Menopause—which hits most women at some point between the ages of 45 and 55 (though some symptoms can start as early as your 30s)—is associated with changing hormone levels in your body, particularly estrogen. While many of us are familiar with the common side effects, like hot flashes and an MIA period, the shift can also have a pretty major impact on skin.
Namely, it dries it the hell out—or it does the exact opposite of what happened during puberty. According to a 2013 study, post-menopausal estrogen deficiency results in a lackadaisical complexion and more rapid aging. Similarly, a separate set of researchers found that women experienced a 30 percent loss of collagen in the first five years after entering menopause, which shows up as skin that isn't as tight as it used to be.
Traditionally, doctors have solved for this by recommending that patients try estrogen pills and patches to help even things out. But in addition to adding estrogen into your skin, that also introduces estrogen into the rest of your body, which may not quite be something you're looking to do. "You can put estrogen on the skin, and you can also take it internally—you can take hormone replacement therapy, which are pills or patches. But with that, estrogen is getting absorbed systemically, with potential side effects," says Dr. Diane Berson, an NYC-based dermatologist who works with Emepelle, the first ever cosmeceuticals brand to treat estrogen deficient skin without estrogen.
Enter "methyl estradiolpropanoate" or MEP, a recently discovered ingredient that absorbs into the skin and interacts with your estrogen receptors the same way actual estrogen would to increase moisture retention, elasticity, and collagen production. There's one major difference between MEP and estrogen: "When you use estrogen and it's absorbed into the blood stream, it can have side effects. When you use MEP, it's just doing what it needs to do and it gets degraded really fast into a totally inactive compound, and then it gets excreted." So basically, as a 2018 study published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology confirms, MEP mimics the skin-positive effects of estrogen without introducing your body to any actual hormones.
Emepelle is the only brand utilizing the groundbreaking MEP technology. They're currently offering the ingredient by way of a hydrating, antioxidant-infused morning serum and a collagen-boosting night cream that also has retinol. While there hasn't yet been any research around the products as a preventative measure (they were only recently released at the American Academy of Dermatology conference on March 1), Dr. Benson notes that no matter where you are in your hormonal lifecycle—whether you're in your 30s experiencing perimenopause or have already been post-menopausal for two decades—you can certainly benefit from the other ingredients in the products, and the MEP certainly won't hurt.
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