During normal aging, the skin becomes thinner, looser and less elastic and hair growth lessens and the hair shafts become thinner. In men, this is a fairly gradual effect which accelerates after age 45. In women however, the abrupt hormonal changes at menopause are more sudden and drastic.
The final menstrual period of a woman marks the start of menopause. This cessation of menstruation is preceded by gradual physical changes over several months to years. The average age at menopause is 51, although this varies greatly between the ages of 40 and 55.
The decreases in estrogen levels can cause a thinning and drying of the skin which can produce more wrinkles. Hair follicles tend to shrink and the hair shafts become thinner. Sexual intercourse can become painful due to a thinning of the protective walls of the vagina. Breasts may sag as mammary tissue is replaced with more fat tissue.
There are numerous methods to counter these changes. Diet, exercise, certain vitamins and nutritional supplements, and newer and safer estrogen replacement therapies (ERT) all delay or reverse many of these deleterious changes in skin and hair. The use of human growth hormone (HGH) or HGH hormone releasing substances also produces improvements in skin and hair.