The new menopausal skincare trend: is it worth paying more for? The truth behind the claims

This week I had a press release from a company promoting “the world’s first luxury menopausal skincare range”, a premium brand called Phytomone. The hero product is a four-in-one (serum, moisturiser, neck and eye cream) with active ingredients including phytoestrogens and argan stem cells. Sounds lovely, but I couldn’t help wondering if a menopausal skincare range isn’t just clever marketing.

I have friends who swear that the simpler their skincare, the better. And I’ve recently started using Tiana anti-ageing rose coconut oil face cream, which makes my skin sigh.

Maggie Alderson, formerly a Liz Earle Superskin devotee, says: “I’ve jacked all that caper in and now swear by coconut oil. I loved that Liz Earle cream but it really stuck in my craw to spend the best part of £50 on a small pot of any cream, so I get my lovely organic coconut oil from the health shop instead.

“As it’s a bit greasy under make-up, I use moisturiser by French brand Avène for day, because it’s not stupid money and they specialise in non-irritant products.”

What do the skincare experts think? Shabir Daya, a pharmacist at Victoria Health, says: “I am not a lover of skincare ranges that specifically target menopausal skin purely because, more often than not, the word hydration is used incorrectly.

“Also, we are expecting plant oestrogens often used in these ranges to replace lost oestrogen during menopause and this simply does not occur.

“In my opinion the most important ingredient in any skincare is copper tripeptide GHK-Cu, which is a naturally occuring peptide [a short chain amino acid that is the building block of proteins in the skin].

So, if you’re thinking of using a range specifically for menopausal skin, look for one of these four key ingredients.

1. Copper peptides

What is it? Copper tripeptide GHK-Cu is responsible for activation of a range of skin health functions, including wound healing, immune function, collagen synthesis, blood vessel development, fibroblast production and anti-inflammatory responses. But its concentration in human plasma continues to drop with ageing from our late teens on, and this reduction exceeds 60 per cent by age 60.

Copper peptides have been widely researched and several clinical studies have documented their effect on skin healing and signs of degeneration. They are regarded as one of the most potent skin and hair regenerators.

Shabir Daya says: “The ability of copper peptides to heal lesions is well established, it’s likely they may slow the development of the signs of skin ageing, and they may augment the results of rejuvenation using controlled skin injury such as laser resurfacing, dermabrasion and peels.”

However, ensure the product contains the therapeutic concentration of 1.0 per cent. Many topical anti-ageing products contain variations of copper peptides in extremely small amounts, generally less than 0.01 per cent.

Shabir says: “A 1.0 per cent concentration allows activation of an array of skin health functions that help to prevent aspects of visible skin ageing, including textural damage, uneven pigmentation, loss of elasticity, lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores and a general lack of healthy radiance present in younger skin. Results can start to show within five days.”

Shabir is a fan of NIOD, produced by a Canadian company at the forefront of biotechnology in skincare, whose tagline is ‘Skincare for the Hyper-Educated’.

When it comes to claims that copper peptides can actually reverse the signs of ageing, more studies are needed. But they do have the potential to, since they stimulate production of collagen, responsible for firmness and elasticity, and contribute to degradation of abnormally large cross-linked collagen, the type found in scars and wrinkles.

Where to find it: NIOD Copper Amino Isolate Serum – £38 from Zest Beauty

2. Hyaluronic acid

Menopause skin. NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex. Hyaluronic acidWhat is it? Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a compound found naturally in the body’s tissues, particularly the skin’s middle layer (dermis). It helps the skin to produce collagen, encourages elasticity and acts a moisturiser, trapping water under the surface of the skin.

HA is a unique molecule that can hold 1,000 times its own weight in water. There are various clinical studies into its benefits on skin, including this small study on 23 Korean women, which found it helped to reduce wrinkles.

Where to find it: NIOD Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex, (£38 at Zest Beauty) which contains 12 forms of hyaluronic compounds,  Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, (£43 at Zest Beauty)

3. Argan stem cells

Menopause skin. Dr Levy Intense Stem Cell Skincare. Argan stem cells What are they? Botanical stem cells found in argan oil, which mimic the benefits of human stem cells by secreting a similar enzyme that stimulates human stem cell growth, encouraging them to differentiate into fibroblast cells (the type of cell responsible for collagen production).

They increase density, energise skin cells and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. An independent clinical study by the Skin Test Institute on women aged 39 to 61 showed an increase in skin density and a reduction in wrinkles after eight weeks.

Where to find them: Dr Levy Intense Stem Cell (£310 from Selfridges) or Rodial Stemcell Super-Food Facial Oil (£60 from John Lewis. Also Skin Doctors Youthcell Activating Cream (£26 at Zest Beauty)

4. Phytoestrogens

Menopause skin. Phytomone Pause Hydra Creme. Phytoestrogens. Argan stem cellsWhat are they? Plant hormones with a similar molecular structure to human oestrogen, which have an oestrogenic effect on the skin. They stimulate collagen production and strengthen elastin fibres, making skin firmer and smoother with fewer fine lines.

Research suggested that genistein (found in soya beans) can increase skin density as effectively as HRT, but without the potential side effects.

But Shabir Daya isn’t convinced about their effectiveness in topical use. He says: “Oestrogen by way of patches will enter the bloodstream in meaningful doses but not plant oestrogens because their activity is only 1/1,000th that of normal oestrogen.

“Taking plant oestrogens internally would have a greater effect than trying to use them topically because it is the lack of oestrogen that causes the release of cortisol and other inflammatory chemicals that start to affect skin negatively.”

Where to find them: REN Sirtuin Phytohormone Replenishing Cream (£42 at John Lewis)