one wouldn’t want to use “menopause” again. However, they got it very wrong by using “middle-aged women” as a synonym. Very wrong.

What’s in a name? A lot with menopausal skincare…

So did Indeed Labs, who are behind two of the products being touted, with their choice of name for the range: Me-NO-Pause.

Menopause isn’t optional. Symptoms aren’t something we can choose or bravely overcome with a brand of menopausal skincare, as this name suggests. Too many menopausal women have been told to get over themselves down the years and that’s why so many still suffer. Me-NO-Pause? Me-Have-NO-Bloody-Choice-Mate.

Menopausal skincare - woman with towel on her head and using eyemasks blowing a kiss to the camera

Their actual blurb on the site is even better: “Embrace the ‘M-word’ by facing your changing skin needs head-on!”

If only I’d done that when I was in the hospital panicking over palpitations, or the time I felt like throwing myself under a train, or all those lunch hours staring at the Thames.

And my fellow menopausers, please, you do not need to wash your vulva with anything more than water – and as the writer in The Guardian says she gets cystitis just by opening a fruity shower gel, I rest my case. Or you can check out Dr Jen Gunter. Use a mild soap if you want (you can pick these up for a couple of quid in Boots and Superdrug), but it’s honestly not necessary – whether you’re going through the menopause or not.

If you’re getting hot flushes, then you should be addressing that and finding something to stop them, not wallpapering over the cracks with a spray. (And when even stripping off in the middle of winter doesn’t help because you feel like a nuclear explosion is going off inside you, I have my doubts about the efficiency of a “lovely spray of instant calm”.)

Nor do you need any special skincream because your skin is just skin. It changes in menopause, just like it has changed throughout your life. Read the Indeed blurb again for their cream and it’s the same as any anti-ageing cream, while any misting spray with aloe vera will help if you’re feeling hot.

Menopause isn’t a trivial issue

Now I don’t know if Sali Hughes the writer (who does some great work) is menopausal or not. She’s 45 so could well be perimenopausal, although judging by this tweet (and I could rant about that, too) it doesn’t look like it.

So if she isn’t menopausal, how does she know these products work? Rubbing them on her hand? I know Sali’s work and she is very thorough, but menopause is so much more complicated and painful than people think, which is why we get such glib comments about it. It can’t be treated superficially and it shouldn’t be because women are suffering terribly.

I would love nothing more than to come on here and say: “Here are some creams that will make menopause all better.” But I don’t because they won’t. Potions and lotions will work short-term (and I highly recommend Boots Peptide Sheet Mask if you’re going out. I popped one on before a dinner date last week and loved how my skin glowed afterwards) and that’s all.

Menopausal skincare is an issue I’ve written about before because I know how much it impacts on a lot of women’s lives. My own skin has suffered a lot with the fall in oestrogen: it can be dull, incredibly dry and really, really saggy – and that’s on a good day.

But the most important part of that last sentence isn’t the witty description (ha ha!), but the words before it: “fall in oestrogen”.

It is our hormones that make our skin change in menopause and no amount of lotions or potions will make up for their loss. Better skin is going to come from inside.

Menopausal skincare from the inside out

This was brought home to me when we had Dr Michael Barnish on the Pausitivity Live series for World Menopause Day. He is a skincare expert, but he didn’t recommend creams in his talk. It was all about getting the right nutrition for your body, either through diet or supplements.

How to look after your skin in menopause: Dr Michael Barnish

Since then, I’ve been taking MSM (Organic Sulphur. I get mine through Cytoplan) and after two months, I’ve really noticed a difference. My skin doesn’t look so dry and I’ve realised, writing this, that I’ve stopped that awful menopausal itching. It had got really bad again in the summer. My pores don’t look as pronounced, neither, and my skin in general just looks better.

It’s not all good, however – well, not for me. After snapping and shredding for the last few years, my nails are growing at the rate of knots. I’m learning the guitar so now I’m having to trim them much more often! If you’re after long nails, MSM is the one.

As for hot flushes, HRT has put paid to them, not a misting spray. The added oestrogen in my body is also helping my skin, too.

I’m not saying don’t indulge in creams and lotions and facials and massages. Do it! They’re wonderful and can make you feel better and more confident and that’s going to have an impact on how you look.

Just remember, when it comes to menopausal skincare, beauty truly does come from within. Me-NO-Lie.

What do you think? Have you found you need special skincare during menopause? Or does this wind you up too? Let me know in the comments below.

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