With limited products and inadequate advertising, the beauty industry often leaves those who undergo the menopause feeling invisible but change is in the air
Dry hair, dehydrated skin, an increase in breakouts, these are just a few of the many changes in their bodies that menopausal people will go through. And yet you can hear a pin drop when it comes to conversations about beauty and skincare for those experiencing it. Approximately 13 million women in the UK are currently going through the menopause, but until recently, the beauty industry has been failing to cater to this audience. With limited products and inadequate advertising of products that do exist – women in this stage of life have been left feeling invisible.
The average age for onset menopause is 51 – but the majority of women, or anyone else with ovaries, will stop having periods between the ages of 45 and 55. For those that experience it, the menopause is split into three stages; perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal. Perimenopause is when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen and lasts up until the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs, triggering the menopause. At this point, a woman no longer has menstrual periods. Post-menopause means that most symptoms have subsided - but a resulting lower level of estrogen can contribute to other side effects such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
While many of us have a vague understanding of the common side effects associated with menopause – we all know about the cliched hot flushes – there is little information available about how the menopause affects our skin. In fact, around two-thirds of women say they feel there is a general lack of support and understanding around the menopause, particularly within the beauty industry, which is something 51-year-old business woman Manjeet Kaur Nijjer is keen to point out. “I haven’t seen a single product on the high street that will help me or anyone who is either perimenopausal or in menopause,” she says. “There is nothing to help me with my dry skin or drying out hair. Ninety-nine percent of all beauty counter sales assistants don’t understand the needs of their customers when they are going through the menopause.”
“Is the lack of societal understanding robbing women of finding the right products for specific issues caused by the menopause?”
Menopause causes many changes to your skin. Women in perimenopause will often find an increase in breakouts, and skin that was previously balanced will get dry or oily patches – often due to a drop in estrogen levels or an increase in androgen hormones like testosterone. During the menopause, your body stops making as much collagen which is an essential protein for skin strength and structure. This can cause skin elasticity to drop, which combined with dryness caused by hormonal changes can cause sagging, fine lines and wrinkles.
Until now, the wider beauty industry seems to have favoured an anti-ageing approach to skincare for changes frequently attributed to menopause, such as dry skin and fine lines, by pushing products such as anti-wrinkle creams and serums. In 2018, the global anti-ageing market was worth $42.51 billion and is set to rise to $55.03 billion by 2023. While leading brands continue to make products with ingredients that may help reduce wrinkles over time, they not specifically designed for women going through the menopause. Furthermore, the complex hormonal changes that take place during different stages of the menopause require more than this blanket approach of targeting women of a certain age with products to simply ‘make them look younger.’
But it’s not just a lack of products that’s the problem. It’s inadequate marketing. “I just wish that instead of brands saying ‘buy anti-ageing products to reduce fine lines’, they would actually acknowledge that our hormones are plummeting and with it our confidence,” says Katie Taylor, founder of the Midlife online platform for women over 40.
Many brands still avoid using language that could associate their products with the menopause, opting instead for marketing that focuses on “visibly reduced wrinkles” and “fighting the signs of ageing.” Perhaps this is because our cultural attitude toward menopause is still shrouded in stigma and silence. But is this lack of societal understanding robbing women of finding the right products for specific issues caused by the menopause?
According to Theresa Yee, Senior Beauty Editor at WGSN, the problem lies in both products and their advertising. “There has been a real lack of beauty products that truly serve women going through menopause as well as little beauty marketing attention directed to this subject in the past. It is not enough anymore for brands to just sell skincare to treat skin concerns as this consumer group is looking for products that are specific for their needs, going beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all approach.”
Furthermore, the beauty industry’s focus on anti-ageing products is becoming increasingly outdated as cultural attitudes move further towards embracing the signs of ageing. A study conducted by Allergan, the makers of the injectable filler brand Juvederm, found that 41% of British women would prefer their faces to look “fresher and radiant”, rather than “younger” – while 87% of consumers in France and the UK said they would rather feel healthy than look attractive. “Consumers are embracing their natural beauty and wrinkles, and looking more for products that promote skin health,” explains Theresa Yee. “This demographic has been underserved in the past but they shouldn’t be ignored as they have a lot of spending power, and more disposable income than Millennials.”
There has however been a recent shift as the beauty industry begins to embrace greater inclusivity and diversity in all forms. Brands like P&G’s Pepper and Wits, MegsMenopause, and Pause-Well Ageing are all trying to fill the gap in the industry by producing and unapologetically marketing beauty products specifically for women going through different stages of the menopause. Their products specifically cater to different skincare needs related to menopause symptoms by tailoring their ingredients to different concerns; be it dry skin, acne, or fine lines.
The Pepper & Wits tag-line “take control of your menopause symptoms, take control of your life,” encompasses the brand’s aim to help women navigate the changes that take place during menopause. The Complete Menopause Care Kit claims to help tackle ten common symptoms including vaginal dryness, disrupted sleep, mood swings, and more with a mix of lotions and supplements. Similarly, Pause-Well Ageing offers a range of products to help tackle symptoms of menopause. They say, “Menopause shouldn’t be taboo, or something you go through alone,” offering a wide range of advice and real-life stories alongside their products such as cooling mists for hot flushes.
“The body positivity and female empowerment movement has really helped to drive change in this category.” Theresa Yee
“The body positivity and female empowerment movement has really helped to drive change in this category,” explains Theresa. “Products catering to menopausal women are now starting to emerge in the mainstream market. There is a huge opportunity for brands to tap into this space and we’re going to see this gain even more traction in the near future.”
In January 2019, Rejuvage reported that women over 45 account for 58.14% of the beauty market. Meanwhile, the 50 plus population is predicted to grow by up to 38% by 2035, suggesting that the market for menopause-specific products is about to get much bigger.
But there is still a way to go before brands make products catering to those going through the menopause widespread and accessible to all. While a few companies are making great moves into catering for this space in the industry, products are often still very expensive with certain specialised face creams costing as much as £70 per bottle.
“I would love a beauty brand to say, hey - as you hit 40/50 and beyond and enter into perimenopause and menopause, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom,” says Katie. “I want them to help me get the glow back in my skin, help my hair look fuller and shinier, make my nails strong and elegant again, and help me feel good about myself as I go through this transitional stage.”
Whether it is something we are currently dealing with or not - it is something that a huge amount of the population will go through at some time in their lives. As a result, a wider understanding of the changes and specific skincare needs of those going through the menopause are definitely more important than ever.